Political interests played a key role in the inundation of Muzaffargarh district as recommendations to manage the flood were overruled at the last moment to protect the fields of a few powerful landlords, said a report appearing in The Christian Science Monitor on Monday.

The investigative story in the journal points towards a “nexus of interests” between feudal families and senior bureaucrats, who benefited from the decision, while 1.5 million were displaced, 51 people killed and 337 schools destroyed.

All along the Indus River lie floodgates known as barrages. The flood control plan for Punjab stipulates that if the water pressure behind any gate grows too large, the right bank should be breached with explosives.

At Taunsa Barrage, the left wall protects Muzaffargarh district, home to 3.5 million people. The right wall protects a less populous district, with at least 17,000 acres of “pondage” land set aside to hold flood-waters.

However on August 2, as the Indus waters swelled perilously close to the known breaking point of the Taunsa Barrage, officials led by the Punjab secretary of irrigation made the decision not to breach the right bank, the report said.

In the early hours of August 3, the Indus burst through the left bank instead, inundating some 400,000 acres of the district. Standing on the Taunsa Barrage, the contrast between the two areas cannot be clearer. The vast tracts of unharmed land, which fall in the neighboring district lie to the west, while the inundated Muzaffargarh district is to the east.

Many locals allege that two powerful families, the Hinjras and the Khosas, both from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) illegally occupy the flood-basin area.



“They put pressure on the irrigation secretary and the district coordination officer,” says Member National Assembly (MNA) Jamshed Dasti.

More striking still was the denial offered by PML-N senior leader Zulfiqar Khan Khosa.

According to documents seen by the CSM, Khosa signed off in June on flood-fighting plans prepared by the Irrigation and Power Department.

However, when asked whether he had any dealings with the Irrigation and Power Department, Khosa angrily denied he was ever briefed on the plans, and claimed he did not know anyone in the department.

Asked why he chose to disregard the Taunsa Barrage’s standard operation procedure of breaching section, Rab Nawaz, the Irrigation and Power Department secretary, offered that the front section of the barrage had not come under threat and therefore he had not felt an immediate need to breach the right section.

Local residents are now hoping for a favorable outcome by the three committees instituted to investigate the issue.

“Those responsible must be punished according to the law,” says Naeem Khan, a local engineer who was contracted to do repair work on the barrage in 2005. “We know these misdeeds have occurred, and we are prepared to fight in court if we don’t see justice,” he said.