Water wars: Pakistan needs to strengthen legal stance on IWT

Barrister Soofi says treaty does not address issue of dams which the Indian govt may wish to construct

December 15, 2016
Gen. Dhar, who was heading the IPSIP delegation, stressed on developing an understanding over the water dispute. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: While Pakistan has aggressively pursued its water security issues from technical and political point of views, it never substantiated its stance through strong legal arguments.

This was stated by former Law Minister and Advocate Supreme Court of Pakistan Barrister Ahmer Bilal Soofi at a talk on “Pakistan-India: Avoiding a Water War.” The talk had been organised by the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI).

Soofi was of the view that during disputes, sometimes the main issue was of communicating the right message - something he felt held true with the Indus Water Treaty (IWT).

In this regard, he suggested that engineers and lawyers in the country need to sit together to interpret the treaty in a holistic manner. Therefore, there is a need for young scholars and lawyers to study water laws and develop their expertise in this area.

He showcased legal aspects of governing the treaty and discussed the various aspects surrounding it, including what areas the treaty does not cover and the emerging water security issues because of it.

Barrister Soofi stated that every dispute should be looked at from five different viewpoints such as customary international law, judicial decisions, academic writings, international organisations and other treaties.

With the World Bank earlier this week pausing arbitration on the construction of two dams in India to protect the treaty, Soofi reminded that the treaty cannot be terminated unilaterally. The IWT is thus, perpetual and guaranteeing in nature.

Barrister Soofi pointed out that the IWT is a regulatory framework and is confined to technicalities, thus it does not address the issue of the number of dams which the Indian government may wish to construct.

Earlier, Ambassador Khalid Mahmood, chairman of the board of governors of ISSI, said that with Pakistan facing acute water shortages the stakes for the country were high.

He added that it was imperative for Islamabad to make use of all diplomatic means to ensure that this problem is highlighted in the international community.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 15th, 2016.



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