ISLAMABAD: Former parliamentarian Marvi Memon has appealed to the Chief Justice of Pakistan to take suo motu notice of the government’s failure to halt the construction of the Kishenganga dam in the International Court of Arbitration (ICA).
In a letter written to Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Memon said that water security is critical to the country’s survival and any negligence or incompetence on the part of the government needs to be addressed by taking a suo motu notice to safeguard Pakistanis’ right to water.
Memon quit the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid and relinquished her National Assembly seat earlier this year when her party agreed to enter into a coalition with the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party.
She stated that Pakistan’s panel of lawyers and experts, led by Kamal Majidullah, has failed to defend its stance on the issue and convince the seven-member ICA bench to grant Pakistan a stay order against the construction of the Kishenganga Dam. She contended that the failure to stop the dam’s construction and the likelihood of Pakistan losing the legal battle may be attributed to the incompetence of its legal team which did not apply for a stay order against the project in January.
After Pakistan objected to India’s plan to build the 330MW Kishenganga Hydroelectric Project (KHEP) by diverting the Neelam River in violation of the Indus Water Treaty 1960, the ICA had constituted a bench in The Hague to hear the dispute in January. She referred to the general opinion that the legal team is not technically and legally competent to represent Pakistan, a claim voiced by many experts including Arshad Abbasi. She said the team leader’s main qualification was good relations with the highest officers.
The ICA took serious notice of the environmental impact of KHEP and the under construction Neelam-Jhelum Project in Neelam valley, she wrote. Referring to abstracts of a report quoted in the international media on the environmental impact of KHEP prepared by the Islamabad-based independent think-tank Sustainable Development Policy Institute, the ICA instructed legal representatives of the Indian government to submit a comprehensive environmental impact assessment report on the next hearing.
“Whilst I as a former member of parliament […] wish to see good relations with India, it cannot be at the loss of Pakistan’s national interest including water and subsequently food security,” she said.
Memon also alleged that the composite dialogue process has suffered tremendously since this government was voted into power. Appeasement and a non-serious attitude in tackling key issues within the process have led to Pakistan failing to maintain its relations in the region, she maintained.
“I would urge you to take suo motu notice of the criminal negligence shown by each member of the legal team which might just enable India to complete the controversial Kishenganga Hydropower Project to the detriment of Pakistan’s water security,” she requested the chief justice in the letter.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 3rd, 2011.