The whole nation will agree with the fact that President Asif Zardari has stated that water could cause a future war, and further that because of this, he raised the subject with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. He said this while talking to journalists’ delegation on Sunday at the Prime Minister’s House in Multan. His saying that Dr Singh said India had no objection if Pakistan went to the international tribunal established by the Indus Basin Waters Treaty showed Dr Singh knew how lackadaisical an approach Pakistan was taking there. However, if President Zardari truly believes that there could be a war over water, he should take the Treaty, and its mechanisms, that much more seriously. The Treaty itself was meant to prevent the two countries from going to war over water issues, and not only did it define the respective rights and duties, primarily Pakistan’s rights as a lower riparian and India’s as an upper riparian, but also provided a mechanism for arbitration. However, if Pakistan is to allow itself not to present its case properly in the tribunal, it will only raise the prospect of an armed conflict. If the President is indeed concerned about the prospect of war, he should make sure that its mechanism are fully used by Pakistan, so that the next step might be averted. He should also ensure that Pakistani farmers are not placed under an intolerable burden by Indian water theft, and thus are not forced to attempt to transfer that pressure onto the government, leaving it with the Hobson’s choice of winking at the water theft, or going to war.
The President also said that power loadshedding is harming industry, a problem which owes itself to accepting Indian water theft. He accepted the problem while talking to a businessmen’s delegation that also called on him. He was right to express the fear that his party might lose the next election if it raised electricity tariffs, but that does not explain his prediction that the next Assembly would complete five years. While that is theoretically valid, making such predictions is unsafe. Indeed, now that, in this election year, the President should not mind questions about the steps taken to end this loadshedding. For example, he could explain why the government has taken no action on the Kalabagh Dam project, which not only would generate hydel, which has no import component, but also would act as an irrigation water store and a flood control device. Due to that neglect, India has arrogated itself the privilege of playing fast and loose with the Treaty.
The President should also explain why the country has been rewarding India for its water theft by a lackadaisical pursuit of the cases against this theft. The President must not only explain how the last five years have been used, both at home and abroad.