Row over legal team for Kishanganga Dam case

Row over legal team for Kishanganga Dam case

25 June 2010
The Dawn
Jamal Shahid

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has been unable over the past six months to decide on a legal expert to represent it in arbitration proceedings over Kishanganga Dam being built by India because the ministry of water and power and the law and justice division cannot agree on a name. According to sources, the minister for water and power insists on retaining Prof James Crawford and his team despite strong opposition from the law and justice division which is responsible for legal proceedings and appoints external legal counsel. 'A team that failed Pakistan against India on one front cannot be expected to win on another front,' a legal expert said. A few years ago, Prof Crawford and his team, comprising Barrister Samuel Wordsworth and Faisal Hussain Naqvi, lost Pakistan's case on the Baglihar project which, according to the expert, was 'legally and technically a strong case for this country and should have been a piece of cake'. An arbitrator decided the case in India's favour and also gave rulings favouring that country on issues which had not been raised by either side. Some sections in the government are reported to have reservations about the expertise of Prof Crawford, Barrister Wordsworth and Mr Naqvi, the local consultant, in the relevant field. An international law expert said the government needed to proceed carefully and with a defined strategy. He said the ministry of water and power wanted to retain a team which lacked expertise in dealing with matters relating to water and territorial matters. At an inter-ministerial meeting held on May 6, Minister for Water and Power Raja Pervaiz Ashraf decided that the old team would be replaced by Prof Kayan Kaikobad for the Kishanganga project. The name of Prof Kaikobad - a specialist in land and maritime issues and highly regarded in the area of public international law - was recommended by Pakistan's mission in the United Kingdom on instructions from Prime Minister's Special Assistant on Water Resources and Agriculture Kamal Majeedullah. The mission in the United States had also been asked to recommend an expert for the case. However, the following day the minister changed his mind and insisted on retaining the old team. Documents reveal that the minister was won over by Commissioner for Indus Waters Jamaat Ali Shah who argued in favour of retaining Prof Crawford and his team. Mr Shah was of the opinion that the team 'is well versed with Kishanganga issues in consideration of the experience gained in the Baglihar case'. The documents show that while the debate centred on making a choice between Prof Crawford and Pr Kaikobad, the pleadings in the Baglihar case had been largely prepared Mr Naqvi who, according to an official, is not known for expertise and experience in matters pertaining to water disputes. Legal and technical experts questioned Mr Shah's legal competence on the issue and wondered why the team involved in the Baglihar case had not been relieved of its duties after having lost the case. The sources said that the inter-departmental tussle had taken such a serious turn that the law and justice division had threatened to dissociate itself from the issue if the ministries of water and power and foreign affairs continued to pursue the case without preparing a comprehensive legal strategy.


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