PM orders probe into charges

PM promises an administrative inquiry into allegations of ‘scandalous embankment’ breaches by rich landlords.

Zia Khan September 05, 2010

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on Saturday promised an administrative inquiry into allegations of ‘scandalous embankment’ breaches by rich landlords but ignored calls from MPs for either a parliamentary or judicial probe.

“I will order the provincial chief ministers to probe the bund breaches so that it is established whether it (flood devastation) was man-made or natural,” Gilani said in a policy statement to the National Assembly.

During the two days of a parliamentary debate on recent floods, dozens of lawmakers alleged that influential feudals used political links to ‘divert’ floodwaters towards unprotected villages to save their farmlands along the bed of River Indus.

They accused that some of Gilani’s cabinet ministers were also among those who diverted the water away from their areas by ordering breaches at ‘inappropriate’ points.

President Asif Ali Zardari told reporters in Karachi on Friday he was not averse to holding an inquiry into such allegations.

The demand by parliamentarians to probe breaches came two days after a top Pakistani diplomat in the United Nations urged the government to do the same.

Ambassador Abdullah Hussain Haroon said on Thursday there was evidence that landowners had allowed embankments to burst, according to a report by the BBC.

Most of the MPs, who spoke on a motion moved in the National Assembly to discuss the devastation caused by the floods, said only a parliamentary body or a judicial commission should investigate the allegations.

A federal minister was also of the opinion that there should be a judicial probe into the breach of the Tori Bund in Sindh that diverted waters towards Balochistan.

“Anything less than that will never satisfy victims there,” Industries Minister Mir Hazar Khan Bijarani said in his speech.

Angry mobs chased the car of a female junior minister and threw stones at her when she visited her electoral constituency in a south Punjab district.

State Finance Minister Hina Rabbani Khar faces similar charges. She allegedly ordered the breach in Muzaffargarh to save her crops spread out over thousands of acres. The minister denied these charges.

An opposition member from Sindh also accused some ministers of being behind the breaches at wrong places. “They are guilty… they ruined thousands to save their empires,” Ghous Bux Mehr of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q party said.

A Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) lawmaker urged the government to come up with a strategy to save the country from similar disasters in the future.

“Not only should there be a judicial inquiry, but the accused must also be punished,” MNA Abdul Qadir Baloch suggested.

However, despite it all, Gilani did not opt for either a parliamentary or a judicial investigation but instead went for an administrative probe, an option that is unlikely to unearth the truth.

Gilani said he would soon hold a conference of top leaders of all national political parties but did not provide a schedule. He also rejected another allegation on his government for being ‘hardly credible’.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 5th, 2010.


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