Senate panel to take up Sindh-Punjab water dispute

Published July 1, 2021
As ‘water politics’ has brought Sindh and Punjab face to face, a Senate committee has unanimously decided to take up in its next meeting the row between the two provinces. — Photo by Kohi Marri/File
As ‘water politics’ has brought Sindh and Punjab face to face, a Senate committee has unanimously decided to take up in its next meeting the row between the two provinces. — Photo by Kohi Marri/File

ISLAMABAD: As ‘water politics’ has brought Sindh and Punjab face to face, a Senate committee has unanimously decided to take up in its next meeting the row between the two provinces.

The decision was made at a meeting of the Senate Standing Commi­ttee on Inter-Provincial Coordina­tion held here on Wednesday and presided over by Senator Mian Raza Rabbani. It decided to invite representatives of Punjab and Sindh, the chairman of the Indus River System Authority (Irsa) and other stakeholders, including the secretaries of Ministry of Water Resources and Min­istry of Energy (Power Divi­sion), for a discussion on the issues.

The decision came as the role of the Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination (IPC) on the water issues between the two provinces taken up in a meeting of the Council of Common Interests (CCI) on June 17 came under discussion and the ministry told the Senate panel that the water issue was not considered by the CCI.

Regarding a letter written by the Sindh chief minister to the prime minister asking for referring the CCI’s decision on the census-2017 to a joint session of parliament under Article 154(6) of the Constitution, the committee was told that the Ministry of IPC had no role to play in this regard as the authority to call a joint sitting of parliament lied with the speaker of the National Assembly. However, the committee chairman, disagreeing with the assertion, suggested that a soft reminder might be sent to the speaker by the minister of inter-provincial coordination to expedite the resolution of the matter.

Members call for revising mechanism of census

Taking part in the debate, Senators Dr Zarqa Suharwardy Taimur, Dr Sikandar Mandhro and Mushtaq Ahmed Khan highlighted manifold issues arising out of the census- 2017 while Senator Gurdeep Singh spoke about misrepresentation of population of minority committees in the census. The senators stressed the need for revising the criteria and mechanism of the census.

Senator Rana Maqbool proposed that a role of the Ministry of IPC be devised in dispute resolution between the federation and the provinces before utilising the forum of the CCI and suo motu powers be granted to the council.

At the onset of the meeting, committee chairman Raza Rabbani highlighted the importance of the Ministry of IPC as envisaged by the framers of 18th Amendment. He said that Articles 153 and 154 of the Constitution provided a comprehensive framework and mechanism of coordination between the federation and the provinces however the need remained for implementation of the same in letter and spirit.

He said that in future, with the help of the committee and the ministry, efforts would be made to forge harmony between the federation and the provinces and to ensure that the ministry obtained its true position.

Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination Dr Fehmida Mirza endorsed the importance of the ministry as explained by the committee chairman. She said that the concept of cooperative federalism must be practiced to achieve the desired goal of harmony between the federation and the provinces.

Dr Mirza stressed the need of strengthening the Inter-Provincial Coordination Committee (IPCC).

Discussing the decisions taken by the CCI secretariat with respect to the provinces and their implementation status from 2008 to date, the committee demanded that the lists of pending matters before the CCI be shared with the panel.

The Ministry of IPC told the meeting that so far 29 meetings of the IPCC had been held, the latest one on Jan 14.

Regarding the current status and meetings of the Intra-Education Ministers Committee (an internal committee of the Ministry of IPC), the Senate panel was told that no meeting of the committee had been held because its role had been assumed by the federal Ministry of Education and Professional Training. The Senate committee observed that there was no provision in the rules of any federal ministry to coordinate with the provinces while bypassing the Ministry of IPC. The committee demanded that such provisions, if any, may be find out in the Rules of Business, 1973, and placed before the panel for examination.

Senator Mirza Mohammad Afridi highlighted the importance of promotion of sports in the country to engage the youth in healthy activities. Senators Jam Mahtab Hussain Dahar and Mohammad Ayub also participated in the debate on this issue. Dr Mirza suggested that an exclusive meeting be held to address the issues faced by the Pakistan Sports Board and the committee endorsed the proposal.

The committee also decided to hold an internal meeting and devise a work plan regarding issues / agendas to be taken up by the panel in future.

Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2021

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