An ungodly row has erupted in Islamabad over the flight to Canada of Pakistan Commission on Indus Water (PIWC) former chief, Syed Jamaat Ali Shah.
To apparently aid and abet India’s construction of two hydroelectric dams on the upper reaches of the Indus River. The 45 megawatt, 190-foot tall Nimoo-Bazgo concrete dam is on the Indus River Upstream Gilgit Baltistan in Alchi village in Leh district, begun in June 2005.
The second facility unsettling Pakistan is the 140-foot high, 44 megawatt Chutak hydroelectric power project is also being completed on the Suru River, a tributary of Indus in the Kargil district of the India’s portion of Jammu and Kashmir. Islamabad is concerned that the two projects will reduce the Indus River’s flow towards Pakistan, as they are capable of storing up to 4.23 billion cubic feet of water.
To add insult to injury, India has also managed to get UN approval of seven years’ worth carbon credits totaling $482,083 for the two projects after showing that it has got the clearance report on trans-boundary environmental impact assessment of the said projects
Adding to Islamabad’s anxieties is the fact that the water volume of the Indus, a river crucial to both India and Pakistan, is currently down 30 percent from its normal levels.
Furthermore, India must sustain 20 per cent of the world's population with just 4 per cent of the world's freshwater and is dependent on the monsoons and flows from Himalayan glaciers, which are retreating.
Further downstream, according to a number of its agriculture and water experts, Pakistan is heading towards a massive water shortage in the next couple of years due to insufficient water management practices and storage capacity.
On 2 January Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rahman Malik said that the government would seek Interpol’s help to arrest Shah, adding that they were also investigating who helped Shah to escape from Pakistan. Three days later Shah issued a statement strongly denying allegations in the media about his facilitating and helping India in the Nimmo Bazgo and Chuttack hydropower projects and said that the stories were “provocative” before remarking that he had gone to Canada, where he apparently has dual nationality, due to his mother’s illness, that the Water and Power secretary was aware of the trip. Shah said that he would be back by the end of February and would be available for any official review.
Pakistan’s Water And Power Development Authority (WAPDA) Secretary Muhammad Imtiaz Tajwar prepared a report, submitted to the government on 23 September 2011, stating that Shah had not taken proper measures under the terms of the 1960 Indus Water Treaty to stop the project as he failed to raise objections during Pak-India meetings. The document noted that Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) reported in July 2005 that Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had visited Leh, Kargil and Siachen Glacier in June and laid the foundation stones of the Nimoo-Bazgo and Chutak hydroelectric power plants. Besides the requirements for information sharing as defined in the Indus Waters Treaty, India and Pakistan are required to exchange information on facilities such as Nimoo-Bazgo and Chutak under the terms of the Commission on Large Dams (ICOLD), of which both India and Pakistan are members.
Accordingly, suspicion fell on Shah that his lack of oversight may have provided an edge to Indian troops confronting Pakistani Army units on the Siachen glacier, as Nimoo-Bazgo will ensure a sustained electricity supply to Indian Army cantonments at Leh, on the banks of the Nubra River and Siachen Base Camp. A senior Water Ministry official speaking on condition of anonymity said that Shah abetted the Indian government on Siachen by remaining silent during 2007-2009 and not raising any objection during Pak-Indian talks at Pre-eminent Commission on Indus Waters.
Seven days after the report was submitted, Shah resigned and Shah was reportedly put on Pakistan’s Exit Control List (ECL.)
But an Interior Ministry officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Shah had never been put on the list. He added that while the Interior Ministry places a person on the ECL on the request of any investigation agency such as Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), other departments or on receipt of court orders, neither the Water and Power Ministry nor any other department concerned had written to the Interior Ministry, remarking, “The Ministry cannot do this on its own and the Interior Minister, by virtue of his post and Interior Federal Secretary, being the principal accounting officer of the Ministry, are the competent authorities to place any person’s name on the ECL after carefully going through the request forwarded by the department concerned.”
According to a 6 January report in Pakistan’s The Nation newspaper, Water and Power Ministry Joint Secretary Imran Afzal Cheema confirmed that the ministry had never forwarded a request to the Interior Ministry to put Shah on the ECL, adding that the allegations against Shah were “not so serious in nature that he needed to be put on the ECL.”
The Shah case is roiling the Pakistani press, with many editorials accusing him of treason, while the Jamaat-e-Islami party in Pakistan’s Senate has asking the government to update the House on Shah’s escape.
There seems to be enough overall incompetence to be shared by a number of Pakistani government agencies beyond the Water Ministry, including the ISI, FIA and NAB, resulting in a furious round of passing the buck – err, rupee. It will be interesting to see if Shah returns from Canada next month to clear his name or prefer to sit the debacle out across the Atlantic.
By. John C.K. Daly of Oilprice.com