KARACHI, Dec 7: In a rare show of unity, Sindh Assembly members on Friday stood up and unanimously adopted all the four resolutions against a Lahore High Court directive pertaining to the controversial Kalabagh dam.
This was the fourth time that the Sindh Assembly adopted resolutions against the construction of the controversial dam, which is also being opposed by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces through resolutions passed by their assemblies.
The assembly also unanimously passed another resolution demanding that Benazir Bhutto be declared ‘a symbol for democracy and freedom’.
Earlier, complaining that they were not been given time to speak on the dam issue, lawmakers Arif Mustafa Jatoi, Nusrat Seher Abbasi, Abdul Razzaque Rahimon, Nuzhat Pathan and others protested from their seats and later in front of the rostrum of the speaker.
The session began around an hour and a half behind the scheduled time of 10am, as mentioned in the order of the day, with deputy speaker Shehla Raza in the chair. After recitation from the Quran, naat and offering of fateha, the normal business of the assembly, including the question hour, was suspended and discussion on the Kalabagh dam resolutions was resumed.
PPP lawmaker Anwer Mahar said that the Kalabagh dam would cause damage to agricultural and coastal lands of Sindh. He said that the areas downstream Kotri barrage would be badly affected and seawater would result in further intrusions, contaminating subsoil aquifer and ruining the coastal lands in Thatta and Badin districts. The mangrove cover would shrink further, crippling the livelihoods of the millions of fishing community members, concluded Mr Mahar his speech which was beautifully punctuated with Shah Bhitai’s poetry.
Finance Minister Murad Ali Shah gave a historical prospective of the water issue and said that even under the British rule when an agreement was reached in 1945 Sindh’s share in water was more than that of Punjab’s, but Sindh share shrank and Punjab share increased during One Unit days.
He said that when the Chashma-Jehlum link canal was being constructed it was decided that it could only be operated after obtaining an NOC from the Sindh chief minister.
Legislator Jam Madad Ali said that the issue be taken up seriously and fought legally so that it could be settled once and for all.
He regretted that the government had restricted time of the discussion on this sensitive issue to only two hours. He said that the PPP was being hypocritical as it opposed the dam in Sindh while its leader of the parliamentary party in the Punjab Assembly supported the Kalabagh dam.
MQM lawmaker Heer Ismail Soho said the dam was not acceptable to her party. She said that it was government and assemblies prerogative to decide the matters and not the courts. She said that Mr Sharif’s statement was condemnable and if he did not change his attitude he would not be allowed to enter Sindh. She said the MQM had never, even during the Pervez Musharaf time, supported the Kalabagh dam.
Information Minister Sharjeel Memon said that the dam issue was raised under a conspiracy to create rifts and damage unity.
Sassui Palijo said over 80 acres were being lost on a daily basis to sea intrusion that was caused by less water being released downstream the Kotri barrage. She said that in many countries big dams were being decommissioned.
Humaira Alwani said that the Nawaz Sharif’s government under a plan had abolished the Thar Coal project and Keti Bunder power project so that the Kalabagh dam could be constructed.
Amanullah Mehsud urged the Chief Justice of Pakistan to take suo motu notice of the LHC’s directive and see as to how that had been issued.
Makhdoon Jameel-uz-Zaman said that KBD was a matter of life and death for Sindh. He said that it be looked into that if the LHC judge could be called to the Sindh Assembly so that lawmakers could talk to him.
Speaker Nisar Khuhro, who in the meantime had arrived and was presiding over the session, asked for voting on the resolution.
All the MPAs stood up and unanimously passed the resolutions against the LHC’s directive relating to the KBD and Shahbaz Sharif’s statement supporting it.
‘Symbol of democracy’
Ghulam Mujadid Isran presented a resolution that Benazir Bhutto, owing to her struggle for the restoration of democracy and recognition of political, economic and social rights of the downtrodden, be declared ‘a symbol of democracy and freedom’.
The assembly also passed the resolution appreciating the efforts made by the government to improve the surroundings of Ms Bhutto’s mausoleum, which had now attained the status of a national monument, and demanding that it be maintained properly by the Sindh government for the convenience of visitors.
Earlier, a report of the Public Accounts Committee regarding draft paras for the financial years 2005-06; 2006-07 & 2007-08 (Auditor general’s reports 2006-07; 2007-08; 2008-09) was presented and adopted in the house.
At around 2pm, Speaker Khuhro read out the governor’s order, saying that the session stood prorogued.