Water took centre stage for the second consecutive day at the Sindh Assembly.
Ruling PPP lawmakers demanded the resignation of the Indus River System Authority chairperson. They claimed that the official threatened Sindh’s IRSA representative rather than solving the water crisis.
Lawmakers said people living in downstream areas don’t even have water to bathe the bodies of deceased loved ones. They accused Punjab of hogging Sindh’s share of water.
Soon after the question-answer session came to an end, the Sindh Irrigation Sohail Anwar Siyal drew the house’s attention toward Ithe IRSA meeting held in Islamabad.
“The chairperson of the authority messed up the meeting and misbehaved with Sindh’s member, throwing agenda papers at his face,” he said.
The minister’s statement was followed by “shame, shame” slogans chanted by MPAs sitting on the treasury benches.
Siyal went on to say that IRSA is a regulatory body, but its chairperson plays at the hands of the federal government, allowing Punjab to steal Sindh’s water share. “We condemn the highandness of the IRSA chairperson and demand he be removed from the post as he has lost all credibility.”
Excise, Taxation and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Mukesh Kumar Chawla became emotional in the house while criticising the IRSA chairperson. “We will not tolerate the chairperson’s attitude. How dare he threaten Sindh’s member in an official meeting?” he asked. The minister added that the Sindh government would continue its protest on various forums until the IRSA chairman is sacked.
Riaz Shirazi, who belongs to Thatta district, suggested Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf members sitting in the session visit the tail end areas of Thatta and Sujjawal districts, where drinking water has become a rare commodity.
“IRSA and representatives of Punjab always deceived people of Pakistan by saying that water is being wasted downstream. Please come and see how our agricultural land has been eroded by the sea owing to lack of Indus River water,” he said.
Shabir Bijarani of PPP said Chashma-Jhelum link and Taunsa-Panjnad are flood canals which can only be opened in a flood -like situation. However, water is being diverted via these canals in all seasons of the year, he claimed.
He demanded the federal government take notice of the IRSA chairperson’s attitude and conduct an inquiry into it.
Sharjeel Inam Memon referred to particular rules and advised the speaker to form a house committee comprising members of the treasury and opposition. He said the body should summon the IRSA chairman to the house for his rude behavior with Sindh’s member.
PTI parliamentary leader Bilal Ghaffar dubbed himself more loyal to Sindh. “The irrigation minister threatened our member with dire consequences during a heated debate on the issue.”
Referring to Sohail Anwar Siyal he said, the PTI man issued some snide remarks. He warned that his party would not succumb to pressure and would continue raising the issue of bad governance in Sindh.
The PPP members stood up from their seats after these comments. ‘Please don’t utter words against our leadership, otherwise we have enough material to expose you,” Chawla said.
The house again became noisy as members from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and the Pakistan Peoples Party came head to head, pointing fingers at each other and chanting slogans. Given the pandemonium in the house, speaker Agha Siraj Durrani abruptly adjourned the session till Friday, deferring all the items on the agenda. Even after the session was adjourned and microphones switched off, the MPAs of both the parties continued their verbal debate.
Separately, in a statement issued on the day, Sindh Information Minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah alleged that the chairperson had mistreated IRSA’s Sindh member when the latter demanded the province’s fair water share.
The minister accused the IRSA chairperson of being involved in theft of Sindh’s water share and releasing misleading and fake statistics.
The chairperson has failed to ensure judicious distribution of water among the federating units, said the minister, adding that IRSA deliberately opened the gates of the Taunsa-Panjnad Link Canal to supply water to Punjab in violation of the Water Apportionment Accord 1991.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 26th, 2021.