PML leadership backs Kalabagh

Published December 20, 2005

ISLAMABAD, Dec 19: The Pakistan Muslim League leadership on Monday generally endorsed the Kalabagh dam, but tempered it with a call to strike for a broader unanimity of views among all the provinces and by taking all stakeholders into confidence.

“Senior Leaguers broadly agreed that the construction of Kalabagh dam be announced only after removing genuine reservations of smaller provinces and striking a national consensus,” an insider told Dawn.

However, Sindh Chief Minister Arbab Ghulam Rahim Khan is reported to have expressed his disagreement and told the party’s central executive committee meeting: “I am representing Sindh and not the federal government, therefore, I will abide by the wishes of the majority of the people of the province”.

He also told the party leadership that he had been winning elections against the PPP and he should not be made to regret his decision of joining the PML.

He called for taking the Sindh assembly into confidence before going ahead with the project. He said members of the provincial assembly had “serious and genuine” reservations about the dam.

Arbab Rahim warned the party of serious repercussions if the federal government announced the construction of the Kalabagh dam without addressing Sindh’s reservations.

PML president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain chaired the meeting held at the party’s secretariat. Those who attended the meeting, included Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, Senator S.M. Zafar, Gen (retd) Majeed Malik, Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri, Hamid Nasir Chatha, Manzoor Wattoo and Syed Kabir Ali Wasti.

Chief Minister Punjab Chaudhry Parvaiz Elahi, Chief Minister Balochistan Jam Muhammad Yousuf and former president Sardar Farooq Ahmed Khan Leghari were conspicuous by their absence.

Briefing reporters after the three-hour meeting, Prime Minister Aziz termed the deliberations encouraging and its outcome positive. He said the meeting, held in a congenial atmosphere, and took stock of the situation in quake-affected areas and commended efforts made by the government, NGOs and the international community to help the affected people.

Chaudhry Shujaat said the party’s top hierarchy had overwhelmingly supported President Gen Pervez Musharraf’s decision to go ahead with the construction of Kalabagh dam and other water reservoirs to avert the threat of a drought-like situation in the country in the next decade.

He said everyone in the CEC was keen to work for forging a broad consensus on the issue. He said there was a general agreement among stakeholders on the need to build major water reservoirs, including the Kalabagh dam, on an urgent basis. He, however, said that elements opposing the project needed to be persuaded.

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