LAHORE: The World Bank (WB) has started proceedings for the formation of a court of arbitration on Pakistan’s request by appointing three internationally recognised personalities to select three umpires — chairperson, legal member and engineer member — who will devise a mechanism leading to resolving issues regarding construction of the Kishanganga and Ratle dams under the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT).

Under a procedure called “drawing of lots”, the WB has also proposed to Pakistan and India the names of three potential candidates for appointment as neutral experts after the latter prayed for it to resolve the issue in response to the former’s petition seeking constitution of the court of arbitration.

Pakistan had objected to the construction and design of the 850MW Ratle and 330MW Kishanganga hydropower schemes, saying that both the projects would have adverse impact on the flow of the Chenab and Neelum rivers. The two projects are being constructed by India on the Chenab River, downstream of the village of Ratle in Doda district, and the Kishanganga river (called the Neelum river downstream in Pakistan) near Bandipor in held Jammu and Kashmir, respectively.

“The WB has accepted requests of both countries, initiating a formal procedure leading to formation of the court of arbitration as well as a panel of neutral experts. And we are hoping completion of the entire procedure by Nov 28, the next hearing of the petition we had filed before the WB under the IWT,” says Pakistan’s Commissioner for Indus Waters Mirza Asif Baig.


The group urges Pakistan, India to go for mediation


Talking to Dawn on Friday, Mr Baig — a core member of the Pakistani technical and legal experts pursuing the matter with the WB — said the WB (Washington headquarters) in its decision on Thursday evening (early hours of Friday morning in Pakistan) appointed the chief justice of the United States’ supreme court and the rector of the Imperial College of London to select legal and engineer members, respectively, for the court.

Similarly the WB president has been appointed / assigned to select chairperson / chairman of the court. Since the court comprises total seven members, Pakistan and India under the treaty are required to submit names of four (two from each side).

“Pakistan has already nominated its two members for the court, while India is yet to do so despite various requests,” the IWT commissioner added.

He said the court of arbitration or appointing neutral experts were the only options available to resolve various issues on waters between the two countries by involving the WB that has the facilitative role under the treaty.

He said both Pakistan and India had received names of three potential candidates proposed by the WB as neutral experts. “The WB will also finalise the Terms of Reference (ToR) soon and other preparations for mediation between the two countries through the court or neutral experts to resolve the issues,” the commissioner explained.

Meanwhile, according to a press statement, the World Bank Group has urged India and Pakistan to agree to mediation in order to settle on a mechanism for how the IWT should be used to resolve issues regarding two dams under construction along the Indus rivers system.

The World Bank Group made the appeal as it told the two countries it was responding to their separate proceedings initiated under the Indus Waters Treaty, 1960. It held a drawing of lots on Thursday at its headquarters in Washington, DC to determine who will appoint three umpires to sit on the Court of Arbitration that Pakistan has requested.

The WB also proposed to the two countries the names of three potential candidates for appointment as a neutral expert, following India’s request.

“The WB Group has a strictly procedural role under the IWT and the treaty does not allow it to choose whether one procedure should take precedence over the other. This is why we drew the lots and proposed potential candidates for the Neutral Expert today,” said Senior Vice President and World Bank Group General Counsel Anne-Marie Leroy.

“What is clear, though, is that pursuing two concurrent processes under the treaty could make it unworkable over time and we, therefore, urge both parties to agree to mediation that the World Bank Group can help arrange. The two countries can also agree to suspend the two processes during the mediation process or at any time until the processes are concluded.”

The IWT is seen as one of the most successful international treaties and has withstood frequent tensions between India and Pakistan, including conflicts. The bank is a signatory to the treaty.

The treaty sets out a mechanism for cooperation and information exchange between the two countries regarding their use of the rivers, known as the Permanent Indus Commission which includes a commissioner from each of the two countries. It also sets out a process for resolving so-called “questions”, “differences” and “disputes” that may arise between the parties.

Published in Dawn November 12th, 2016

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