Over the weekend a two-day international symposium titled, ‘Creating a Water Secure Pakistan’ concluded with its declaration consisting of 20 recommendations. Oddly enough, the symposium was organized not by WAPDA or the ministry of climate change but by the Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan under the aegis of the populist Chief Justice of Pakistan. The recommendations encompass an agenda of actions that range from efficient water-use measures to use of technology to institutional development, and research and advocacy. The recommendations are all agreeable and benign except the third recommendation, as it’s covered by local media and in the Gulf News at the end of the symposium. This recommendation reads as ‘Revisiting the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) to bolster Pakistan’s case globally’. Now, in the context of the acrimonious Indo-Pak relations, such a recommendation is hardly benign as it has an outright potential to be akin to shooting in our own foot. Little does perhaps Chief Justice of Pakistan know how complicated the negotiations between India and Pakistan, under crucial World Bank’s support, had indeed been to get to the IWT as it was signed in 1960. Reaching to the treaty had taken almost a decade of consultations and dialogues, which kept breaking and stalled for months during all these years, between Pakistan and India. Prior to this agreement, an Inter-Dominion Accord ruled the water flow into Pakistan since the sources of all six rivers in the Indus basin were in the territories inside India or under its control. Pakistan used to annually pay India for water released into Pakistani regions from Indian side. The treaty has been criticized by many in Pakistan for not really taking care of the needs of eastern parts of Punjab and lower riparian areas such as in Sindh. But there is no dearth the critics of this treaty in India too. Both mainly represent selfish and hawkish sentiment of their respective people. The existing IWT may be reviewed and revised for a win-win solution only if there is a goodwill on both sides, which is currently so slim — if any, in the context of the spite two countries hold against each other. Unfortunately, there can’t be a dangerous time than now to revisit this treaty ‘to bolster Pakistan’s case globally’. Seeing today, this treaty being signed in 1960, was an extraordinary feat of diplomacy, mutual understanding and sanity by Indian and Pakistani governments. It was a time when the rightist forces on both sides were still in the fringes; neither a Hindu rightist like Modi could have easily thought of getting at the helm of India nor the Mullah and anti-India sentiments were as powerful in Pakistan as they are today. It was a time, which looks fanciful now, when Nehru could drive through roads in Saddar area of Karachi in a roofless car, and when the families of migrants on both sides of Indo-Pak border used to have a joint India-Pakistan passport to travel across two countries. It was also a time when the capitalist West and the World Bank, which brokered this treaty, were more affable to Pakistan than India. This treaty being signed in 1960, was an extraordinary feat of diplomacy, mutual understanding and sanity by Indian and Pakistani governments. It was a time when the rightist forces on both sides were still in the fringes; neither a Hindu rightist like Modi could have easily thought of getting at the helm of India nor the Mullah and anti-India sentiments were as powerful in Pakistan as they are today That equation has reversed now since 1990, in favour of India as it emerged as regional economic and military power. With Modi at the helm today, Pakistan must be very careful in its diplomatic optimism with India. In the aftermath of Uri military base attack in 2016, which India accused Pakistan of being behind, we have already heard Modi’s speeches where he threatened to scrap the IWT. This kind of rhetoric fetches a great deal of electoral support in India. Incidentally, 2019 is election year in India. That this symposium has touched upon a very sensitive issue is also another reminder why the Chief Justice and judiciary must not trespass into the mandates of other state institutions and strictly guard against populist activism. Pakistan as a polity and economy suffered immensely at the hands of such acts by the leadership of key state institutions. We are facing multi-billion dollars fines in international litigation, in cases of rental power plant and Rikodiq mining projects. Both these cases were adjudicated by our supreme court following a populist streak without realising the international implications and powers of international judicial institutions. A Chief Justice whose knowledge is so tentative about things that he thinks formula of water is H2 and Zero instead of H2O should better concentrate on his primary job than assigning upon himself the task of resolving everything else than justice. Interstate agreements and treaties are domain of international law and diplomacy, which must not be messed up by apex court. The IWT must be preserved and respected in the best interest of peace and wellbeing of people except improving our efficiency in water use. The writer is a sociologist with interest in history and politics. He tweets @ZulfiRao1 Published in Daily Times, October 25th 2018.