ISLAMABAD: The Prime Minister’s Inspection Commission (PMIC) has launched an investigation into alleged deliberate delays in the construction of hydropower projects in Azad Kashmir and an institutional lapse in raising timely objections over Indian projects on western rivers in violations of Pakistan’s rights guaranteed by the 1960 waters treaty.
Talking to Dawn, PMIC member Bashir Ahmad said an investigation had been launched but he was not authorised to comment on it.
He said the commission’s Chairman Malik Amjad Noon was away.
According to sources, the broader investigation was launched after departmental inquiries and probe by intelligence agencies.
The PMIC is reported to have interviewed incumbent and former officials of the ministries of water and power, foreign affairs and environment, besides those working with the Indus Water Commissioner’s office and some lawyers and consultants.
The commission is looking into circumstances in which the 500MW Mahl hydropower project on river Jhelum in Azad Kashmir was almost shelved because of inter-ministerial and inter-governmental wrangling that later compelled the government to start negotiations with India for import of 300-500MW of electricity.
The commission is also ascertaining whether some elements within the government were responsible for collusion or criminal negligence in raising objections over Indian violation of Pakistan’s water rights that finally led India to secure international carbon credits on the Chutak and Nimoo Bazgo projects disputed by Pakistan.
The ministries of water and power and environment absolved themselves of negligence in the matter when the prime minister’s secretariat sought an explanation.
While departmental inquiries and inter-ministerial correspondence over the lapse continued for over 18 months, the crucial objections over adverse environmental impact of the projects, nearing completion on the Indian side, had not yet been officially taken up with New Delhi or the UN forum that granted the carbon credits, the sources said.
The PMIC is also investigating reasons behind unnecessary delays in execution of 19 projects in Azad Kashmir with a combined estimated capacity of over 4,000MW. It will ascertain whether the delays have compromised Pakistan’s case before international legal forums and are aggravating the power crisis in the country.
The sources claimed that the delays in hydropower projects in Azad Kashmir were not only compromising Pakistan’s river rights but also enabling India to develop a number of projects on the same rivers and sell electricity to Pakistan.
Another item on the PMIC’s probe agenda is the status of over three dozen ongoing or planned Indian projects on rivers allocated to Pakistan under the treaty and whether appropriate information has been collected by relevant authorities and steps taken to protect Pakistan’s water rights.
The abnormally high increase in the cost of the under-construction Neelum-Jhelum hydropower project from Rs84 billion to Rs330 billion was also under scrutiny, the sources said.