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Pak army stages flood coup

The Pakistan Army took control of the Sukkur Barrage on Monday night as politicians and cabinet ministers squabbled over making a breach in the side canals in a bid to protect major towns in the province from the advancing floods.

world Updated: Aug 10, 2010 23:58 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad

The Pakistan Army took control of the Sukkur Barrage on Monday night as politicians and cabinet ministers squabbled over making a breach in the side canals in a bid to protect major towns in the province from the advancing floods.

The move came after a federal minister refused to allow the breach as the water that would be discharged would inundate parts of his constituency.

A power struggle broke out between federal labour minister Khursheed Shah and the Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Qaim Ali Shah, when the former refused the latter's demand that a breach be made in the Ali Wahan Canal.

This would have allowed thousands of cusecs of water to drain into open fields and plains, which in turn would save towns like Sukkur and Hyderabad from flooding. Engineers said that with the rise in flood water levels, the pressure on the historic Sukkur Barrage was so intense that there was a chance parts of it would collapse. Such an eventuality would flood Sukkur and Hyderabad, they warned.

"The only way to save the barrage is to make a breach in the Ali Wahan canal," experts said. On Sunday night, irrigation authorities were planning to break the embankment of Ali Wahan to reduce pressure on Sukkur Barrage, but were stopped by the residents. Eventually, the Pakistan Army intervened and reportedly also placed Shah under detention.

With the failure of the government to cope with the growing crisis following the floods, the army is assuming a greater role in rescue and relief operations.