Daily Times Editorial 21 August 2019

Flood fury again

 

The sleepy River Sutlej stirred with a furry after India released over 100,000 cusecs of water, that too without any warning, following monsoon rains. Given the scale of the downpour, it was a matter of time before flooding swept the areas around the riverside. As the floodwater entered Pakistan at the Kasur district point, it spelt a crisis for the residents on both sides of the river bed. With the passage of the time, the water level is rising and the Provincial Disaster Management Authority has already issued a significant flood forecast for River Sutlej, stating that the range of net discharge passing through Ganda Singh Wala would be 125,000 cusecs to a maximum of 175,000 cusecs. On the other side of the border, the flood fury is 240,000 cusecs downstream Bhakra Dam. Its trickledown effects are enough to inundate farms along the river from Kasur to Head Punjnad in Muzaffargard where the river ends up into the River Chenab. The PDMA made predictions about the flooding just based on Indian media report, even though India is bound to share information on flood level in the rivers entering Pakistan.
Whenever rivers flood there will be water everywhere resulting in displacement of people and livestock besides destruction of farms, houses and other infrastructure. The government has set up 81 relief camps in Kasur, Bahawalpur, Bahawalnagar, Lodhran, Vehari, Pakpattan and Okara. The government must ensure evacuation of people from the riverbed and their relocation to safer places, and irrigation, health and disaster management departments should monitor the situation round the clock. Flood means disaster, and in such a situation, provinces and the centre must work together to ensure rescue, relief and rehabilitation of the affected people. Also, the inflow and outflow of water should continuously be monitored. If there is need, army contingents should be involved in rescue and relief operations too.
So far, there is normalcy in Indus, Chenab, Jhelum and Ravi, though the water level in these rivers and their tributaries is constantly rising. Pakistan is no stranger to flooding every summer. It, however, needs to develop means to conserve river water to ward off the crisis in case there is an abnormal monsoon. In the last three years, we have not received sufficient rainfalls, which triggered water shortage. In the absence of any government policy on conserving water, it was left to a serving chief justice to take up the cause of dam construction. *

 
 

Call from White House

 

Despite India’s consistent stand that bifurcation and revocation of India-held Jammu and Kashmir’s special status is its internal matter, the world has started realising the importance of the issue. On Monday, the Indian prime minister had an unwelcome call from United States President Donald Trump, who also spoke with Prime Minister Imran Khan, urging both sides to reduce tensions over the Kashmir issue. With time, Trump and other world leaders will realise that confrontation can only be scaled down if the Kashmir issue is resolved as per the wishes of the Kashmiris. President Trump showed his intention to step in and mediate in the dispute during a press talk after meeting Prime Minister Imran Khan in Washington. About the recent phone call, Mr Trump himself announced through a tweet: “Spoke to my two good friends, Prime Minister Modi of India, and Prime Minister Khan of Pakistan, regarding Trade, Strategic Partnerships and, most importantly, for India and Pakistan to work towards reducing tensions in Kashmir. A tough situation, but good conversations!” Later, White House spokesperson Hoga Gidley explained: “The US president conveyed the importance of reducing tensions between India and Pakistan and maintaining peace in the region.”
It was left to Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi to share details of Imran-Trump call. He says Trump called Modi after his meeting with Prime Minister Imran in the White House on Aug 16. He said America is serious in deescalating tensions between Pakistan and India. The prime minister used the occasion to enlighten Mr Trump about the curfew imposed in India-held Kashmir for the last 15 days, locking down four million Muslims. Also, thousands have been arrested and flown out of occupied Kashmiri. Such a situation merits visits of observers from human rights organisations as India has been violating international law and its commitments to the international community. If the world does not interfere in the Kashmir situation, a humanitarian crisis is imminent.
The interference of Trump in Indo-Pak tension is a significant step. Earlier, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation also expressed concern over the lockdown in blatant violation of human rights. The United Nations Security Council also took up the issue, though informally, after a gap of decades, and urged both India and Pakistan to settle the issue bilaterally. Both countries lack trust and the interference of the world community is necessary to resolve the issue. *

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