For years, there has been rampant and widespread opposition within Pakistan to the construction of Kalabagh Dam (KBD) on Indus river in the country's Punjab province. From locals in the Mianwali District to even politicians with considerable clout, criticism has been severe.
Yet, the caretaker government here has somehow managed to turn the attention towards India, indirectly pointing at the country for stoking the flames.
Pakistan-based Dawn recently quoted the country's caretaker minister for water resources as saying that there could be a foreign hand in the opposition to KBD. His reason? "Anti-KBD conferences and protests organised in foreign countries appear better organised than the ones within Pakistan."
Speaking to members of the press, Ali Zafar then pointed an accusatory finger at India and said that several dam projects across the border have been in violation of water treaties signed in the past. The Kishanganga Hydropower Project was in for specific criticism. This despite the World Bank denying Pakistan's call for court of arbitration.
The Kishanganga Project was inaugurated by PM Narendra Modi on May 19.
Islamabad now possibly fears that this and other dam projects could help India bleed Pakistan dry. "India has managed to build about 400 damns after the Indus Water Treaty while Pakistan has not even managed to build the KBD. It (KBD) is very important. It is life — and it should be built as a priority," said Zafar.
Zafar though failed to address concerns raised by political leaders and parties in his own country. In the past, Jamaat-i-Islami had warned of flash floods if KBD comes to fruition. Others - mostly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa like ANP and JUI(F) have warned against it. At one point, the country's leader of the opposition - Syed Khurshid Ahmed Shah - had said that KBD is a threat to small provinces. Still others have highlighted issues of people getting displaced if KBD becomes a reality. In fact, under Nawaz Sharif, there were numerous attempts to build a political consensus but none worked.
Therefore, to blame India for KBD being a paper project appears a rather hollow suspicion. Security experts believe that it often helps governments in Pakistan to shift blame across the border to hide its own follies and the issue of KBD and other damns is a prime example of this.