PESHAWAR, Dec 1: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has asked the Supreme Court of Pakistan to take suo motu notice of the Lahore High Court’s judgment ordering the federal government to construct Kalabagh Dam.
“The Supreme Court should take suo motu notice and declare the judgment null and void,” said provincial information minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain while speaking at a press conference here on Saturday. He alleged that the judgment had been passed to safeguard interests of a particular lobby in Punjab at the cost of destabilising federation.
He said that it was in the larger interest of the judiciary and federation to scrape the LHC decision in which the federal government was directed on Thursday to implement decisions of the Council of Common Interests (CCI) and build Kalabagh Dam.
Terming the LHC decision unconstitutional and unlawful, Mr Hussain said that according to the 18th Constitution Amendment water reservoir could not be constructed without consent of the province where it would be built. He said that the dam project had been controversial since 1953.
The minister said that the judiciary was bound to respect decisions of other institutions because three provincial assemblies, including that of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh and Balochistan, had passed unanimous resolutions against construction of Kalabagh Dam.
“We respect the judiciary and expect that the judges will show regard for decisions of other institutions,” he remarked, recalling joint resolutions of the three assemblies.
He, however, said that the Awami National Party and its coalition partners would not table fresh resolution in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly against the LHC judgment or construction of the dam.
“Like Sindh and Balochistan this KP assembly had also passed unanimous resolutions against the dam, so there is no need to pass fresh resolution from the assembly,” he maintained. He said that the decision about Kalabagh Dam was announced at a time when the federal government was launching construction of Bhasha Dam.
Mr Hussain said that Ghazi Barotha Hydropower Project case could be reopened which had been constructed on the Indus River downstream of Tarbela Dam. He said that flow of the Indus River had been blocked and diverted to a channel which had dried up the river.
He said that vast tracts of fertile land had been rendered barren since construction of Ghazi Barotha dam, which also entailed severe environmental implications. He said that Punjab was using water share of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Technically, the Punjab government should pay water tax to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for utilising its water share, he added.
The minister said that the provincial government would not allow Kalabagh Dam construction as this controversial project would destabilise the federation. He said that the LHC verdict could lead to a clash between judiciary and parliament. He urged the judges not to bulldoze decisions of parliament and provincial assemblies.
He said that Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf had rejected Kalabagh Dam project when he was holding portfolio of water and power, while PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif had also opposed the dam without consensus among the federating units.
Meanwhile, the Peshawar High Court Bar Association on Saturday requested the Supreme Court and the federal government to intervene and set at rest the consequential disputes emerging out of the LHC’s decision on Kalabagh Dam.
Through a unanimous resolution a general body meeting of the association said that all the stakeholders and federating units of Pakistan except Punjab had not been heard by the LHC while giving this judgment.
The meeting, chaired by PHCBA president Abdul Lateef Afridi, resolved that they felt aggrieved at the LHC judgment concerning Kalabagh Dam.
“The question of Kalabagh Dam was a controversial issue between all the provinces and it was the Supreme Court alone which could take up the matter and not the LHC. Therefore, the LHC in this regard is bereft of mandate,” the resolution states. The PHCBA considers that such decisions tend to weaken the federation because all stakeholders in the federation have not been heard by the court.