Punjab, Sindh agree to resolve CJ canal row
By Ahmad Hassan
ISLAMABAD: The chief ministers of Punjab and Sindh agreed on Tuesday to resolve the issue of the opening of the Chashma-Jhelum link canal after withdrawal of reservations over the procedure adopted by Irsa while issuing its July 6 order which sparked a controversy between the two provinces.
The chief ministers urged authority to convene a meeting on Wednesday to review the decision keeping in view the availability of water and provincial indents.
The Chief Ministers, Mohammad Shahbaz Sharif and Syed Qaim Ali Shah, agreed to defuse the row which assumed crisis proportions after PPP leaders in Sindh criticised the acting chairman of the Indus River System Authority who had ordered the opening of the canal to provide water to Punjab and demanded his removal.
Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani dashed to Karachi and after meeting Sindh government leaders convened a meeting of the two chief ministers in the capital.
Mr Gilani, who presided over the meeting, praised the sagacity of the chief ministers for agreeing to settle the issue.
The formal meeting was preceded by talks between Mr Sharif and Mr Shah who were assisted by officials.
After the talks, the prime minister was informed that the chief ministers had reached an understanding under which Sindh would withdraw its reservations and Irsa’s July 6 order would be withdrawn with immediate effect.
They also agreed to request Irsa to convene an urgent meeting on Wednesday to review the situation on the basis of the current water position and provincial indents for water from various canal systems.
The prime minister said that interests of all provinces were interlinked and factors which bound them together mattered more than the one on which they differed.
He said the consensus on 18th Amendment, National Finance Commission Award, empowerment of Gilgit-Baltistan, fight against terrorism and accord to manage power crisis were testimony to the political maturity of the national and provincial leadership.
The meeting was also attended by the federal ministers for water and power and petroleum and natural resources, provincial ministers and legislators, federal and provincial secretaries and experts.
The participants expressed the hope that the leadership would resolve the water issue in an amicable manner and that the federal government would continue to protect the rights of all provinces and ensure equitable distribution in accordance with the 1991 Water Accord.
The prime minister stressed the need for depoliticising Irsa and making it an effective regulator.
He asked the chief ministers, their advisers and experts to hold consultations and return to him with a solution as soon as possible.
He stressed the need for addressing structural problems in river flow and installing a foolproof monitoring system acceptable to all provinces.