ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court was informed on Thursday that the National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) had re-invested an amount of Rs12 billion collected as the Diamer-Bhasha dam fund.

A representative of the NBP told a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court hearing the case that the amount had been re-invested on Nov 21 and profit on the amount was due by Feb 27, 2020.

The court, while referring to complaints of non-collection of fund, directed the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to “remove obstacles” in the way of 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],”Justice Ijazul Ahsan remarked and said that the SBP should look into the complaints.

Court asks State Bank to bring back funds stuck with embassies abroad

“All Pakistanis should be able to donate towards the dam fund,” the court observed.

Justice Gulzar Ahmed, who was heading the bench, said the fund had been established on the orders of the Supreme Court and asked as to which banks were disobeying the apex court’s orders.

He also said there were reports of a “huge amount” of money which was contributed to the dam fund that had not been transferred to Pakistan. He asked the SBP lawyer to remove the obstacles and bring back the money currently stuck with the country’s diplomatic missions abroad. “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.

The bench also reviewed a progress report submitted by an implementation committee formed on the apex court’s orders.

The bench noted that two tribes had raised a dispute over the 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 the 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 hearing, 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.

Published in Dawn, December 13th, 2019