The former Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar has once again in the news not for judicial or legal reasons but for dam fund. His remarks regarding the real motive to establish the Diamir-Bhasha and Mohmand Dam Fund disappointed many people. When the media campaign was launched to collect funds for dam, the general understanding and perception was that this money will be used to build dam.
Whoever raised questions over the dam issue faced strong reaction from Mian Saqib Nisar, the chief justice of Pakistan at that time. He even once threatened to use article 6 of the constitution against critics of the dam. Article 6 can only be applied on those who abrogate or suspend the 1973 constitution. He was very emotional on the dam issue. He even said at one occasion that if needed he will stationed himself at dam site to ensure the timely completion of the dam.
But yesterday, former chief justice made it clear that dam fund was never meant to build dam but to create awareness in the general public. He said this while speaking at a session of Lahore Literary Festival. He said that “We never thought this money would be sufficient to complete the project.”“We wanted to create awareness and make people understand how important it is”.
If through this donation we are able to generate another Rs15 billion then that is an achievement. This money was never intended to be used 100% for building. [Through these funds] it really became a campaign.” He said when he proposed the idea of the dam fund at a conference, people were excited”.
“People have been coming to me to donate their entire lives’ pension. Small children came to me. There was a jazba. I’m sure it will continue. We have suggested how this fund can be raised with treasury bills and bonds etc. This is directly connected to the right of life. The constitution says if it is a question of fundamental rights then the Supreme Court has the unfettered right to enforce that right for public good. [Under this clause] I issued a direction to the government for the purpose of the fundamental right to life.”
At the Lahore Literary Festival, when former chief justice Saqib Nisar was asked what he proposes as the way forward for the construction of the dams, given the gap between the required amount — a whopping Rs1.5tr — and the modest Rs9.8bn collected, he responded by saying the understanding was that the funds would be used to create awareness, and not for the actual construction of the dams.
This has raised serious questions on the whole dam fund campaign. We were told that electronic media runs advertisement worth Rs13 billion free of cost as a contribution to this campaign. People donated money for the construction of dams to store water and to generate cheap electricity. Now they have been told that this money was to create awareness about the importance of dams.
He never clarified during the peak of dam fund collection that this money will be spent on awareness campaign instead of building dam. This will likely come as a rude awakening to those who donated, both voluntarily and involuntarily — from institutions like the armed forces and private banks, to poorly funded organisations like Pakistan’s football federation.
As prime minister, Imran Khan, too, commended the chief justice of Pakistan for “doing what civilian leaders could not do”, encouraging pensioners and expats to pledge precious capital for the initiative. It is really sad to hear that from former chief justice. We watched, read and listen long campaign ads in the media. There were high hopes that Supreme Court now will built these dams.
But alas, despite all the populist slogans and promises, what was championed as the answer to Pakistan’s looming water crisis achieved nothing beyond an expensive, omnipresent campaign.
Those who contributed their savings under the impression that they were making a sacrifice for a national cause will be disappointed to learn that their money will, in fact, not be used for the dams’ construction, and that the fund they contributed to may never reach its goal.
As it stands, the dams remain a pipe dream and a cautionary tale for citizens perpetually on the lookout for a saviour. It is really a big disappointment for all those who were hoping to see their money spent on dam construction. This statement is not going to encourage people to donate money towards dam fund.
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20 May, 2019