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Backlash Leads to Withdrawal of IRSA Appointment

Backlash Leads to Withdrawal of IRSA Appointment

The appointment of Zafar Mahmood as the chairman of the Indus River System Authority (Irsa) has stirred controversy, leading to its withdrawal by the federal government. Mahmood, a retired federal secretary, was appointed by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, prompting objections from the Sindh province, ruled by the PPP, a coalition partner in the federal government.


The objections from Sindh stemmed from concerns over the appointment process, as the province advocated for the chairman’s selection to rotate among provincial members, as decided by the Council of Common Interests (CCI). Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah conveyed these reservations to PM Shehbaz, who assured him that the concerns would be addressed.

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Subsequently, the principal secretary to the PM issued a notification withdrawing Mahmood’s appointment as the Irsa chairman. The move was welcomed by various political parties in Sindh, including the PPP and others, who had raised objections over the legality and constitutionality of Mahmood’s appointment.

The controversy surrounding Mahmood’s appointment also extended to the National Assembly, where PPP MNA Syed Naveed Qamar raised serious reservations, urging the government to retract the notification.

The appointment was made under the disputed Irsa Amendment Ordinance 2024, which faced opposition from political parties in Sindh. They argued that the caretaker government lacked the authority to enact such changes, particularly concerning the autonomy and powers granted to the Irsa chairman.

The proposed amendments raised concerns about Irsa’s independence from federal influence and restricted the provinces’ ability to challenge its decisions. Moreover, they granted extensive powers to the Irsa chairman, including the authority to request the deployment of armed forces or law enforcement agencies, hire personnel, and make key decisions without oversight.

In light of these objections and controversies, the withdrawal of Mahmood’s appointment reflects the ongoing debate over the governance and autonomy of regulatory bodies like Irsa, particularly in the context of federal-provincial relations and water resource management.