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Experts point out lack of planning for water crisis

‘Pakistan must take a firm stance, exerts pressure on WB to remain within its mandate’

Top water experts on Thursday pointed out lack of proper planning by the government and policymakers and a clear tilt of the World Bank towards India for water crises being faced by Pakistan.

Former Water and Power secretary Mirza Hamid Hasan, international law and development expert Shamila Mahmood and water expert Ashfaq Mahmood expressed these views while addressing the audience of a moot – Kishanganga and Ratle Projects: Deliberating on IWT’s Dispute Resolution Mechanism & the Way Forward – held here at the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS).

Shamila said that Pakistan despite being the lower riparian did not strategise on time to counter the clever designs of India. “A clear legal interpretation by the International Court of Arbitration bars construction of any Indus Water Treaty (IWT)-pertaining project without its prior dispute resolution, and this exegesis should stringently be followed as its binding for both the countries,” she added.

She also said that India has always raised objections in any project in disputed territory, claiming that it requires NOC, and unfortunately India’s version has always been supported by the World Bank, but when Pakistan raises similar questions over some Indian project, one of the responses it always gets was that the project would not affect Pakistan. However, this was incorrect because such projects do affect Pakistan because it is a lower riparian.

“Plus it also need be considered in such cases that whether the parameters set by the treaty are being met or not. Now when the World Bank does not allow Pakistan funding for any such project over India’s objections, then the case should be taken up against the World Bank because it’s not in accordance with the human rights,” she added.

Even in case of Ratle project, India was ignoring an international decision, which was also a domestic mechanism that it had to honour the arbitration determination, she said. Even its own domestic laws stress on honouring the arbitration determination, but it was deliberately ignoring this to suit its interest, she asserted. Shamila also felt that Pakistan should take a firm stance, exerting pressure on World Bank to remain within its mandate and pursue and resolve the matter without any delay.

“Our biggest failing vis-à-vis our water issues with India was that we didn’t strategise well. We didn’t move promptly from our past failings and did not lobbied our point effectively at the international level,” said Ashfaq Mehmood, the expert. “India has made a strategy of halting the process at the Indus Water Commission’s level whereas Pakistan has not been proactive to move to the next level by denying India the time for construction,” he said.

He said that the commission wasn’t able to move forward on Kishanganga and Ratle project. He also said that Pakistan has been passive against the Indian violations of the treaty. “When both the parties are admitting that they cannot reach agreement and ask for mediation, how the World Bank can pause the process,” he said, adding Pakistan can sue the World Bank for not fulfilling responsibility which may provide time to India and would be question on the neutrality of the world body.

“We had taken IWT as a panacea of all our problems regarding water issue. A lot of technological and scientific developments have taken place since 1960s, the time when the treaty was signed, so the new factors like environmental impact needs to be highlighted,” Hamid Hassan said. The Capacity of the Indus Water Commission needs to be enhanced and it needs to be staffed with legal and technical experts, he concluded.

Source: Pakistan Today

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