Dams fund was never intended to be used 100% for building: Ex-CJP


–Justice (r) Nisar says he wanted to create awareness regarding Pakistan’s water scarcity issue

Former chief justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar said on Friday that his dams fund initiative was never intended to be used entirely for the building of Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand water reservoirs.

Addressing the Lahore Literary Festival (LLF) where he was invited to speak on a panel discussing Pakistan’s water scarcity problem, Justice (r) Nisar said, “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.”

“[I am prepared to take criticism] whether the direction issued for the making of this dam is a bad action on part of SC and myself, or it’s a good action for the people of Pakistan in the future.”

“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,” he added.

At the opening of the session, the former top judge made a speech about how the idea of the dam fund came to him and defended his creation of the fund.

“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,” he said.

Panelist Ahmed Rashid Bhatti, who filled in for technocrat Shamsul Malik, too, heaped praise on Nisar. “In my 40 years of service in water resources, we tried in so many seminars to sensitize the people of Pakistan about water scarcity issues and the looming crisis. We didn’t succeed. I would like to compliment Saqib Nisar… what we could not do in years the former CJ did in a few months,” he said.

Water law and policy expert Erum Sattar, another panelist, made some important points on how building structures is not the only solution. “We need to move water that we are using ineffectively out of irrigation. Irrigated agriculture is the most inefficient way to grow food in the world,” he said. “This is an integrated resource. We are a food insecure nation, hungry, poor, undeveloped — mostly we are deeply unequal. If we manage water resources right we can improve on all fronts. We need to make laws to adapt to 21st century agriculture.”

At the end, Bhatti made an interesting comment to Nisar about his decision to use only Pakistani experts for dam construction and feasibility. “You said no foreign experts will be involved but we want the best in the world to weigh in on this issue, and the monetary saving is very little in comparison to that expertise,” he stated.