Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Wednesday called for a new formula based on “justice and equality” for the apportionment of water to Sindh.
Addressing a news conference in Badin, he blamed the Centre for “incessantly discriminating” with Sindh over distribution of Indus River water to the province.
The Bhutto scion referred to the 1991 Water Accord as “unviable” for the long term.
“We should implement the accord in short and medium term but our target should be to evolve a new consensus for distribution of water in the country on the basis of equality and justice,” he said.
Sindh had been complaining that its share of water was being stolen by the Punjab in connivance with the Indus River System Authority (Irsa), causing shortage of drinking and irrigation water in the province.
Bilawal argued that the 1991 Water Accord was framed by the then “selected” government at the Center while a similar “selected” government also existed at the time in Sindh.
“That fake, unjust and illegal accord was imposed on the lower riparian [Sindh].”
He recalled that despite the PPP’s rejection, the accord was signed. He said though the accord was “unjust” it was still not being implemented.
The PPP chairman lamented that neither the current government nor the previous governments noted that the water agreement was detrimental to the people dwelling in the coastal belt of Sindh.
“The coastal districts have for decades suffered sea intrusion entailing loss of fertile land besides shortage of irrigation and drinking water.”
Bilawal said the people were well aware of the water conflict in Pakistan and that how the country lost its three rivers to India.
He said the lower riparian Sindh was continuously meted out injustice for decades.
“The people of Thatta, Sajawal and Badin [districts] are witness to this fact. They have no irrigation water for crops and no water even for drinking.”
He said the PPP government was utilizing all its resources for water conservation through canal lining and taking action against the theft.
According to Bilawal, Rs7 billion to Rs8 billion would be spent by the provincial government in Badin district alone for lining of canals and the Left Bank Outfall Drain (LBOD).
The PPP chairman further said that his party was not answerable either to PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz or PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif and that his position on the matter remained unchanged.
He was responding to a question on Maryam’s recent statement that the PPP had not responded to the show-cause notice issued to it and had expressed her support to the PDM Secretary General Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s remarks.
On Tuesday, Abbasi had said that the PPP should restore the trust they had betrayed in the opposition alliance. He said the PDM had sought a response from the PPP to the show-cause notice, which Bilawal had torn into pieces.
“We are not answerable to Maryam or Mian Sahab. We are answerable to the PPP and the PPP’s workers and we think the real joy will be in doing politics together with the PPP’s workers.”
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He maintained that Shehbaz Sharif was the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly and PML-N president, thus the PPP would consider his stance and statements to be official PML-N policy and conduct its politics according to that.
Responding to Bilawal’s criticism, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar maintained that doing politics on the issue of water was against the national interest.
“With regard to water, the Sindh government’s stance is weak and unreasonable,” he said in a statement.
“The whole country faces water shortage. Doing politics on the issue of water is against the national interest.”
Buzdar noted that Punjab did not get a “drop” more than its share of water and added that Sindh had been given water during the sowing season.
“Now that the crops are being sowed in Punjab the Sindh government is making hue and cry which is wrong.”
He said the water problem was not political but a technical issue and must be resolved amicably.