How the Kalabagh project was dumped by Ayub Khan By Asif Maqbool January 7, 2006
[Courtesy: Daily Dawn - Encounter]
THE Kalabagh dam project has again become a burning issue of the day. The proposal of this project was initiated in 1953 but was later put into cold storage. It came to the fore again in 1986-87 during Gen Ziaul Haq’s regime and soon became the focus of a heated discussion. The public opinion was divided and the politicians made the issue more controversial. The then government failed to take a decision on the project’s future and the issue remains a disputed one. Although the project was initiated purely on technical and economical grounds, it has become a political issue owing to mishandling by the authorities. The current situation demands that the merits and demerits of the project are assessed impartially before taking a final decision in this regard.
The project was conceived when soon after the creation of Pakistan, there cropped up a number of serious problems including that of shortage of water and electricity. The control of three out of five Punjab Rivers had gone to India which later stopped the water supply to our canals feeding the eastern districts of Punjab and the former Bahawalpur state. The unilateral action of the Indian government ruined our cultivated lands, rendering them dry and later salivated. This affected the economy of the newly-created country very badly which faced the danger of famine as well. Pakistan, therefore, had to mobilize its own resources.
Search for alternative arrangements to sustain our mainly agrarian economy started. The construction of small dams on our rivers like Warsak and Mangla were taken up with the aid of Commonwealth countries. After a lapse of considerable time a treaty between Pakistan and India was signed in 1960 under the auspices of the World Bank. The agreement known as Indus Basin Treaty was signed by the then chief martial law administrator and president Ayub Khan on behalf of the Pakistan government and the then Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru on behalf of the Indian government; Eugene Blake signed the treaty on behalf of the World Bank.
According to this treaty, control of water of the rivers Ravi, Beas and Sutlej was given to India on the condition that the Indian government would compensate Pakistan for the loss of rivers and fully participate in the construction of new dams over the Indus river with the help of the World Bank and other aid-giving agencies. During this period Pakistan remained engaged in the planning of a number of projects for obtaining the consent of the Indian government. But unfortunately none of these projects could meet the approval of the Indian authorities.
Paperwork for the construction of a huge multipurpose dam on the Indus river at Kalabagh site was initiated by the experts concerned in 1953 and its feasibility report was submitted to the government. Wapda came into being in 1959. Soon after the completion of the design work of the Kalabagh dam, the government approached the World Bank for financial assistance.
Initially, a loan in rupee currency was sanctioned by the World Bank and placed at the disposal of the Pakistan government for meeting the expenses. But, in the meantime, a group of bureaucrats which had different intentions gathered around Ayub Khan and was able to convince him to switch over to the construction of the Tarbela dam instead of, what it thought, ‘wasting time’ in obtaining concurrence of aid-giving agencies to finance Kalabagh dam project. Ayub Khan, it seems, could not understand the implications of the counsel given to him. In fact, it was a sort of intrigue weaved carefully around him by a certain section of petty-minded bureaucrats who had their own axe to grind rather than serve the national interest. Ayub Khan soon came to know that the World Bank would not pay even a single penny for the construction of a “badly-designed” project of Tarbela dam. The design of this project was prepared in a great hurry and had many inherent defects.
A team of experts had warned the government that this project would be a complete failure and the whole investment on it would go down the drain. However, no attention was paid to this warning and the work on Tarbela dam commenced from the funds received for the Kalabagh dam. Later, the government approached other countries which agreed to finance the project on terms and conditions as favouring by them. Kalabagh dam project was, as such, thrown into dustbin and all the resources available were diverted towards the Tarbela dam. The reasons for switching over to the Tarbela dam were never made known to the public which even otherwise was not in a position to raise its voice against the authority of the martial law government. This was the only occasion when the Kalabagh dam could have been built without any fuss.
Today, once again the country is facing an acute shortage of water which is expected to aggravate in the coming years. Before the situation gets worse, the present government has decided to settle the matter once for all. It has, therefore, initiated a debate to seek a consensus on the construction of the Kalabagh dam. But, by now, the dam has become too controversial and new facts gathered by the experts in the smaller provinces show that, if built, it would serve the interests of the Punjab province alone, not theirs. The fact remains that surface water flow is the biggest renewable resource and a major asset of Pakistan. Right from the beginning of the ancient Indus valley civilization, agriculture in this part of the subcontinent had thrived on an irrigation system based on the river flow. The gradual increase in the population over the centuries was sustained by successive regimes by maintaining the age-old system until the British government introduced, about 150 years ago, the modern irrigation practices. The first permanent diversion was constructed at Madhopur on the Ravi river in 1860, and later the old Hasil canal of the Mughal times was converted into the Upper Bari Doab irrigation network.
This initiative proved so successful that barrages were constructed on all the rivers and during the subsequent 90 years the world’s largest contiguous irrigation network was evolved, covering the entire plains from the northern foothills to the shores of Arabian Sea. Then came the need for constructing storage dams to conserve surplus water during flood season, and release it during the dry period.
The Sindh delta region on which hundreds of thousands of native Sindhis living in the coastal areas depend for their livelihood has already suffered immense damage because of illegal diversion of Indus water by Punjab over decades. Peter Meynell of IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources — the world’s largest conservation related organization) notes that “Indus Delta is on the brink of an ecological disaster”.
Rejecting Islamabad’s attitude, he adds that it “is irresponsible to say that we may as well cut off all the water and sediment reaching the delta, since the damage has been done and since Pakistan needs all the water it can get for energy and agriculture upstream. This would be denying the remaining benefits of the delta to the coastal communities and to the national economy”.
Experts recommend that at least 30 million acre foot (MAF) water should be allowed to flow downstream of Kotri barrage. The Indus river in Pakistan once brought down 600 million tonnes (of silt); half reached the sea and half fertilized the alluvial plain. Today, just 50 million tonnes passes the upstream barrages and dams. Fred Pearce observed in a research article in “New Scientist” in 1990 that archaeologists were now gathering strong evidence that the ancient Indus civilization was ruined largely due to accumulation of salt in its irrigated fields.
Similarly, a report published in World Review in 1989 had stated that “If completed, the [Kalabagh] dam would trap an estimated two-thirds of the sediments of the Indus River, which has the fifth highest sediment load in the world.” Critics of the project claim that by increasing salinity and waterlogging, the project will further degrade agricultural productivity of the Indus Basin as well as destroy mangrove and riverine forests, fisheries, and the Indus Delta.
Viewpoints from the other three provinces will be presented in the coming weeks. — Ed.
January 8, 2006 Daily Dawn Sunday Magazine.
Viewpoints from the other three provinces will be presented in the coming weeks. — Ed.
January 8, 2006 Daily Dawn Sunday Magazine.
Never before, since the fall of Dhaka, the institution of armed forces has come under so much debate for one man’s act [By Shamim-ur-Rahman]
The Kalabagh Fever: Something is cooking By Humair Ishtiaq
WHATEVER the action, timing is generally of essential importance. The Kalabagh Dam should not have been an exception, but it is. It’s a pity that a nation which acted in such enviable unison in the wake of the recent earthquake, now stands dangerously divided over the water issue. There was much talk about the need to channelize the nation’s unity in order to turn it into something more tangible, but the leadership has done just the opposite, and everyone is asking, why.
While the government has its hands full with the gigantic task of rebuilding and rehabilitation in the earthquake-affected areas, there was apparently no reason for anyone to add anything to the immediate agenda. This rather odd timing is giving way to many a rumour about what might be in store for the nation in the coming years, says Syed Jalal Mahmood Shah, the grandson of G.M. Syed and himself a third-generation Sindhi nationalist politician, while talking to the Dawn Magazine.
The location and design of the KBD are seriously contentious issues, but let’s not forget the environmental and displacement factors, which still surround the Tarbela project. Completed in the 1970s, the government of the day was already passing on the blame to the predecessors after the project ran into complex problems in its very first year. As for the displacement factor, an agreement was signed between the government and the affectees back in 1967. It needs no comments beyond mere narration that a National Tarbela Dam Affectees Conference was held 37 years later on June 8, 2004, in Islamabad, calling for compensation amount to be paid!
While Punjab is leading the front in favour of Kalabagh, Sindh finds itself on the other side along with the NWFP and Balochistan. The opposition is united under the PONM (Pakistan Oppressed Nationalities Movement) banner of which Jalal Shah is a senior member since 1998.
Mr Shah remained the Deputy Speaker of Sindh Assembly, from 1997 till all the legislatures were dissolved in October 1999. Though a staunch Sindh nationalist, Mr Shah has stayed away from extremist nomenclatures, preferring to run his own Sindh Thinkers Forum, which, as he describes it, is an issue-based entity where he and his friends try to take a long-term view of national issues. With the kind of political pedigree that he has, his words do carry considerable weight in relevant circles. The following are the excerpts from the interview:
Q. Before moving on to the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ of the situation, do you and your friends in PONM and other such forums agree at all to the contention that building dams is a priority issue for the nation?
A. There are a few things that need to be understood quite clearly to be able to see the whole issue in its proper context. First, global standards require excess water for at least four out of five successive years to make the construction of any dam feasible. One good season every five or ten years, which is the scenario in today’s Pakistan, is not the benchmark for the purpose. Second, water downstream Kotri is a natural requirement and any contention to the contrary is indicative of the mala fide intentions of those leading the chorus. Both these factors are known to even those who happen to be on the other side of the equation. Still they try to fool around with it.
Q. Is it the sole reason for your opposition to the KBD, or do you oppose it on some technical ground, political reasoning, or on the basis of practical history?
A. On all three counts. Technically, because we do not have enough water to build reservoirs, as I have explained above. The figures that are being quoted by the vested interests relate to the position at downstream Kotri which include Sindh’s water share and any rainfall in the province. No one talks about what the water level is at the site where the government wants to build the Kalabagh Dam. Besides, the quality of site on which they want to build the dam is not fit enough for the purpose, and also lies in the earthquake-prone region.
Politically, because what they want to do is to raise the water level at Kalabagh so that they may irrigate the inaccessible areas of Punjab through canals. The fact of the matter is that it will take 24MAF (million acre feet) water to just keep the canal system functional round the year as against the present consumption level at the spot of around 05MAF. Who is going to bear the loss of this additional load of 19MAF? The smaller provinces, of course.
View it from another angle. The US keeps telling the Afghans and the Iraqis that all its actions are basically in their interest, not in the interest of the US. The rich countries keep telling the under-developed world that the WTO is basically in the interest of the latter, and not of the former. And Punjab keeps telling Sindh that the Kalabagh Dam is basically in the interest of Sindh, and not of Punjab. Make your own pickings on this count. President Pervez Musharraf, who is personally leading the front, said in Karachi recently that Punjab would bring any government down which chose to oppose the Kalabagh Dam. There is hardly anything left to imagination.
Historically, because the water tussle between Sindh and Punjab, which is a friction between two agro-based economies, dates back to the middle of the nineteenth century when Sindh first prepared a working plan for putting up a barrage at Sukkur, and Punjab opposed it. The case dragged in the courts for more than half-a-century when Sindh won the right to build the barrage in the early twentieth century. It was more or less the same timeframe when Punjab wanted to build the Thal Canal, and Sindh did its best to oppose it. Even in recent times, what Punjab has been doing since the 1991 Water Accord is there for all to see. There is no dearth of people in Punjab itself who know what has been going on, and do not support the continuation of such blatant policies. It is only the vested interest groups who are behind all the trouble.
The implementation of the 1991 Water Accord is so ineffective that even when Gen Musharraf issued letters to all concerned, nothing changed on the ground. Apparently, there are forces more powerful in the country than even the uniform-clad President, says Syed Jalal Shah
Q. Talking of history, do you think we have any lessons to learn from our experiences with Tarbela and Mangla dams?
A. Under the Indus Basin Treaty, the then army chief, who incidentally happened to be from Punjab, sold a big chunk of Pakistan’s priceless water assets to India. The rest of the water resources have since been called the Indus River System and it is this water that has to be shared by the provinces. This is the position in principle. In practice, however, Mangla Dam was brought up on Jhelum River and its water is consumed by Punjab alone even though Jhelum is very much part of the Indus River System, and should have been shared. Almost the same happened with Tarbela till the first water accord was signed among the provinces. Before that, Punjab practically had the first right of use over Tarbela as well, which was quite an arbitrary thing to do.
Even after the water accord, when Sindh wanted to remodel its canal system on the basis of its own share, Punjab has never allowed it to proceed. How ineffective has been the implementation of the water accord can be seen by the fact that the Indus River System Authority (IRSA), which is the monitoring agency, wrote a letter to the Presidency a couple of years ago, informing him of the grave issues involved, and requesting him to intervene. The President promptly issued letters to all concerned, but nothing changed on the ground. Apparently, there are forces more powerful in the country than even the uniform-clad President.
Q. But the President and some other government functionaries have recently made remarks to the effect that Punjab has been sharing its own quota with the smaller provinces. What is your take on that?
A. That is actually quite funny. You see, according to the natural cycle, the sowing season first begins in Sindh around March-April, then moves to Punjab and then finally to the NWFP. During the Sindh season, not enough water is released on the plea that the two dams are being filled. Then comes the season in Punjab for which there is not just water flowing in the canals, but also in the dams. After their season is over, they release water to Sindh, claiming that it is being given from the Punjab quota. This water is of little use to Sindh because the sowing season is already over. Besides, it collides with the season in the NWFP, and neither of the two provinces get enough water. If this is not funny, nothing is.
Besides, the accord calls for sharing of the shortages and surpluses in accordance with the defined ratio. A mere look at the history of the last fifteen years would be enough for anyone to see for himself what has been the trend on this score.
Q. Talking of KBD, do you find anything odd with the timing of the latest round of controversy which has gained so much heat even though the nation apparently has to deal with much more important and immediate concerns like the rehabilitation process in the Northern Areas?
A. Of course, we do. Everyone is suspicious of the perceived or real intentions of the rulers. Senior politicians who have seen the drama unfold many a time find something fishy not just in the timing, but also in the manner and the force with which the controversy has been kicked up this time round. I don’t quite buy the notion that all this is being done to divert people’s attention from the non-transparent rehabilitation process, or in preparation for the next general election. At least to me, these are very minor issues when seen in the context of the establishment’s visible desperation on KBD right now. You don’t kill a fly with a bomb, do you?
There is a strong feeling in knowledgeable circles in Sindh that President General Pervez Musharraf is apparently under some kind of intense pressure from international quarters. The recent visits of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld also provide some context to the situation, I believe. The settlement of Kashmir is a safe bet and there are those who believe that a deadline has already been settled.
There are others who believe that Pakistan may soon be facilitating US advances against Iran, and Balochistan may be used in the same way as Peshawar has been used in relation to Afghanistan. Any of these two issues, or anything else that may be cooking up, will be pushed through while the nation would be sitting pretty on the horns of some internal dilemma. The KBD more than provides that dilemma.
It is also feared that in the heat of the international agenda, Punjab may arm-twist the establishment to give it the dam in place of its lost control over Kashmir. There may also be some territorial changes in the long run involving Punjab and Balochistan if it works out fine in favour of the international powers who will conveniently turn a blind eye to such an arrangement. Right now, all this might look like kite-flying, but all I can suggest is for the people to keep their eyes open.
Q. But how would you explain the silence adopted by nationalist forces on the timing issue. You have all spoken quite clearly against the KBD, which is a major factor for all the momentum that the controversy has gained. Why could you not just focus on this particular issue, and ask your followers to exercise restraint rather than undue activism?
A. I can’t talk of the activists, but the mainstream Sindhi leadership does understand the scenario. The issue, however, is so sensitive that we can’t afford to take chances. We have to register our protest and do everything we can to resist, because right now the situation is rather fluid, and there are more guesses than anything concrete.
Q. The Punjab-against-the rest complexion of national politics was apparently a thing of the past till the latest KBD row was kicked up. In your opinion, why would Punjab be interested in upsetting the equation which gets it no goodwill?
A. As Sindhi nationalists view it, Punjab wants the Kalabagh Dam not just for its immediate requirements, but also for the sake of its long-term future where people belonging to various vested interests foresee some kind of a Greater Punjab. How would you rationalize the fact that it is only in Punjab where institutions are being strengthened, while it is just the opposite everywhere else. Senior and mature politicians are given senior public offices there, while in the remaining provinces, even chief ministers and governors are handpicked to toe the line.
The Punjab Public Service Commission has its due place in the scheme of things, and rightly so, but elsewhere there has been a conscious effort to make such institutions fizzle out. The Punjab chief minister can undertake a visit to the Indian Punjab and place invitations to his counterpart there. But anyone else doing the same stands to get slapped with the
And, by the way, I don’t agree with the assertion that the Punjab-against-the-rest complexion was not there in recent times. It has always been there. Nawaz Sharif did it in his own style; the army is doing it in its own. When Punjab gets what it wants, there is apparent calm on the surface. The moment someone tries to talk sense, he is blamed of fanning hatred. Sindh has no intention to part ways; it is the lure of the Greater Punjab which makes them go to irrational lengths.
Q. Coming back to the main course, do you believe the establishment is really serious about getting on with the KBD?
A. Not that serious, I believe. The establishment itself is apparently keeping its options open by taking a strong stand and simultaneously talking of building a consensus. Once the agenda comes to the surface, things will be clearer.
Q. Is there anything that can be done to placate the fears and concerns of Sindh and the two other small provinces regarding the KBD?
A. Constitutional guarantees won’t do. It is ironical that the person talking of constitutional guarantees is himself in power only after he went against it. Placing the telemetric system under Sindhi officials will be of no help either because just pointing out the problem does not help. The IRSA knows that the accord is not being followed, but it doesn’t have the teeth to bite Punjab to any effect.
A few years ago, Sindhi technocrats proposed to their counterparts in Punjab that instead of insisting on the construction of Kalabagh Dam, which would give them around 5MAF, they should simply raise the banks of Mangla which would give them 4.5MAF additional water. They have already done that and their insistence of Kalabagh still continues! And, mind you, the Mangla banks were raised with federal funds even though it stands to benefit just one province.
Coming back to your question, what might get Sindh interested will be the geographical guarantee of Bhasha Dam, which, even though it will be under the control of Punjab, is planned as a carryover dam and from which no canals can be taken out. Besides, it will be a big help if Punjab could first observe the 1991 Water Accord in letter and in spirit for, say, the next five years. This is the greatest confidence-building measure that anyone can undertake to satisfy the smaller and the deprived provinces. And, finally, WAPDA needs to be dismantled, and its powers shall be transferred to IRSA.
Q. With little hope of any such thing ever happening, you mean Sindh is not going to agree to the KBD, come what may?
A. There has always been an almost blanket consensus across all kinds of political, social and economic divides in Sindh on the issue. I say ‘almost’, because individuals looking for some self-serving opportunity keep cropping up every now and then. A few years ago, a professor at the Tando Jam Agriculture University started making statements in the media against the general consensus. He was soon noticed, brought to Islamabad, and sent back to the same institution as its vice-chancellor! Leave such cases out, and Sindh is determined to resist.
Q. And in carrying on with your resistance, how far do you think the nationalist forces can go, or have the potential to go?
A. Those who think Sindh would move towards some kind of guerrilla activity against the federation or even against the dam, are living in a fool’s paradise. People may say a few stupid things in the heat of the moment, but there will be no violence or terrorism. It is the army which bombs people into submission; we don’t. When I talk of Sindh’s resistance, all I have in mind is political resistance. We will never put our seal of approval on the project. We will never allow the legislature to play hands in glove with the establishment. Even if they build it, it will remain an illegitimate structure and they will have to admit that they did it against the wishes of the smaller provinces. The political struggle will continue and we will follow our political instincts to the hilt, regardless of where it might lead us to.
Q. Partition of India and the creation of Pakistan was also the consequence of a political movement. Are you hinting at that?
Comment: What’s the hurry? By Shamim-ur-Rahman
NO one can deny the fact that with the increase in population there would be a need for more water for agricultural, industrial and personal uses. Having said that, history teaches us that when nations do not invest in human and infrastructure development at the right time, and do not respect each other’s economic and political rights, they suffer the curse of poverty and bondage, and perish in the struggle for survival. Pakistan is the classical example of such criminal
neglect and conspiracy from within, against its own people by those who claimed to be the custodians and champions of its integrity and national sovereignty. The controversy over the Kalabagh Dam is a case in point.
To say the least, President General Pervez Musharraf’s stance on the issue, and his belligerent and often threatening attitude is mind-boggling. People are asking why he is in such a hurry. Why this blow-hot-blow-cold attitude? Is he under pressure from his own constituency, or is it some external pressure to arrive at a settlement with India on Kashmir and its waters once again? Is it a diversionary tactic to deflect criticism of the lack of transparency and accountability in the relief and rehabilitation process in the earthquake-hit North, or of the US-supported operation in Waziristan? Is it a ploy to win support of the most populous province in the next general election, or will he go for a presidential form of dispensation? Is Kalabagh the bargaining chip for such support?
The list is not finished yet. Why MQM and men like Liaquat Jatoi would openly oppose it? Has Musharraf not put Punjab on the spot by himself pitching up the controversy on KBD and water issue to scuttle pressure from within? Why is he part of the ball game which only benefits centrifugal tendencies? Is he a free agent or a pawn in the bigger game? Who is calling the shots? Why is he creating linkages between the award of NFC and the dam issue?
All these questions need open discussion because they relate to our survival as an independent entity, and also because never before, since the fall of Dhaka, the institution of military has been so much criticised for one man’s act. Many of the above listed fears are too simplistic, yet they need to be analysed.
A logical approach to the water issue would have been to publish all the technical reports and the people should have been given at least a year to discuss its pros and cons on technical grounds before reaching any decision. But the regime insists it does not have time, and want to do it straightaway. This is a typical military mindset which doesn’t believe in the others’ right to differ.
The Kalabagh issue, needless to say, is very dear to Punjab because it will meet its water needs in the future, though at the cost of Sindh, the lower riparian. Some senior bureaucrats who have represented Sindh in various meetings at the federal level say that whenever they object to the federal pressure, their loyalty and patriotism is routinely questioned.
Ironically, Sindh’s concerns and arguments over the Kalabagh and the Greater Thal Canal are the same that Pakistan has put forward in relation to Baghlihar, Kishanganga and Wullar barrage projects. But, practising blatant double standards, the establishment is asking Sindh to come on board despite the fact that the people of Sindh and their elected assembly have unanimously rejected the proposal time and again.
In his recent interactions with politicians and the media, Gen Musharraf raised the stakes by offering all kinds of guarantees and mechanisms to appease Sindh, but all his efforts have had just the opposite fact. Everyone is wondering what is it that has made him so obsessed with Kalabagh when, according to certain deliberately leaked portions, the Abbasi report has suggested the Skardu-Katzarah dam as the best option.
This brings us to the crux of the problem, which is Pakistan’s failure to approach the water issue in a comprehensive manner with India, though Islamabad’s opposition to Baghlihar and other Indian projects on the rivers flowing from Kashmir into Pakistan are justified.
Never before, since the fall of Dhaka, the institution of armed forces has come under so much debate for one man’s act
The whole problem has arisen because we have not taken a holistic view of the water issue and have, either deliberately or out of ignorance, not examined the regional approaches to the water issue such as is the case in China, India and Afghanistan, and their long-term impact on us. The debate here is being articulated by the bureaucracy as something of a dispute between Punjab and Sindh alone.
After loosing waters of the three eastern rivers to India under the Indus Water Treaty (IWT), which was basically aimed at making up for the losses of Punjab from the three eastern rivers, Pakistan is now faced with a depleted water flow from Indus, Jhelum and Chenab.
The situation today also indicates that Kashmir has quickly been transformed into a riparian issue rather than just a territorial or human rights issue. The next armed conflict between the two countries could well be driven more by riparian considerations.
Pakistan’s opposition to Baghlihar, Kishanganga and other projects India has planned on the rivers flowing from Kashmir are not only legally valid, in view of the terms and condition of the Indus Waters Treaty, but also stems from the fears that India might deny her the required water when it is much needed. The fears are not unfounded, because India has done this before.
The importance of Kashmir rivers for irrigating Indian states is obvious from the fact that the project was originally proposed in 1912 when the government of Punjab approached the Maharaja of Kashmir to give permission to construct a major barrage on Wullar Lake so as to help irrigate the rabi crop in Punjab, which was not getting enough water.
The Indian government proposed to construct a 103-metre-high dam on the Kishanganga River, also known as the Neelam River in the Gurez valley. This project is located in the Baramula district in Jammu and Kashmir. From that reservoir, a tunnel of 21.66km will be dug dropping the Kishanganga River into the Jhelum River through Bonar Nala. This will redirect the Kishanganga waters to the Wullar Lake at Bandipur, where a hydroelectric project will be constructed at the Wullar barrage. The diversion of all Kishanganga water to Jhelum would ruin the Neelam Valley in Pakistan.
Looking at the Indian river inter-linking programme and its need for more water to irrigate lands in Punjab, Haryana and Rajhastan, Pakistan would get less water from Jhelum and Chenab and also from Indus after Afghanistan builds its dam on the Kabul River.
There are those who believe the government is perhaps willing to accept another US-backed and WB-brokered arrangement that would in effect establish India’s control over Kashmir rivers — the jugular vein for Pakistan. Analysts are also linking it with the proposal of self-rule that has to be guaranteed by the international community. The presence of NATO and American troops in the region and India’s positive response to the proposal also give credence to the apprehension that we might be witnessing a new geo-strategic reality in the region.
This background also explains Punjab’s stress on Kalabagh. Neither Bhasha nor Skardu would provide a canal to irrigate Punjab. Only Kalabagh will provide that opportunity. Although the general has assured that no such canal will be constructed, but when a dam is constructed, provisions are always kept aside for such openings to be activated or constructed at a later stage. After all, they will have a canal on the right bank to irrigate Balochistan and parts of the NWFP. Perhaps that is the reason behind the urgency in Gen Musharraf’s approach. Certain quarters believe that he is already under some sort of pressure from within his constituency because of a few promotions that he has made. He is also aspiring to retain the presidency for the next term with a massive support, and transform the quasi-presidential form of governance into full-scale presidential system. But the elements that had propped up the IJI would not let him have his way without their pound of flesh. This has possibly made Kalabagh the main bargaining chip. With a massive Punjab support and also from opportunists in the remaining three federating units, Gen Musharraf would emerge stronger, and after that he may rule mainly through the system of local government. This is what the game looks like.
The crux of Pakistan’s problem has always been the confusion as to the power base. Should it be the parliament or the civil-military bureaucracy? As things stand today, the civil society has been pitted against the civil-military bureaucracy in collusion with opportunists in each and every camp. The repeated derailment of the democratic system has had an adverse effect on federalism in the country by way of imposing a unitary form of government at the cost of basic institutional structures. be it the Dam or the NFC Award, an individual is calling the shots.
What remains inexplicable in the prevailing scenario is the ant-KBD stand taken by the MQM, which is in the ruling coalition, and people like Liaquat Jatoi. Analysts believe that in the next elections, Gen Musharraf will aim at doing away with the pro-KBD sentiments in Punjab on the basis of his apparent failure to convince Sindh, and will ensure success for his anti-dam allies in Sindh. In both cases, it will be at the cost of the Pakistan Peoples Party. It is to be seen whether the PPP and other opposition parties will just restrict themselves to protest rallies or will they have something new up their sleeves.
But despite so much of noise, can the opposition block the general’s moves? Sindh raised similar voice against the hanging of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. It failed to prevent that. Sindh stood up against the establishment of the Pannu Aqil cantonment. It failed again. Will it be any different this time? Is it time for one final battle? Who knows?