Opposition Leader in the Punjab Assembly Raja Riaz has claimed that the government is hiding the report of a judicial inquiry of last year’s floods because it holds Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and the Irrigation Department responsible for ordering the breaching of bunds on the Indus.
“I was astonished to learn from Punjab government insiders that the chief minister has been holding back the report since it was submitted on April 11,” Riaz told The Express Tribune.
He said that during the floods, Sharif had personally taken charge of the Irrigation Department and so the investigation commission had rightly found him responsible for the breaches.
The report, titled A Rude Awakening, was prepared by a tribunal headed by Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah and including Abdul Sattar Shakir and Shafqat Masood that began their inquiry on September 14, 2010.
The area under inquiry was the entire portion of the Indus within Punjab and breaches that were made at the Left Guide Bund at Jinnah Barrage, Mianwali, at the Right Marginal Bund (RMB) at Taunsa Barrage, DG Khan/Muzaffargarh, at the Jampur Bund and Fakhar Bund in Rajanpur, at Chachran Sharif in Bahawalpur and at the Bhong Bund at RY Khan.
Riaz, who was irrigation minister at the time, said he had pushed for the judicial inquiry because the floods had devastated several PPP constituencies.
“I visited the sites in flood-hit areas and was briefed by my department, and I reached the conclusion that he [Sharif] had made unwise decisions that caused a lot of harm.”
The tribunal held hearings at various places, advertising through public notices in various news dailies beforehand. People were asked to register their grievances with the civil judge of their districts, including Mianwali, Bhakkar, Layyah, Muzaffargarh, Dera Ghazi Khan and Rajanpur, while the tribunal also held hearings in four districts.
Riaz said that the chief minister had ordered a breach of the RMB at Taunsa that left thousands of acres on one side of the barrage untouched, when that was the side for the natural course of the flooded river.
He said that as the flood water mounted at Taunsa Barrage, Sharif had directed the Irrigation Department to breach the RMB instead of the left side, “in order to protect the crops and lands” of PML-Nawaz members. “Unfortunately [CM’s Senior Advisor] Sirdar Zulfiqar Khan Khosa had cultivated sugarcane on hundreds of acres on that side,” he said.
He said that thickly populated areas on the left side of Taunsa including Kot Addu, Mehmood Kot, Muzaffargarh, Baseera, Rohilanwali and Alipur, areas which elected PPP representatives to the National Assembly, had been devastated by floods for the first time since the barrage was built.
Riaz alleged that the Jampur bund was breached to divert flood water towards Jampur city and protect PML-N MPA Sher Ali Gorchani’s agricultural land.
He said that he had protested against the breach of the Chachran Sharif bund, warning the chief minister that it would wipe out Chachran.
He said that another bund at Bhong was breached, which resulted in devastation of agricultural land belonging to PPP MPA Raees Ibrahim.
Flood water entered even the historic Bhong mosque, he said.
He said that if the Punjab government did not release the report to the press, he would leak it himself.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 27th, 2011.
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