KARACHI, Dec 6: Sindh Assembly members on Thursday demonstrated a rare show of unity while speaking on the Kalabagh dam project, termed it a dead horse, and declared that the controversial project would not be allowed to be built — at any cost, ever.
Except for a few members, who during their speeches made references to certain political leaders regarding their stand on the Kalabagh dam in the past, the speeches were one-sided — all against the KBD project.
Some of the speakers even questioned the jurisdiction of the Lahore High Court, which had recently directed the federal government to implement an old decision of the Council of Common Interests about the dam’s construction.
Soon after recitation from the Holy Quran, Naat and Fateha, Munawar Abbasi of the Pakistan People’s Party stood up demanding that the dam issue be discussed.
It was not allowed by speaker Nisar Khuhro, who let the question hour carried through. After its conclusion, many MPAs stood up chanting slogans against the resurrection of the KBD and demanded that the issue be discussed instantly.
Later, Dr Sikandar Mandhro moved a motion that a resolution relating to the KBD be taken up out of turn, which was accepted.
Speaker Khuhro on the occasion announced that four resolutions had been moved each by Dr Mandhro, Imran Zafar Laghari, Syed Khalid Ahmed and Jam Madad Ali while many other MPAs, including Marvi Rashdi, Nusrat Seher Abbasi, Nuzhat Pathan, Rafique Bambhan, Rana Sattar, Sheharyar Mahar, Razzak Rahimoon, Chetan Mal, Humera Alwani, Fayaz Butt, Imdad Pitafi, Nadeem Bhutto, Adil Khan, Muzammil Qureshi and Heer Ismail Soho, had signed and submitted them to him.
It was decided that all those who wanted to speak on the issue would be given time to raise their concerns. And that time limit was no issue as such an important matter could be discussed even for a week before a unanimous resolution against it was passed and the sentiments of the masses of Sindh were conveyed to people who wanted to build the dam.
Dr Mandhro said that even the idea of building the dam amounted to eroding the foundations of national cohesion, destroying the provincial fraternity and creating a socio-economic disaster for the province.
Imran Zafar Leghari said it was unfortunate that once again the voice of construction of the KBD was coming from the ‘big brother’ (Punjab) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz chief minister Shahbaz Sharif was fuelling the fire which could even destroy the federation.
Khalid Ahmed said that while the political government opposed the KBD, the bureaucracy supported it. He urged Punjab parliamentarians to show solidarity with the people of the three provinces who were opposing the controversial dam. He said energy and water were needed and new dams be constructed, but not the KBD, which was against the interests of the three provinces, mainly Sindh. He said raising the issue in support of the KBD at any forum at this stage was nothing but creating disturbance in the public.
Nusrat Seher Abbasi said the provincial assemblies of Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had passed resolutions that the KBD was detrimental to the very unity of the country having utmost dangerous repercussions for Sindh.
She said big dams were being opposed all around the world and in many a country dams were being bombed and destroyed as they affected the environment.
She demanded that the president be asked to come to the assembly and announce here that the KBD project had been abolished and it would never be constructed. She said the PPP had not taken concrete steps against the project, while the current Pir Pagara, who was then the Sindh irrigation minister, had walked out of a meeting on the issue held in Lahore.
Nadir Magsi said the KBD was a non-issue and he did not understand why it was even being discussed in the house. He said it had been decided that KBD would not be built and that it was not open for debate or discussion. He said supporters of the KBD were working against Pakistan and the federation.
He also urged fellow MPAs not to indulge in mud-slinging among themselves on the issue and remain united as supporters of the KBD wanted to create rifts in the Sindh masses.
Rafique Engineer in his speech opposed the KBD but also referred to some politicians/ political parties who, he said, were with the dictators and had been supporting the KBD and even organising rallies in support of the dam.
During his speech loud noises were made, particularly by members of the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional, and slogans were chanted by his fellow PPP members in his support.
Deputy speaker Shehla Raza said the Nowshera and Mardan people were concerned as their areas would be hit by water-logging if the dam was built, while Sindh and Balochistan would face water shortages.
Pir Mazhar said it was unfortunate that a directive for the construction of the KBD had come from the Lahore High Court, which had been accused of judicially murdering Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. While the Pakistanis in general and the Sindh masses in particular had not forgotten it yet, another controversial order had been issued by the same court.
He said the KBD was such a sensitive issue that dictators Gen Zia and Gen Musharraf, with all their powers, could not build it. He said certain people were hatching a conspiracy to create rifts among the people and they were using the court to issue such controversial orders.
Rana Sattar urged the Supreme Court to take a suo motu notice of the LHC directive on the KBD and see how and why such a sensitive issue was touched by the LHC. He said building dams was not the job of courts. He said if the KBD supporters wanted to keep the federation intact, they should forget about the KBD.
Agha Siraj Durrani said the KBD was a dead issue and under a conspiracy it was being resuscitated. He recalled that Benazir Bhutto had staged a sit-in at Kamu Sharif against the KBD and the PPP government would never implement the LHC verdict on the KBD.
The session was presided over by Nisar Khuhro. It had started over an hour and a half behind the scheduled time of 10am. The session was adjourned till 10am on Friday, when the debate on the KBD would resume.