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Kalabagh dam – another view

June 18, 2011

Why Kalabagh dam was being opposed by the other three provinces and their political parties? The reason as narrated by the protagonists of Seraiki Suba was narrated in one of the last columns. The only reason cited was hatred for the Punjab and Punjabis, the ‘goodwill’ Punjabis had earned since they first shot down Bengali students demanding a status for their language (language of the then majority) equal to Urdu which was then not acceptable to the Karachi-based federal government led by Liaquat Ali Khan and feudal lords of the other western provinces.

Politically, because of majority population of Bengal, leaders from the west wing feared domination of Bengalis, who had broken the backbone of feudalism by introducing radical agrarian reforms. The two most powerful institutions – executive and armed forces – were dominated by West Pakistanis and the Mohajirs from India, therefore, with their support formula of parity between the two wings was imposed and Punjabis being the leaders integrated all the western four provinces and states in One-Unit. As usual this One-Unit was also imposed from above and its clear meaning was that the Punjabis plus Mohajirs would rule while all other provinces or regions would play second fiddle.

That was a forced unity with deteriorating administration and political performance, therefore, not only the majority province Bengal but also other the provinces came under the domination of Punjabis who had still not changed their attitude towards the most-loved regional, linguistic, cultural and educational identities. The most aggressive stance was against the local languages while the rulers were out to establish the hegemony of Urdu, which had already been accepted as the national language without any opposition. Feudal politicians, emerging traders and investors plus professionals were the architect of One-Unit mainly ruled and dismantled by the military dictators. This period brought bad name for the Punjab even at the grassroots of different nationalities. Before the separation of the eastern wing, One-Unit was dismembered but because of the fear of the lower and middle class Bengali majority, they were not acceptable to the feudal lords (may be from the PPP or the then NAP), military generals, traders and bureaucrats of the west wing, therefore, the most unfortunate army operation in the east Pakistan which ended in the complete and unprecedented defeat of army (in which Punjabi or Potohari are in a majority). All that damaged the credibility of the Punjab and then the most anti-federation act of the armed forces against a regional (Sindhi) ruler, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was not only unconstitutionally removed but also hanged by a ‘pure’ Punjabi general and so-called Mujahid-i-Islam, Ziaul Haq. Though Bhutto could have not come into power without the popular support of the Punjab but that fact had gone in the background and his hanging by a Punjabi general emerged on the forefront. Unfortunately, all the anti-Punjabi nationalist leaders of the smaller provinces extended their full cooperation to the executioner, General Ziaul Haq, but all those were exonerated and Punjab and Punjabis became the hatred targets.

From the construction of the first dam (Mangla in Azad Kashmir) in Ayub’s regime till the construction of Tarbela to Bhutto’s end there was no any visible opposition to the construction of a dam at Kalabagh, except that Ayub’s ‘territorial’ interests delayed Kalabagh dam and Tarbela was given priority which was from technical point of view not of the first category as Kalabagh was and is.

Till the execution of Bhutto, there was no controversy over the construction of Kalabagh dam. It started during the regime of Punjabi general, Ziaul Haq, and his NWFP governor, General Fazl-i-Haq, openly opposed the dam followed by the ANP and some other parties. Sindh also joined the chorus.

Meanwhile, some violations over the distribution of Indus waters by the Punjabis provoked the Sindhis and after that the dismissal of another Sindhi prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, ignited the fire of hatred which was directed against the Punjab and it further earned discredit because the establishment brought a Punjabi leader, Nawaz Sharif, to replace the daughter of the hanged prime minister from Sindh. That also created bad blood.

Even Benazir also favoured the construction of the dam. She perhaps never opposed the Kalabagh dam openly.

So far attitude of the central Punjab is concerned, the feudal particularly of the south or Seraiki belt wants water, the industrialists and traders of the central Punjab want cheap (hydel) power, therefore, the latter favours the construction of the dam but if the PML-Q or the PML-N are their representatives, they would lead them nowhere.

In his hey days, Nawaz Sharif preferred building the Lahore-Islamabad Motorway and still is reluctant to assert the advantages (or disadvantages) of the dam while the Chaudhary brothers of Gujrat during their stint in power totally ignored the issue despite having government in the Centre and three provinces.

But, practically, it was government of mohajirs in the Centre and the MQM was ruling the supreme in Sindh and May 12, 2007 incident is enough proof. Actually, right from the beginning, the MQM politically flourished on the slogans against the Punjabis and Pushtoons (dhoti, shalwar aur naswaar kahan say aaee).

The Chaudhrys never bothered about that but now in national and Punjab provincial assemblies, they asserted that a dam at Kalabagh is a must. But when the appropriate time came and the PPP was in dire need of PML-Q’s support, they joined just to save the head of a younger Chaudhary. If they think that Kalabagh dam is a must for the Punjab and also the solidarity of Pakistan, they should not have indulged in such a cheap bargain.

A new book “Kalabagh Dam Banaeyn, Pakistan Bachaeyn” has just appeared. Written by a staunch supporter of the Chaudharys, the writer is veteran lawyer, Asghar Ali Ghural, whose son was parliamentary secretary of the then chief minister Pervaiz Elahi, and is again a PML-Q MPA now. The Chaudharys have done no service to the Punjab in Musharraf’s very long period and now again with Zardari they are almost betraying Punjab on two points; first the division of Punjab and second on Kalabagh dam issue. But what their followers like Asghar Ali Ghural and Khalid Asghar Ghural can do? Asghar being a seasoned journalist and writer writes or compiles a book of articles from all quarters on Kalabagh dam and that he has done well and provided solid material which hotly favours the construction of a dam at Kalabagh, which, according to him, is the question of life and death for Pakistan but his leaders know that their and their new generation’s life is more precious than the life of Pakistan.

Asghar has done this job well and one hopes that the next promised volume of the book would also cover the opposing views.