KARACHI: The Sindh Assembly on Tuesday condemned the attitude of the Indus River System Authority (Irsa) for depriving the province of its rightful share of water by ‘illegally’ opening up the Chashma-Jhelum and Taunsa-Panjnad link canals.
The house viewed Irsa’s act as a violation of an agreement reached between provinces and demanded that the federal government take serious notice of it and suspend the water diversion until Sindh gave its consent.
The demand was made in a resolution tabled by the parliamentary party leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional, Nand Kumar.
After half-a-dozen endorsement speeches by lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani, who called the house in order at 11.45am, put the resolution to a vote and the house carried it unanimously.
In their hard-hitting speeches, the lawmakers traced the history of depriving Sindh of its due water share, particularly when there was a shortage of water in the Indus.
Islamabad asked to suspend water diversion through two link canals
They recalled that the two link canals were built to divert water only in case of flood, or overflow of river. But, they said, despite a shortage of water flow in the Indus, Sindh was being deprived of its due share of 1,000 cusecs daily which is badly affecting its economy and agriculture.
Mr Kumar, in his brief speech, said that due to water emergency over 1.1 million people from nine districts of Sindh had migrated elsewhere.
PML-F’s Mehtab Akbar Rashdi said the Sindh representative in Irsa ought to protest against diverting the water in violation of the water accord and to approach the inter-provincial coordination department for ensuring implementation of the 1999 Water Accord.
Pakistan Peoples Party’s Imdad Pitafi said: “We want to see the state strong provided justice [is] done with its federating units.”
He said that a strong protest be lodged with the federal government over “deprivation” of the people’s water share.
Syed Sardar Ahmad of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement said that the resolutions should be pursued and if not implemented, another resolution be tabled in the house because getting due share of water is the province’s right.
PML-N’s Sorath Thebo said it was the best resolution and it should be implemented.
Khairunnisa Mughal said whenever the PML-N came into power it created a water crisis to justify the need for building the controversial Kalabagh dam.
Dr Sikander Mandhro of the ruling PPP said under the United Nations charter, water should flow to lower riparian. He said Sindh had also raised the issue in the recent Council of Common Interests meeting in Islamabad.
He also suggested formation of a special committee to pursue the resolutions related to the inter-provincial coordination department for their implementation.
Move to privatise PIA, PSM rejected
Senior Minister Nisar Ahmad Khuhro and Dr Sikander Mandhro tabled another resolution against the federal government’s plan to privatise the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) and Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM).
The resolution rejected the move and proposed leasing measures and warned the federal government to desist from selling national assets only to benefit a few particular families and immediately stop the process to transfer PSM lands for the proposed National Industrial Park and Special Economic Zone.
The movers of the resolution said that the Sindh government had allotted the land to the PSM for its production activities and not for selling it.
After representatives’ speeches, the resolution was adopted unanimously The resolution further assured the workers of the PSM and PIA that the PPP would not leave them alone and fully resist privatisation.
The resolution also called for payment of five months’ salaries to the employees and dues to 4,000 retired employees.
Tributes to Asma Jahangir
The house through another resolution moved by Saera Shahliani, Shahnaz Begum and Ghazala Sial of the PPP expressed sorrow and grief over the untimely demise of iconic and courageous lawyer and champion of human rights Asma Jahangir who fought for the suffering souls regardless of any discrimination.
Paying rich tributes to the legendary figure, the lawmakers said that she was not only a great human being but also the identity of Pakistan and “in her passing we are deprived of this identity that always raised her voice for the weakest and oppressed people”.
The house also adopted this resolution unanimously.
The house also condemned a statement of the chairperson of the Benazir Income Support Programme and blocking of cards of poor women registered under BISP in Sindh.
The lawmakers recommended to the Sindh government to lodge a strong protest and approach the federal government to unblock the cards of the affected women.
PML-F’s Saeed Khan Nizamani demanded the provincial government to establish a unit of the National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases (NICVD) at the Civil Hospital Sanghar to benefit the people of Sanghar, Achro Thar, Khipro and other areas.
Health Minister Dr Mandhro and Senior Minister Khuhro said that at the moment the Sindh government was setting up NICVD unit at the divisional headquarters and the emergency facility would be established at the district headquarters level later.
The resolution of Nusrat Sahar Abbasi of the PML-F pertaining to upgrade of the posts of lower staff (BPS-01 to BPS-07) in the education department was also adopted unanimously.
After disposing of the private resolutions, the house was adjourned at 3.10pm by Deputy Speaker Syeda Shehla Raza till Wednesday.
The Marriage Functions Bill, 2018 tabled by Ms Shahliani was referred to the standing committee concerned after its introduction.
Published in Dawn, February 28th, 2018