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Pakistan uproots more Kashmiri people by dam plan

By Dr Shabir Choudhry

(August 27, Cololmbo, Sri Lanka Guardian) How sweet of Pakistani government - they have given us two pieces of news in one week, and both are related to construction of dams and uprooting of tens of thousands people of Pakistani Occupied Gilgit Baltistan.

On 21 August 2009, after meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council, federal ministers Qamar Zaman Kaira and Raja Pervez Ashraf told reporters that the plan to construct Diamer Bahsha Dam is final and that ‘the government was working on war footing to resolve the energy crisis in the country’. The dam will generate 4,500 megawatts (MW) of electricity and store 6.4 million acre feet of water; and for that Pakistani officials don’t care if tens of thousands of people of Gilgit and Baltistan are uprooted to meet energy needs of Pakistan.

They claimed that the nation is ‘united’ on this issue, and that people of Gilgit and Baltistan also have no objections to this. May be people of Pakistan are united on this issue as they don’t have to construct Kala Bagh dam to meet their water and energy requirements and uproot Pakistani people, but surely people of Gilgit and Baltistan are not happy with this project.

The respected ministers did not say what method they used to ascertain agreement or no objection certificate from the people of Gilgit and Baltistan. Did they have a referendum, a survey; or they assumed this by sitting in their luxurious offices in Islamabad.

Before people of the area could digest this news another bombshell was thrown at them that Pakistan will construct Bunji Dam in Astore district of Gilgit and Baltistan. Like the Diamer Bahsha Dam, China will provide help and finance to construct Bunji Dam, which will have a capacity of generating 7,000 megawatts of electricity.

As expected the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council has not resolved the issue of royalty; and has left it for the authorities to resolve this issue. Bureaucrats of Pakistan have mastered the art of exploiting their colony in such a style that the people feel the Pakistani officials have done them a favour by this exploitation. Some sincere nationalists who try to expose the designs of Islamabad are silenced with help of puppets in the area.

Diamer Basha Dam will submerge vast areas of Gilgit and Baltistan; and will take only a tiny bit of area from North West Frontier Province. These technical experts who planned the dam knew what exactly they were doing. They selected the site that a small village called Basha in district Kohistan plays a key role on the issue of royalty and profit sharing. According to article 161 (2) of the Constitution:

‘The net profits earned by the Federal Government, or any undertaking established or administered by the Federal Government from the bulk generation of power at a hydro-electric station shall be paid to the Province in which the hydro-electric station is situated’.

The technical bureaucrats of Pakistan planned the project in such a way that Hydro – electric station is situated in Basha village of NWFP, that royalty is paid to a Pakistani province rather than Giglit and Baltistan, which is not legally part of Pakistan. In other words, Tens of thousands of people of Gilgit and Baltistan get uprooted for this project, their history, culture and graves of their love ones submerge in water; and Pakistan gets water for irrigation and electricity to run their factories, and a Pakistani province of NWF bags the royalty. Isn’t that a great deal for Pakistan and rough deal for people of Gilgit and Baltistan based on exploitation and oppression?

The rate of royalty is to be determined by inter-provincial forum known as Council of Common Interest (CCI); and because Gilgit and Baltistan is not legally part of Pakistan and therefore has no representation in CCI, so it is clear that the decision will go in favour of NWFP. The article 161 (2) further explains that ‘For the purposes of this clause "net profits" shall be computed by deducting from the revenues accruing from the bulk supply of power from the bus-bars of a hydro-electric station at a rate to be determined by the Council of Common Interests’.

However, the Parliament of Pakistan, if they wish, can make a specific amendment to the above and enable a province or a territory hosting the dam to get the royalty or share it with another territory. But isn’t that a wishful thinking? Pakistani governments abandoned all plans to construct Kala Bagh dam, even though these plans were made as far back as in 1950s, and have cost millions to the exchequer, just because they did not want to annoy their political allies.

In view of this can Islamabad government annoy politicians of NWFP and give royalty to Gilgit and Baltistan, especially when these areas have no representation in Pakistani Senate or National Assembly?

Once completed the Daimer Basha Dam will be able to store more water and produce more electricity than Tarbela dam. That means it should get more royalty than the Tarbela Dam, which brings around 8 billion per annum in royalty to government of NWFP; and that is more than the total annual budget for Gilgit and Baltistan.

A Legislative Council in Gilgit and Baltistan, known as ‘Northern Areas Legislative Council’ passed a resolution requesting the government in NWFP to withdraw its demand for royalty in favour of Gilgit and Baltistan in accordance with Islamic jurisprudence of justice, equality and benefit sharing. This won’t happen because one cannot expect from a lion to promote equality in jungle and ban eating of meat.

In the past Pakistani governments have uprooted people of Jammu and Kashmir more than once to meet energy and water needs of Pakistan. It is ironic that this so called ‘friend and big brother’ of Kashmiris did that very callously and without any care for welfare of the people of the area; and without paying appropriate compensation or any royalty, which is normally paid to provinces of Pakistan.

Despite strong protests from people of Mirpur Mangla Dam was constructed in 1967, but no royalty for the dam was paid to the government of Pakistani Administered Kashmir until few years ago; whereas government of North West Frontier Province is receiving royalty for Tarbela Dam ever since its completion in 1976. After repeated requests from government of Pakistani Administered Kashmir government of Pakistan set up a Committee in 1987 under Chairmanship of Mehboob Ul Haq to look in to the royalty issue.

The Committee recommended that government of NWFP should get royalty of 3 billion rupees per annum for the Tarbela Dam; and the government of Pakistani Administered Kashmir should get 2 billion for the Mangla Dam. Despite this no royalty was paid to the Pakistani Administered Kashmir until few years ago, and it was at much reduced rate – less than one billion; whereas government of NWFP gets 8 billion for the Tarbella Dam now.

I am no one to say whether Pakistan should construct Kala Bagh dam or not, but I have every right to say that Pakistani governments should learn to construct dams inside their own territory. Gilgit and Baltistan is part of the former Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir, and is not part of Pakistan; and Pakistani governments democratic or undemocratic have no right to violate State Subject Laws and illegally construct dams in a disputed territory.

At a time when plans to construct Kala Bagh dam were taking a serious shape, a Pakistani nationalist leader Wali Khan said: this construction is against the interest of his people; and if authorities went ahead with these plans they will blow up the dam with a bomb.

When plans for construction of Basha Dam were at early stage and people of the area also protested against the construction of the dam. A Kashmiri Khan (Amanullah Khan), who hails from Gilgit and Baltistan but lives in Rawalpindi for convenience, was on a visit to the area and had an opportunity to address a gathering.

He did not oppose the construction of the dam, rather demanded that the dam’s name should be changed to Diamer dam as it was to be constructed in that district. His second demand was about royalty for the dam. The authorities said we accept 50% of demands: change of name from Basha Dam to Diamer Basha Dam, and issue of royalty will be decided by relevant authorities.

The change of name does not change anything, as people still get uprooted and our history, culture and land gets submerged in water, but the Kashmiri Khan and his followers claimed this as a ‘victory’. I wish we people of Jammu and Kashmir had one Wali Khan, instead of so many ‘Khans’, Rajas, Choudhrys, Sardars, Maliks and puppets of those who occupy us.

Writer is a Spokesman of Kashmir National Party, political analyst and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs. Email: drshabirchoudhry@gmail.com
-Sri Lanka Guardian

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