ISLAMABAD: Lawmakers from both the treasury and opposition benches have called for investigating allegations that some influential landowners “diverted” floodwaters to impoverished villages to save their “illegally grabbed” empires in the bed of the River Indus.
During a debate on the country’s worst flooding in living memory in the lower house of the parliament on Friday, the lawmakers demanded either a parliamentary body or a judicial commission lead such investigation.
The demand came a day after a top Pakistani diplomat in the United Nations urged the government for the same.
Ambassador Abdullah Hussain Haroon said on Thursday that there was evidence landowners had allowed embankments to be breached, according to a report by the BBC. In the National Assembly, almost half a dozen lawmakers, one of them from the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), said the losses from the catastrophic flooding could have been minimised, had the embankments been breached at right places.
All of them were furious at what they described as a failure of the government machinery to protect the people from the devastation and then to provide them timely relief.
MNA Jamshed Dasti of the PPP said his Muzaffargarh constituency was ruined because rich feudal lords there pressurised the Punjab irrigation department not to let the water inundate their farmlands. Most of the farmlands occupied by these landlords are an official property, he claimed.
PML-Q Raza Hayat Hiraj said the way the government was handling relief activities would turn the survivors into beggars.
PML-N’s Khawaja Saad Rafiq was equally critical of those who ordered breaches to be made in embankments at such places from where floodwaters flowed towards villages instead of ‘allocated’ river pounds.
He said like Punjab the governments in other provinces must also initiate probe into diversion allegations. MNA Changez Jamali from Balochistan demanded that the report of the inquiry must be made public as soon as possible. He was critical of diverting floodwaters into his province to save parts of Sindh.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th, 2010.