It may come as something of a surprise to a country which is ruled by a government opposing the Kalabagh Dam, but the provinces have already agreed to its construction, when they signed the 1991 Water Apportionment Accord, which provided for the construction of water reservoirs on the Indus and other rivers. It is worth noting that the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (then NWFP) government of the time included the ANP as a junior partner in a coalition with the PML-N. This was brought out in a report in this newspaper. By agreeing to the Kalabagh Dam then, the ANP made its present recalcitrance look like opportunism, as it seems now merely to support the opposition of the PPP, which seems to be doing so merely because some Sindhi landowners will be forced to switch from the current flood irrigation to canal irrigation. This may seem an inadequate reason to deprive the nation of an extremely beneficial project, which will produce 3600MW of electricity and save $4 billion annually according to one study. However, the PPP and the ANP portray themselves as fierce defenders of the rights of their respective provinces. However, the ANP’s opposition is shown to have deprived Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa of an increase of 50 percent in its total cultivated area.

The 1991 Accord would have led to the construction of the Kalabagh Dam, which would have meant the irrigation of 0.9 million acres, an increase of 50 percent on the 1.8 million acres being already cultivated. There would also have been irrigation water made available to Dera Ismail Khan, Tank, Bannu, Lakki Marwat and Karak districts. This alone shows that the ANP, which opposes the Kalabagh Dam because it alleges that it would lead to the province losing some land, is obviously doing no service to the province.

It is not a question of the national interest coming into conflict with that of certain provinces. After all, the national interest consists of that of individuals belonging to various provinces as well as to the nation. However, if the government remains obdurate in its opposition to a dam which its components agreed to, it will show that it has no concern for either the suffering the people are undergoing because of energy shortages or that caused by the lack of irrigation water. Now that Wapda has told the Lahore High Court that the objections to the dam have no technical basis, there remains no excuse for the federal government to prevent its being built.