ISLAMABAD - The top court Monday issued notice to the federal government on a petition seeking referendum on construction of Kalabagh Dam.

Justice Umar Ata Bandial, member of a three-judge bench, observed that there was no doubt dams should be constructed but there was no consensus among the provinces on Kalabagh Dam.

He further observed that the Council for Common Interests (CCI) in 1991 and 1998 decided in favour of launching an awareness campaign in the country to highlight the importance of Kalabagh Dam but those decisions were not implemented.

Justice Bandial further remarked that a former chairman Wapda started awareness campaign on Kalabagh Dam but he was removed. He gave these observations when a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar was hearing a petition seeking referendum on construction of Kalabagh Dam.

The top court asked as to what steps had been taken by the government in connection with the CCI decision regarding launching the awareness campaign.

The petitioner, Barrister Zafarullah informed the top court that the water crisis would seriously worsen by 2025. During the course of the hearing, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar also cited an article authored by late Majid Nizami, former editor-in-chief of Nawai Waqt Group, titled “The Water Bomb” published in 2008.

The chief justice addressed the Additional Attorney General (AAG) Waqar Rana and asked if he had read the article. To this, Rana responded that he had gone through it and the same article was referred by the bench earlier in another case.

Barrister Zafarullah requested the bench to order the federal government to place this national issue of public importance before the registered voters in a referendum. He further requested the top court that a referendum might be held under the authority of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and under the supervision of civil-military officials to ensure transparency.

“There are so many options, such as water trading, cost sharing arrangement, water sharing of this lingering dispute and diversion of water to non-basin area, so on and so forth and none was considered, which should have been considered,” the petition stated. “Independent Power Producers are making billions of rupees and the government is fleecing its own people by selling energy at Rs18 to 20 per unit, and hydel energy can be produced at the cost Rs2 per unit, and there are certain powerful persons who are making money out of these deals. Energy is the backbone of any economy,” the petition stated.

It added that another threat was from India, which might stop all the flows of eastern rivers. “India has already stopped all waters of these rivers by building so many dams on their side but Pakistan has built so far [just] two dams, Mangla and Tarbela. Unfortunately, Pakistan has suffered due to provincial strife and local politics and we have not built Kalabagh Dam due to unwanted politics,” the petition stated. The top court adjourned the hearing of the case for 15 days.



Syed Sabeehul Hussnain