LAHORE - Standing by the Lahore High Court decision, the Punjab government has called for constructing Kalabagh Dam (KBD) in line with the decision made by the Council of Common Interests in May 1991 when PML-N ruled the Centre. The PTI has also endorsed lauded the verdict, but after a consensus among all the provinces.

The Punjab government wants the federal government to respect the court verdict as it did by complying with the SC decision against former Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Gilani, of which the government highly boasts.

Kalabagh Dam has been a matter of serious political controversy for the last quarter of the 20th century despite the fact that the country is facing a pressing need of constructing more and more dams to overcome the energy crisis.

The feasibility of constructing the KBD was prepared by spending huge money. The project was hit by the political dispute created by the parties of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh, saying the overflow of KBD would inundate Nowshehra and Swabi and render the land of Sindh barren. However the technical reports prepared by the experts addressed these fears and found the construction of the KBD without any harm to any province. Yet no headway was made until the said meeting of the CCI in the light of which the Punjab government wants progress on constructing the KBD. Punjab Chief Minister Shahhaz Sharif also wants implementation of the LHC decision, but after consensus of all the provinces.

Punjab Planning and Development Minister Ch Abdul Ghafoor, commenting on the LHC verdict, said had Kalabagh Dam been constructed in time, there would have been no acute power crisis today. The minister said after the LHC decision, the federal government, particularly President Zardari, must act to evolve consensus of all stakeholders with the same spirit with which he formed coalition of the MQM, ANP and PML-Q under the banner of PPP. Ghafoor said the judiciary was fully independent and its decision reflected the same. Now the federal government should implement it, he said. He urged the federal government to convene an all parties’ conference in this regard. He said the KBD was a safe project and caused no loss to any province in any manner. After the court verdict, a golden opportunity was available to evolve consensus, he pointed out.

Ghafoor said the federal government highly boasted of implementing the Supreme Court decision on the disqualification of Syed Yousaf Gilani; now it should exhibit the same spirit to implement the verdict on the KBD. Had the PML-N government not been dismissed in 1999, it would have completed the dam with the consensus of all the provinces, the minister claimed.

Pakistan Tehrike Insaf, lauding the LHC decision, said new reservoirs were necessary. And given the shortage of electricity, hydroelectric power was the most cost effective means of generating electricity. However, the PTI stressed the need to develop a national consensus on the construction of KBD otherwise it would lead to unrest which the nation could not afford at this juncture.

The PTI believed that the leadership of the political parties in power either at the Centre or the provinces, needed to evolve national consensus on the KBD. It said leaders of PPP, PML N and other parties working together in the government were enjoying the perks of their offices but were shirking their responsibility to create a consensus on the KBD.