Supreme Court directs SBP to 'remove obstacles' so overseas Pakistanis can contribute to dam fund

December 12, 2019

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"All Pakistanis should be able to donate towards the dam fund," says Supreme Court. — SC website/File
"All Pakistanis should be able to donate towards the dam fund," says Supreme Court. — SC website/File

The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to "remove obstacles" that are hindering the transfer of donations by overseas Pakistanis for the dam fund and submit a report on the matter.

"Overseas Pakistanis want to contribute to the dam fund but banks are not collecting [donations]," said Justice Ijazul Ahsan, who was part of the five-member bench hearing a case pertaining to the Diamer-Bhasha Dam. He added that SBP should look into the complaints.

"All Pakistanis should be able to donate towards the dam fund," the court stated.

Justice Gulzar Ahmed, who was heading the bench, remarked that there were reports of a "huge amount" of money which was contributed to the dam fund that had not been transferred to Pakistan.

"Remove the obstacles and bring back the money," he told the SBP lawyer.

"All Pakistani banks should resolve issues in the transfer of funds," said Justice Ahmed.

Justice Ahsan observed that there were reports that private banks were not collecting donations for the dam fund, despite the fact that it was a direct order from the Supreme Court.

During the proceedings, the National Bank of Pakistan submitted a record of investments made by the bank using donations from the dam fund which totalled Rs12 billion. The bank's representative informed the court that the profit from the investments is expected to come by February 2020.

The bench told SBP to submit a report on Supreme Court's directions in the next hearing that has been adjourned until four weeks.

Former chief justice Saqib Nisar had urged Pakistanis to contribute to the dam fund so that the Diamer-Bhasha dam could be built to counter the country's water crisis.

Land and funds

In the same case, the Supreme Court also reviewed a report of progress submitted by an implementation committee which was formed on the top court's orders.

The bench noted that two tribes had raised a dispute over land, which was bought from them by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government and was then handed over to the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) to work on the dam project.

The counsel for the tribes told the apex court that "90 per cent of the land" that had been acquired for the project belonged to their clients and argued that the government was not paying the right price for it.

Wapda's lawyer Saad Rasool told the court that the dispute was between the government and the tribes and the authority was not a party to it. He added that the government has already handed over 900 acres of land to Wapda.

"You shouldn't ask for price that is four times more than the land is worth," the bench advised and added that the court cannot resolve the matter of the land's price and pointed out that it was the KP government which was acquiring the land and not Wapda. The court directed the tribes to go to the "relevant forum" to resolve the matter and wrapped up the matter.

The total land required for the project is 37,419 acres which included 19,062 acres of state and 18,357 acres of private land under cultivation, barren and other uses. A sizeable number of government, community and business infrastructures will be affected by the project.

During the course of the hearing today, Wapda told the court that the government had not yet released Rs200 billion. The court directed the secretaries of the ministries of power and finance to release the funds.

Another issue that came up in court was that of a contractor who, according to the report submitted by the committee, had forwarded the work to another company.

"This man is receiving commission in the dam [project]," said Justice Ahmed. Terming it a "serious matter", he directed Wapda chairman to look into it.