Asif gives clean chit to India over ‘water aggression’

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I Pacifies senators over recent power tariff hike.

ISLAMABAD – The government on Monday informed the Upper House of the Parliament that recent raise in power tariff would not affect the bills of the consumers as a similar decrease has been made in fuel adjustment prices.
The government also told the House that there was no credible information of ‘India water aggression’ towards Pakistan as it had not released water from its rivers that could cause flood from the Pakistan side. The government further said that Kala Bagh Dam would not be constructed until the consensus of all provinces would not be developed on the issue.
Water and Power Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif responded to the host of queries of the lawmakers in connection with 43 paisas of increase in power tariff and recent floods that caused severe damage to the country. He also responded to the motion of Senator Mohsin Khan Leghari that had asked the House to discuss the situation arising out of the present floods in the country and the steps taken by the government in this regard, on a private member’ day.
Minister of Water and Power Khawaja Muhammad Asif said, “The government had increased 43 paisas per unit in the power tariff for debt retiring but similar decrease had been made in the fuel adjustment prices thus the increase would have no affect on the consumers.” Though Senator Kamal Ali Agha of PML-Q was not satisfied with the response of the minister and viewed that rates of fuel price adjustment decreased as oil prices had decreased internationally and raise in power tariff was a separate subject.
He said that the government was doing this to negotiate with the IMF in Dubai in a meeting scheduled on October 29. However, the minister was of the view that government had long term contracts for the import of oil and the impact of immediate decrease in prices could not be passed on to the consumers at the moment. He stressed that decrease in fuel price adjustment was part of the the government strategy to unchange the power tariff.
The minister also said that Kala Bagh Dam would not be constructed until the consensus of all federating units and a treasury lawmaker might have proposed its construction in his personal capacity. He brushed aside the allegations of an opposition lawmaker that Mangla Dam was filled with water and then water was immediately released after heavy rain that caused floods. He said that Mangla Dam filled with rainy season water. “The water was released when it crossed the highest level capacity of 1241 feet of dam,” he said adding five lakh cusec water was released from it.
He said that there was no credible information that India deliberately released water in the rivers flowing towards Pakistan that caused floods in Pakistan. “The people in the Indian held Kashmir affected at the same level as the people from the Pakistan side affected,” he said. He revealed that Met Office had predicted that rains would be less than usual during the rainy season this year. And there was no warning of floods prior to one month,” he informed and said, “Gujranwala Division was the worst victim of floods.
Asif told the House that World Bank had pledged to build Dasu Dam while the bank was planning with the Pakistan authorities to provide finances for the construction of Diamir Basha Dam. Basha Dam would be constructed in three phases. He said that there should be massive forestation to evade floods, as floods had become a matter of national security.
The minister also said that the payment of circular debt was audited and the details of the audit report could be presented before the House. “Now circular debt is less than 300 billion rupees,” he said. He said that the government was signing agreements of 10400 mega watts (MWs) with the Chinese companies.
The Minister lamented that the nation was paying no attention towards water and electricity conservation but failed to inform about the government’s plans in this regard. He opined there was need to change social behaviour and endorsed the chair that a cultural revolution was needed.
He said that electricity theft was still continued and regretted that the masses didn’t pay heed towards conservation of electricity. “Have you ever seen in any country that shops and markets are opened till 2 am in the night,” he asked the chair.
Earlier, Mohsin Khan Leghari opening the debate said that there was no long term planning to cope with the floods and the recent floods had caused loss to the national kitty amounting to Rs 15 billion. “Our administrative system is not ready to cope with these floods and we need a long term planning,” he said. Tahir Mashhadi of MQM said that they should review the climate change situation. He further said that in recent floods no organized relief operation was seen, as they had no local bodies system to run this operation after floods. He said that compensation cheques of flood affecttees were being bounced. Zahid Khan stressed for the construction of dams to overcome floods. Senator Hamza of PML-N lamented if the Kala Bagh Dam had been constructed, floods could be averted and Punjab might have been saved from recent floods. His statement caused uproar in the opposition benches and the minister later clarified the situation.
Senator Farhatullah Babar taking strong exception to the remarks of Hamza said, “With the construction of Kala Bagh Dam, you can save Punjab from floods but the unity of the country might be at stake.” He said that with the construction of Kala Bagh Dam the federation would be at stake.
He also said that the narrative about the floods should also be rectified as some parties were alleging India of water aggression. He surprised how India could release water when under Indus Water treaty it could not build dams on the rivers having water right of Pakistan and if India could not construct dams how could it release water. He sought clarification from the government.

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