ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda on Wednesday hinted at reviving the Kalabagh dam project besides correcting ‘by hook or by crook’ the imbalances purportedly caused by devolution.
Speaking at a hurriedly called press conference to raise allegations of conflict of interest against PML-N leader Shahbaz Sharif unrelated to his ministry, Mr Vawda said that the previous governments had shelved the Kalabagh dam project due to the “influence of enemies of Pakistan”, who always made water storage projects controversial.
The minister said he had ordered the project to be reviewed.
In reply to a question, he said: “Kalabagh was declared dead in ICU (intensive care unit), now I am the new doctor in-charge and have ordered preparations to re-examine it. I will not let the project be buried”.
He said that the country was in dire need of new water reservoirs and these should have been constructed earlier. However, it was unfortunate that attempts were made to make several dam projects, including Kalabagh, controversial.
Replying to a query regarding the recent urban floods in Karachi, the minister blamed the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) for the fiasco. “It was the failure of the provincial government of the PPP as it did not give attention to timely clearing of storm-drains in the metropolitan. It is not my duty to remove encroachments from Karachi but we are playing our role through the National Disaster Management Authority, the corps commander of Karachi and other institutions,” he said, adding that it was is the duty of the provincial government to remove encroachments from the waterways.
Mr Vawda said that it was the responsibility of the local bodies and the provincial government to take precautionary measures to prevent flash floods in Karachi that had taken several precious lives.
He said that the federal government was extending all possible technical and logistic assistance to mitigate sufferings of flood-affected people in the city. The minister said that the federal government had provided funds to Sindh but the provincial government seemed least interested to spend money for welfare of the common man.
Mr Vawda said that he was not the relevant minister to comment on loss of human lives, public properties and economic and business losses and no effort could compensate these losses, but these “imbalances caused by devolution” needed to be corrected by “hook or by crook” so that these problems did not re-emerge in future. Such matters, he said, could be addressed through collaborative efforts of the federal and provincial governments but it was not affordable for the federal government to keep providing funds while the relevant (provincial) governments did nothing on the premise of 18th Amendment.
In reply to another question regarding the K-Electric’s performance during the recent rains, the minister said that he was entitled to speak on the issue as Federal Minister for Power Omar Ayub looked after the matter related to electricity.
To another query, Mr Vawda said that transferring and sharing of water data was a settled issue between Pakistan and India, hoping that India would implement it. The minister however ruled out that India was targeting Neelum-Jheulm project. “As far as the security of Neelum-Jhelum project is concerned, it is under control and I have not received any report about India targeting it” he added.
Talking about another alleged case of Sharif family’s corruption, Mr Vawda said that Ali Imran, the son-in-law of Leader of Opposition in National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif, had leased out a building, constructed with looted money, to the National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) on monthly rent of Rs3,565,800.
“Ali Imran was not able to rent out the building, located at M.M. Alam Road, Lahore, for quite some time, but later he managed to lease it out to the NBP, using political influence,” the minister said in the opening statement of his news conference.
He said that the documentary evidence was being forwarded to the National Accountability Bureau for further proceeding, hinting that more corruption cases of the Sharif family would emerge in the coming days.
Faisal Vawda said that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government had made “political appointments” in different departments to serve its purpose, get loans and make personal assets in the country and abroad.
Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2019