Daily Briefs

Photo : Dawn

16 July 2020, Thursday, Vol 1, No.79

On building Diamer-Bhasha dam in Gilgit-Baltistan

PTI government kickstarting the construction of Diamer-Bhasha dam, media criticism on misusing blasphemy laws, Justice Isa's case, and the latest controversy over the fake licences of the pilots with the CAA negating the minister's case

PR Daily Brief | PR Team

In Focus
On building Diamer-Bhasha dam in Gilgit-Baltistan.
Why does Pakistan want to build now? And why it was not built until today?

PM Imran Khan vows to build the "biggest dam in Pakistan's history"
On 15 July, PM Imran Khan launched the construction of the Diamer-Bhasha Dam while addressing a public gathering in Chilas, the district headquarters of Diamer, after visiting the dam site along with Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and federal ministers. He also announced plans to build more dams in the country to generate low-cost hydel power. (Jamil Nagri, "Construction of Diamer-Bhasha dam launched," Dawn, 16 July 2020) Further, he stated that this site is a naturally well-suited for building the dam because it has natural rocks, adding "The decision to build this dam was taken 50 years ago. There can be no better site for constructing a dam, it is a natural dam. Forty, 50 years ago this was decided, and work on the project has begun today. This is one of the biggest reasons why we haven't progressed."

Why the dam?
PM Imran Khan stated that this project would facilitate the creation of at least 16,500 job opportunities and would allow for the flow of economic activities. Adding that the people of Gilgit- Baltistan would benefit as a result of this project, further adding "We didn't increase your budget out of obligation. It is our government's policy to prioritise those areas that have been left behind." (Rizwan Shehzad, "Diamer-Bhasha Dam will benefit country economically, environmentally: PM Imran," The Express Tribune, 16 July 2020) Further, he spoke about the clean energy that would be generated through this environmentally friendly project stating "The benefits are dual. We won't have to import fuel and it won't affect our climate negatively." ("'Will build biggest dam in Pakistan's history': PM Imran kicks off construction work at Diamer-Bhasha Dam," Dawn, 16 July 2020) Further, he reiterated that the government will move towards building more dams on rivers, whereby lessen pressure on foreign exchange and allow Pakistan to generate its own fuel. ("Building of Bhasha Dam begins," The News International, 16 July 2020) Further, the dam will likely reduce the chances of flooding in the country and will guarantee that the country's water needs are secure by reducing the current water shortage of 12 MAF to 6.1 MAF. (APP, "Why Diamer Bhasha dam is crucial for country?The Nation, 16 July 2020)

Why it was not built until now?
There has been a dispute over the total cost of the construction. Pakistan's Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) had claimed the total cost of the dam to be $14 billion, however, after signing the contract, WAPDA claimed it would be only Rs1406 billion showing that there has been a downscaling in the cost. Further, in the budget for the fiscal year 2020–21, Pakistan has allocated only Rs61 billion which makes up 2.6 per cent of the original estimated cost of the dam. This suggests that Pakistan still does not have enough monetary resources to build the dam, despite the loan agreement with China. (Adnan Aamir, "Obstacles remain for Pakistan dam backed by China," The Lowy Institute, 14 July 2020)

Opposition from experts: Water experts and other experts on seismic aspects of large dams have raised concerns over this mega project stating that apart from the main technical challenges for this project, the high seismicity, high flood discharge during the monsoon season, landslides and the difficult geological and topographic site conditions will pose to be a challenge to this project. Adding that there are major logistical challenges with the transport of huge quantities of construction materials as well. (Saif M. Hussain, Martin Wieland, "Special report: How safe will Diamer Basha dam be?Dawn, 7 April 2019) ("Water experts reject Diamer Basha Dam," The News International, 26 June 2020)

Opposition from the indigenous community: Like most dams, the Diamer-Bhasha Dam is located near the indigenous people of Gilgit Baltistan and has face opposition from the community. The Diamer-Bhasha Dam Affectees Action Committee, a group representing the people forcibly displaced by the dam construction, has demanded Rs15 billion in compensation, which the government has refused to pay. Although, the government has announced a fund of Rs78 billion targeted to provide welfare for the people of Diamer-Bhasha local communities are not satisfied with the claim.  

Diplomatic Opposition: The Ministry of External Affairs in India has raised strong objection to this project as it sees it as an infringement of its territorial sovereignty. ("With Chinese aid, Pakistan kicks off construction of dam in PoK," The Hindu, 16 July 2020)

In Brief

How can the Civil Aviation blame the media, asks commentary
Khurram Husain says that in the light of the global attention to the issue of fake licences of pilots, Pakistan's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has offered a new narrative: "None of the Pilot Licenses are fake, rather that matter has been misconstrued and incorrectly highlighted in the media/social media", said the CAA. A complete U-turn from the use of the word 'fake' thrice by the Aviation minister himself. He also said that the licenses were issued by political pressure. CAA's statement is a desperate face-saving attempt – but a poor one. Husain asks how CAA can blame media for the concerns of their global counterparts regarding the credibility of the licenses of Pakistani pilots. Husain, citing PM Imran Khan's remarks of the necessity of the resignation of a minister on whose watch an accident has taken place to facilitate an honest probe, says CAA's shift reflects why on PM Khan's watch no such honest and credible investigation can be carried out. (Khurram Husain, "The fakeness of it all," Dawn, 16 July 2020)

CAA Director-General on authenticity on pilot licenses
Director-General Hassan Nasir Jamy, Civil Aviation Authority (CCA) said, 'all commercial/airline transport pilots licenses (CPL/ATPL) are genuine and valid'. He also said, that 'CAA has verified/cleared "96 Pakistani pilots out of 104 names received from various civil aviation authorities/foreign airlines (UAE/GACA, Vietnam Airlines, Bahrain Air, Civil Aviation Malaysia, Hong Kong Civil Aviation Department and Turkish Airlines)'. ("All licences issue to pilots are genuine: CAA", Dawn, 16 July 2020)

Don't drag religion into political debates, argues Dawn editorial
The Editorial warns against using issues of religion and faith for point-scoring and political mileage. The article refers to the misinterpretation of PML-N leader Khawaja Asif's National assembly remarks. A lawmaker should not have to apologize for expressing the equality of all citizens under the constitution, regardless of caste and creed. It says support to minority rights is constantly viewed as an attack on Islam and a wavering of one's faith in Islam. The author argues that in matters of politics, terming of remarks or comments as "blasphemous" is a bad and dangerous tendency. ("PML-N leader's remarks," Dawn, 16 July 2020)

Ensure the blasphemy law is not misused, argues another editorial
PML-N leader Khawaja Muhammad Asif, targeted for committing the crime and violating the constitution of Pakistan. United States Committee on International Religious Freedom had condemned the charges against the leader. According to the editor, it's the party in which Asif belongs, which is a rival of PTI, the charges may affect into serious crime. Till now many have suffered, urges the government to take action to ensure the law is not misused. ("A serious matter", The International News, 16 July 2020) 

Are PTI and Establishment on the same page, question an opinion
Khurram Husain tears down PTI's leader PM Imran Khan's promises of "reducing the influence of the ministry of finance" and revising the FBR by increasing its autonomy, ensuring an efficient tax administration structure, introducing a robust tax policy and effective enforcement mechanisms. Husain says two years have passed, but PTI has done nothing in these regards and is unable to even hold its own ministers responsible for failures. The ministers are merely given different portfolios (as in the shifting of the finance minister to the petroleum portfolio and the railway ministers and officials), as will be seen in the case of the aviation minister as well. Husain concludes stating the disappointment PTI has been in delivering its promises. (Khurram Husain, "The fakeness of it all," Dawn, 16 July 2020)

KP's female legislators furious over underage marriages and sexual abuse 
KP Assembly's female legislators expressed their anger against the peaking cases of sexual abuse, underage marriage and murders of children; and demanded explanations from the government regarding the delay in legislation criminalizing domestic violence and child marriages. The recent issues of the death of a disabled 12-year old at the hands of her in-laws, marriage of an 11-year-old girl, and the rape of a 13-year-old in the province. PPP's Nighat Yasmin Orakzai pointed out that, despite the passing of laws against domestic violence in Punjab and Sindh assemblies, KP is far behind. KP's law minister responded saying that bills against domestic violence and the Child Marriage Restraint Bill were underway. ("Protecting females," Dawn, 16 July 2020)

Serena Isa raised 24 questions and alleged the way cases is dealt with
A three-judge Supreme Court framed charges against Rawalpindi-based cleric Mirza Iftikharuddin. Serena Isa, the wife of Justice Qazi Faez Isa, had filed an affidavit with raising 24 questions on alleging the manner case is dealt with. She had asked, 'why no FIR had been registered for her complaints on death threats to her husband', 'Why her application was sent to FIA', 'Why the accused cleric was not arrested when he entered the Supreme Court on 26 June in the contempt of the court case?' and many more. ("SCBA seeks deletion of SC directives in Isa case ruling", Dawn, 16 July 2020)

SCBA filed a review petition of Justice Isa's Case
On 15 July, Supreme Court Bar Association president Syed Qalb-e-Hassan had filed a review petition seeking, "deletion of courts directives stating directives, observations and contents from paragraphs three to 11 as unnecessary, superfluous, contradictory, excessive and unlawful", for its 19 June judgment and therefore liable to be struck out. It also highlighted the timeline given to the income tax authorities regarding the proceedings were illegal. ("SCBA seeks deletion of SC directives in Isa case ruling", Dawn, 16 July 2020)

The US may help in India's face-saving attempts, says an article
Saleem Qamar Butt's article is a sequel to his previous article titled 'Indo-China standoff; the tactical face of strategic contest'. The article speaks of India's ongoing "desperate" attempts to cover up the "domestic politico-military embarrassment" and present it as an Indo-US opportunity. Butt says the BJP government is facing domestic, regional and global credibility challenges, and that Indian Defense Minister's Russian visit and concluding of an arms deal was a cover-up to the begging to ease Indo-China tensions as the US did not step in. Butt says India's loss of Iran, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh to China; and CPEC are huge blows to the Modi government. Butt argues that US policy shifts could alleviate India's crisis if not fix it, but this would require greater reciprocity and India's pivotal role in the American Asia-Pacific policy. ("India's narrative; embarrassment into strategic opportunity," The Nation, 16 July 2020)

The Nation argues Iran-China agreement will keep India away from Balochistan
The article says the new $400 billion Iran-China military and trade deal would give China yet another Indian ocean access - the Chabahar Port. The article says that while Pakistan today has beneficial trade relations and other bilateral relations with all neighbours except India, the latter has fraught relations with Pakistan and China while relations with Nepal and Bangladesh are turning cold. The article argues that as Iran and India sever their ties, Baluchistan would become safer and terror activities on Pakistani soil would dwindle. ("A Welcome Agreement," The Nation, 16 July 2020)

PPP leader asks govt if anyone was availing concession offered to Jadhav
PPP leader Mian Raza Rabbani said, delay in laying the ordinance promulgated back on 17 April had affected the right of the house, but also amounted to breach of privilege. Further, the leader asked foreign ministry, concession availed by somebody, as the judgment was passed more than 50 days ago. Also, PPP parliamentary leader in the Senate Sherry Rehman said, "We need to act now. India has done away with conventional diplomacy, international laws, and moral obligations. So, it is our responsibility to have acted out of the box". ("Govt asked if anyone availing concession offered to Jadhav"Dawn, 16 July 2020)


"The decision to build this dam was taken 50 years ago. There can be no better site for constructing a dam, it is a natural dam. Forty or 50 years ago this was decided, and work on the project has begun today. This is one of the biggest reasons why we haven’t progressed"

-  Imran Khan while starting the construction of Diamer-Bhasha dam (Dawn)

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