ISLAMABAD: Sindh’s water issue overshadowed the National Assembly’s session on Thursday as Prime Minister Imran Khan called a meeting of all provinces on water on Friday (today) to address their grievances, specially Sindh.
Not only the opposition leaders, Minister for Inter-provincial Coordination Dr Fehmida Mirza also demanded due share of water for Sindh and accused Punjab of stealing water of other provinces.
Dr Mirza also held a meeting with the prime minister.
Later, Sindh Irrigation Minister Sohail Anwar Siyal called on the prime minister to seek the latter’s personal intervention to resolve the issue of water distribution.
PM to chair meeting on the issue today
According to Mr Siyal, the prime minister will hold a meeting of all provinces and officials of the Indus River System Authority (Irsa) on the matter on Friday.
When the issue of water distribution engulfed the NA session, Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri, who was presiding over the session, directed Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda to give his point of view on the matter.
Punjab has reopened Taunsa-Panjnad (TP) link canal despite a vote-based decision against its opening and amidst water shortage that is persisting in Sindh ever since the start of Kharif season.
The TP link canal was being provided 500 cusecs of water from Tuesday in compliance with an Irsa decision. The authority issued the order even though three of its four members opposed the move.
An unpleasant incident was also reported in Irsa’s Tuesday meeting in the federal capital where its Sindh member Zahid Junejo was allegedly insulted and humiliated by Irsa Chairman Rao Irshad Ali Khan after the former asked why the TP canal was opened despite a majority decision against its opening.
Mr Junejo argued that Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan had voted against it in Irsa’s May 24 meeting.
After the incident Mr Junejo informed all those concerned in the Sindh government about the incident. “I can’t work in such a hostile environment where I am humiliated. I have spoken to all concerned in the Sindh government,” he said.
During the NA session, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Naveed Qamar said Punjab was illegally getting water from the Indus and not only Sindh, but other two provinces — Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan — were also protesting over the violation of the Irsa agreement. He demanded an inquiry into the incident in which Irsa’s member Sindh Zahid Junejo was humiliated by the chairman.
Dr Fehmida Mirza said water of Terbela Dam had dropped to the dead level and the minister for water resources should give answers to the house.
She said it was for the first time that a dent was made at Kotri Barrage and distribution orders were issued to influential people.
The minister said not a single regulator was performing in Sindh and not a single kanal was carved out in the province despite allocation of Rs1,400 billion for irrigation.
Shazia Marry said the PPP had raised a genuine public issue and it should not be made a personal matter.
Earlier, presiding over a meeting of Irsa on Thursday, Prime Minister Khan said he would decide the matter on Friday.
The meeting was also attended by irrigation ministers of Sindh and Punjab Anwar Siyal and Mohsin Leghari, respectively. The Sindh government and the Irsa’s Sindh member claimed that under the 1991 water accord, Punjab could not get water from TP link. It was also demanded that the 1991 water accord should be opened and renegotiated.
At this, the prime minister said the federal government could not open the accord as it was the prerogative of the Council of Common Interests (CCI). He urged the province to take up the matter with the CCI.
The prime minister asked the Sindh minister to read if anything in the accord substantiated his stance. However, the Sindh minister could not read anything in support of his stance.
The meeting agreed that independent inspectors should be deployed at discharge points in the country to avoid water theft and its misuse.
Later, at a press conference, Anwar Siyal said Irsa was supporting Punjab and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government was depriving Sindh of its right.
He said that Sindh’s water was being stolen by Punjab with the connivance of Irsa. He said that the share of Sindh’s GDP was 23 per cent in the country’s agriculture output.
The representative of Balochistan was not present in the meeting.
The Sindh Assembly has passed a resolution to remove the Irsa chairman, who was also the member Punjab in Irsa.
On the other hand, the Punjab government has claimed that Sindh is being given more water than its share.
Meanwhile, Anwar Sial said that an inquiry against him by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was false and concocted. “The case is being initiated at a time when I am raising the water issue,” he added.
NAB, however, has termed the allegations leveled by Mr Sial baseless, unfounded and contrary to facts.
A spokesman for NAB said in a statement that the bureau had started an inquiry into assets beyond means against Mr Sial in 2018, which was upgraded into investigation in January 2021 after evaluating concrete evidence, authentic documents and in the light of statements of witnesses.
Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2021