CCI and approval of the construction of Diamer-Basha Dam

Kamal Khan

It is to the utter surprise of the residents of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) that Council of Common Interests (CCI), a constitutional body set up under article 153 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, is going to approve unanimously the construction of Diamer-Basha Dam. Despite the fact that the people of GB vehemently argue that GB is an integral part of Pakistan, it is being treated as a disputed territory both by Pakistan and India. The resolution is being passed in the wake of an objection lodged by India with the World Bank that the said dam is being constructed on a disputed territory therefore no finances should be provided to Pakistan for its construction. Two issues arise out of the situation i.e. whether GB is a disputed territory and whether CCI is a competent body to approve the construction of the dam? The answer to the first question is an absolute “NO”. GB was and is an integral part of Pakistan since its independence. Government of Pakistan exercises its control over the GB practically. The second question is bit contentious. However, in my humble opinion, CCI does not have any such authority over the GB as it is devoid of representation of the people of GB.

The approach of the Government of Pakistan should be inclusive rather then exclusive in resolving this whole issue. The will of the people of GB should be of paramount importance in the subject matter. The approval for construction of the dam should be sought from the GB Legislative Assembly and GB Council as these are the two forums on which both the federal government and Provincial Government of GB have representation. CCI is a body which represents and protects the interests of the four provinces of Pakistan and the federal government.

The writer is a corporate lawyer and with an LLM in Commercial and Corporate Law from King’s College London.

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  1. If the approval of GB people should be sought in the matter of the construction of the dam, then why did President Zardari commit with the Chinese government to a cooperation in the construction along the KKH of a railroad to Kashgar and a pipeline from the coast to bring petroleum directly from the Persian Gulf to China?

    It seems to me that extremely important works of this nature, whether dam or road work, susceptible of creating extreme disruption in the life of the inhabitants, if not to displace them permanently altogether, cannot be undertaken without their approval . Why then did the heads of the two countries “seal the deal” as was announced in Aljazeera two days ago?

  2. Has any body read the recent decision of full bench of the Supreme Appellate Court Gilgit-Baltistan declaring Gilgit-Baltistan a part of Pakistan on Thursday(08 July).
    “Gilgit-Baltistan by virtue of Article 1 [2] [d] of the Constitution of Pakistan for all intents and purposes is part of Pakistan, and with the system of self governance on the basis of a provincial setup has internal independence,” said the judgment, which was 91 pages long .
    Yes;there should be consultative process and discussions on resource sharing.I am 100% for it; but one has to move with times and think of long term.

  3. What do you mean Hafiz with the last sentence “but one has to move with times and think of the long term”? Does that mean that the will of the people can be ignored if the goal is to modernize?
    Sometimes the cost is too much. I am concerned that if the KKH is widened to make a 4-lane highway, a railroad and a pipeline, the GB people will lose the exceptional quality of life they enjoyed until now -before the landslide- the pure air, the pure water, the quiet, the simple life, the healthy, locally grown food, the security.
    The air will be loaded with dust and exhaust fumes and noise, the pipeline may leak and pollute the environment. The wide road will attract more traffic, more contraband, and the population will be vulnerable to crime. And that is *after* the road work has been done. While it is being done life will be quite disturbed.
    At least, IF the villagers affected by the landslide lake have returned to their original dwellings. If they have relocated elsewhere then there will be no problem for the road-working crews, so far as noise, dust and environmental degradation etc. are concened.
    But it is important that the GB people be given the choice between modernity and preservation of their Paradise on earth.
    From my point of view as a person living in a big city in the so-called “developed” world, I can attest that the development is superficial and at the cost of environmental destruction. And it makes people not happier but more stressed and anxious and inhuman. And once the environment is destroyed it’s very costly and very long to bring it back.
    So for taking a long term view, I think that preserving a clean, healthy environment is a real smart choice because almost everywhere else one finds mercantilism, ugliness, cheap gadgets that become garbage overnight, and people who lose their soul in the quest for “progress”.
    The people of Gilgit Baltistan should not allow anyone to make them feel ashamed of their culture or their lack of modernity, as a means of obtaining their consent for bringing modernization. It seems to me progress was not invented for the happiness of the general public but only for the enrichment of a few.
    From my apartment on a busy avenue I dream of clean air, clean water, the close contact with Nature. Every city dweller has this dream. So for a truly long-term society choice, GB should preserve this rare quality, and the hard-to-reach remoteness that makes it a dreamland in many people’s mind and which will attract more and more adventurous tourists and mountain climbers in the coming years.
    The issue of electric power supply could be addressed by using solar power and small water turbines in each village, provided the people resolve to be moderate in their consumption and deliberately reject many electric conveniences as the small cost of preservation.
    In closing, I will say how amazed I was when I didn’t see a single piece of plastic garbage floating in the waters of the flood! If GB could stay plastic free!

  4. If we look at the GB situation in global context, i am not going to discuss who has done it and who has authorised it, but the fact is that GB is still disputed territory according to UNCIP resolution. Secondly now that matter of the fact is that big dams always disaster for the ecology in general but it could be human catastrophe for the highly seismic areas of GB.
    I wish if the writer has undertaken all the aspects and after effects of the DAM on the environment of GB.
    It is my humble and sincere request to educated youths of Karakorum (Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral) come forward and oppose the another water bomb in Karakorum.

  5. Brigitte in Paris, i agree with you in most of your suggestions with regard to preservation of nature in Gilgit Baltistan (GB). But as far as the choice of modernity or conservatism is concerned, the people of GB have no choice but to vow in favour of modernity without compromising their cultural and social heritage.

    When we go a few decades back into history, we see that GB was an isolated region that remained cut off from rest of the world throughout its written history. In a sense, its society was mumified and locked amongst the maintains of himalayas and karakorum. The exposure of local people to other cultures during those times was very rare. The local economy was based on factors of production whatever the local soil had to offer. All of this sounds too good to be true.

    But the history of GB took a new course when Pakistan came into existence, and people of GB won their indendendence by themselves and choose to affiliate with Pakistan unconditionally. Later on, the princely states in the region were annexed and KHH was constructed. With this, the mobility of people into GB and out of the region increased geometrically. New opportunities emerged for the people but at the same time various challenges in the form of pressures from outside threatened the centuries old identity of the local people. This phenomenon is still at work and is a constantly challenging facing the people.

    The best hope i believe is the youth of the area who are very intelligent and educated and understand not only the dynamics of the modern world but also they have the capacity to preserve their own values.

    I am surprised to see with my own eyes in various parts of Europe that how the people have preserved the ingenuity of their cultural heritage and simplicity of their values while progressing as the most sohpisticated economies in the world. The same can be applied to GB. The local people can no more rely on feel good sentiments and ignore the circumstances in which they are. The economy of GB should have the strength not only to support its own booming population but to attract others to help it prosper and progress in the right directions.

    In conclusion, it is ultimately up to the people that how they shape their future. GB is rich with water and natural resources. Benefiting from these bounties of nature should be taken as a positive move towards the realization and strengthening of its identity. The people of the region should not allow anyone from outside to play dirty politics be it Pakistan, India, UN or anyone else for that matter.

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