Island authority ordinance shocks Sindh

Political, civil society leaders announce to launch protest against federal govt’s move


Hafeez Tunio October 04, 2020
PHOTO: EXPRESS

KARACHI:

Sindh based political parties, civil society organisations as well as the PPP led Sindh government on Saturday expressed their dismay and anger over a presidential ordinance – surfacing on social media on Friday night – about formation of an islands development authority.

President Dr Arif Alivi on September 1 promulgated the ordinance for establishing “Pakistan Islands Development Authority” for “development and management of islands in internal and territorial waters of Pakistan”. Its ultimate objective was stated to be development of cities on the islands.

“Whereas the Senate and the National Assembly are not in session and the president of Islamic Republic is satisfied that circumstances exist, which render it necessary to take immediate action,” said the ordinance which emerged on social media just on Friday.

This ordinance was received with shock in Sindh with regional newspapers carrying its news as their lead stories and a number of political leaders condemning the move and calling it an attempt to encroach on Sindh's land.

"The PPP rejects this unconstitutional ordinance establishing island development authority. This is no less than a land grab and occupation of islands that belong to the people of #Sindh under article 172/2 of the Constitution," said PPP central information secretary Dr Nafisa Shah on Twitter.

She categorically stated that her party would oppose the ordinance at every forum.

Sources privy to the development told The Express Tribune that the Sindh government might move a resolution in the Sindh Assembly condemning the ordinance and demanding its withdrawal.

Different nationalist parties, writers, intellectuals and poets also announced to launch a massive movement against the decision by organizing rallies and demonstrations in various cities and towns if the decision was not taken back.

Human rights activist IA Rehman said these islands are property of the people. “You cannot take them without their consultation. Any takeover of the islands will be against the country.”

Talking to The Express Tribune, Pakistan Fisher-folk Forum (PFF) Chairman Mohammad Ali Shah said this is not the first time the islands are being snatched and such an attempt was also made in 2007 when a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed to hand over two islands to Dubai based investors.

“Due to this recent decision, 800,000 fishermen who live there for centuries would be displaced.”

He said in the wake of the ordinance, the PFF organized a consultative meeting inviting people from different walks of life to devise an action plan against the decision.

"The federal government’s decision is not only against the Constitution of Pakistan but it is also against international conventions and agreements, which provide social, economic and cultural sovereignty to the indigenous people," Shah said.

PPP former chairperson Benazir Bhutto had announced a movement against the decision to take over the islands during General Musharraf’s regime in 2007. After protests by the PPP, the national parties and the civil society organizations, the government had taken back the decision.

An official in Sindh government familiar with the matter said that federal authorities had intimated the Sindh government that mega city schemes worth $20 billion would be started on the islands.

"The Sindh government claiming ownership of the island had said the ToR [terms of reference] of the schemes would be framed by the provincial government. But now an ordinance has surfaced," he said.

There were rumors on social media that the ordinance was issued in connivance with the PPP leadership which has in return sought relief in corruption cases filed against it.

Twin islands Bhandar and Bundal are located near Karachi and Thatta districts bordering Korangi, Phitti and Jhari creeks. Pakistan has a coastal belt of over 1,050 kilometers and there are 300 small and big islands located in Sindh coastal belt. The federal government will take control of all these islands.

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