KALABAGH dam enjoys support in the capital of Punjab which is the only unit in the federation backing its construction. For some, the proposal has been a dream for many decades now. For just as long, the ‘smaller provinces’ have opposed the construction of the dam, their opposition intensifying even at the mere hint of attempts to force the project through. But on Thursday, there was more of a thrust — from the blue. The Lahore High Court’s order has been met with the standard objections outside Punjab. In fact, so sensitive is the subject that even those who support Kalabagh’s construction have been guarded in their response to the LHC decision that the federal government is constitutionally bound to start the project in the light of the decisions of the Council of Common Interests. The decisions referred to in the LHC short order were made in the 1990s and called for technical and political issues associated with the dam to be addressed to make the latter acceptable to all.

The court says the project’s fate should not be sealed on the basis of presumptions and surmises, perhaps seeking to put the focus back on the CCI’s calls for evaluation of contentious aspects of Kalabagh. Maybe there is a hope that this would help iron out the differences between the provinces manifested in the anti-Kalabagh resolutions passed by the assemblies of Balochistan, Sindh and the erstwhile NWFP some years ago.

In any event, the matter will ultimately come to the people’s representatives which is only fair. Regardless of whether or not they agree with the court, the politicians have, without exception, spoken of the lack of consensus on Kalabagh in response to Thursday’s ruling. The question is: if it is to be ultimately referred to the politicians why did the LHC have to intervene in the first place? The temptation is there to find an answer in the judiciary’s relationship with a government whose decision to shelve the Kalabagh project “forever” was among its first resolutions. In more recent times the superior judiciary has ruled that a provincial government (in Balochistan) has lost its mandate to govern. It has also sought to fix CNG prices. This approach to addressing problems can be termed risky since it can increase the gap between two pillars of the state which cannot do without each other and must complement one another. The Kalabagh ruling by the LHC has already been dubbed ‘anti-federation’. It could cause — perhaps it already has caused — greater polarisation in a country confronting major provincial and ethnic divisions.

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Comments (13)

M. Asghar
December 1, 2012 11:50 am
As the political institutions are unable to operate for the pressing needs of the country such as the indespensable construction of the Kalabagh dam, the judiciary remains the only choice to move the things.
December 1, 2012 11:41 am
If cheap publicity is bringing long awaited relief to the masses then I'm up for it!
December 2, 2012 4:31 am
Only Few, Can you please name them?
December 2, 2012 4:11 am
it is not the court rather the democratic government to address the issue keeping in view the all four provinces rather the one province... ahmed
December 1, 2012 4:29 am
Judges are going for cheap publicity by appealing directly to the masses. Kalabagh dam, CNG pricing, Asghar Khan petition, dual nationality, etc. being a few examples.
December 2, 2012 12:52 am
I disagree. The KD issue is a dead horse. It is nothing but ego of one province. All governments except the present PPP led coalition were unclear on the issue. Only the current government despite its weaknesses declared KD as something they would not pursue. Clarity is needed instead of politiking. Courts are not a replacement for civlian governments. It is the same tune that military rulers played for 50 years. Let civilian governments and democracy function.
December 1, 2012 4:39 pm
Mr observer do you observe that these issues were government responsibility which they aren't fulfilling so court has to intervene in public interest as these are extremely important public issues and public is suffering and only court is their savior
December 1, 2012 6:49 pm
it is a matter that is to be solved on priority basis , because every dam adds 4-5% to the GDP. dams are the dire need of our country. it is better to work in positive manner rather politicising the matter just for point scorin.
December 1, 2012 4:15 pm
very nice. Thought Provoking!
December 1, 2012 4:34 pm
Only few in sind,nwfp and baluchistan oppose kalabagh dam but these few have hyped the issue at astronomical levels in a country desperately needing water and power.no country in the world is hijacked by few on such important issues as we do in pakistan. Get a referendum in sind,baluchistan and nwfp on this issue with out punjab involvement and act accordingly. You will see how many few oppose kalabagh dam in three provinces
December 1, 2012 7:46 am
It is desirable to have consensus on most national issues but consensus on building such a vital dam has eluded us for decades and that is unlikely to change.Do we give up building such a crucial dam as KBD just because there is no consensus?
Mahmood Minhas
December 1, 2012 3:47 pm
The construction of Kalabagh dam is a issue of politicians only who are not sincere to the nation nor its development. The whole nation of the country wants its constructions to reduce shortfall of the energy by which we are facing bitterly.This is only in Pakistan where such comments are passed by the politicians and highlighted by the medias. These two groups always expolite the situation among the peoples and provinces. For God sake take mercy on the people and country and do not interfere any matter which are related to its development.I understand that if Terbela and Mangle dams are to be constructed at present time it will also face the same situation and criticism.
Ali abbas
December 1, 2012 9:14 pm
Courts are far from our saviors. They have not done much to provide swift justice to average masses. People linger in courts for decade to get any justice. Currents court are only focused on passing judgements on so called disputes by disgruntled parties. People who keeps running to courts do not represent people but are motivated by self interests. If courts are so interested in politics and running the country then they should resign from the bench and run for elections. Courts action are only slowing down progress because govt is distracted by all sorts of frivolous cases. Even if we all agree that current govt has done nothing for the masses than its up to masses to kick them out. This back door politics must stop. Right wing middle class folks like yourself should trust democracy and masses and not just unelected and non-represntive courts. Even human right watch is critical of courts because they are trying to suppress freedom of speech by threatening people with legal actions. Utter disgrace.
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