KARACHI: The Sindh Assembly unanimously adopted on Tuesday a resolution against the Indus River System Authority (Irsa) and Punjab for ‘stealing’ Sindh's water.
The resolution was moved by Pakistan Muslim League - Functional (PML-F) parliamentary leader Nand Kumar Goklani. "Despite Sindhs' protest and severe water crises in the province, Irsa has illegally opened the Chashma-Jhelum Link Canal and Taunsa-Panjnad Canal, violating the inter-provincial agreement [and] depriving Sindh of its rightful water share," read the resolution.
"We condemn the attitude of Irsa and demand the concerned authorities in the federal government to take serious notice of it and suspend the water diversion until Sindh gives consent," the resolution read.
Goklani also referred to a Food and Agriculture Organisation report which had warned that Sindh was facing water scarcity.
"There is a pathetic situation in nine districts of Sindh, including Tharparkar, Badin, Sanghar, Dadu, Thatta, Jamshoro, Umerkot, Khairpur and Mirpurhas, where 3,565 households, 272 villages, 100 union councils, and 33 tehsils are worst affected due to a lack of potable water and sanitation facilities," Goklani said. He added that in some areas of Thatta, water was so scarce that people were not even bathing the bodies of their loved ones during last rites.
The PML-F parliamentary leader accused Irsa of supplying Chashma-Jhelum Link Canal with thousands of cusecs of waters throughout the year, even though the canal was a flood canal and it was supposed to get water only in the flood season.
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Lawmakers of other political parties, including the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) - Pakistan, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz supported the resolution. MQM-Pakistan parliamentary leader Syed Sardar Ahmed said injustice was being meted out to Sindh. "This is a serious issue and the Sindh government must protest," he added.
Provincial minister Imdad Pitafi claimed that the provincial government was raising the water issue at all platforms, including the Council of Common Interests. "The chief minister has recently protested against Irsa for not stopping water being released to Chashma-Jhelum Link Canal," he said.
Endorsing Pitafi, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) MPA Khairunnisa Mughal said, "We are not mum on this issue and are lodging a protest with the concerned authorities, but unfortunately the PML-N government is adamant to turn Sindh into a barren land".
PML-N MPA Sorath Thebo also supported the resolution. She demanded the implementation of the 1991 water accord, which had defined the mechanism for the share of water among provinces.
Resolution against privatisation of PIA, Steel Mills
The House also passed a resolution against the privatisation of the Pakistan Steel Mills and the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA). The resolution was supported by all the members present, except the PML-N MPA.
Parliamentary Minister Nisar Khuhro moved the resolution. Indirectly referring to the Airblue airline, which is owned by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Khuhro said the federal government intended to promote a private airline instead of the PIA.
"With the privatisation of PIA and Steel Mills, thousands of workers would be laid off," the parliamentary minister said, adding that such decisions were being made for the benefit of a few families. "After selling Steel Mills, the federal government wants to use its land for commercial purpose. We can't tolerate this decision," he said.
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PML-F MPA Mahtab Akbar Rashdi suggested that the government induct profession people in the PIA and Steel Mills rather than selling them.
Thebo opposed the resolution. She walked out of the House when the deputy speaker did not allow her to speak against the resolution.
Many PPP MPAs criticised the PML-N and Nawaz Sharif for the policy to privatise the state-owned institutes.
The Sindh Assembly also passed a resolution to pay tribute to human rights activist Asma Jahangir. The resolution was moved by PPP MPA Saira Shahliani.
Low attendance of MQM
Meanwhile, the MQM benches looked deserted during the session as only two out of its 37 MPAs, Ahmed and Ayesha Aftab, turned up.
There has been a thin attendance of the MQM in the assembly following the rift which resulted in the Bahadurabad and PIB factions of the party.
Giving reason for their low attendance, the MQM MPAs said both the party factions had gone to Islamabad to attend the hearing at the Election Commission.
It was private members' day and two important bills tabled by MQM MPAs Kamran Akhtar and Sumeta Afzal Syed were on the agenda. However, the bills could not be taken up owing to the absence of the movers.
Alcohol consumption in Sindh Secretariat
An adjournment motion was moved by the PML-F MPA Nusrat Seher Abbasi to stir a debate on alcohol consumption by government officials during their duty times. Abbasi also brought some photos of empty bottles of various brands of alcoholic drinks to the premises of the Sindh Secretariat. "Despite the prohibition of alcohol consumption, these bottles are found inside the Sindh Secretariat where bureaucrats arrange cocktail parties rather than working," she said, adding that it was disconcerting that such activities took place inside an important government bureaucratic division. The House has yet to take up the motion.
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Abbasi and PTI MPA Khurrum Sher Zaman also separately tabled adjournment motions to discuss the recent fire at the Sindh Secretariat. The MPAs alleged that it was not an accident as the fire had been intentionally caused to destroy some record.
"Many inquiries against the food, health, and works and services departments are pending before the National Accountability Bureau. The incident might be an attempt to cover up the corruption," Zaman said.
After the agenda was completed, the deputy speaker adjourned the session till today (Wednesday).