A presidential ordinance by the Imran Khan government to take control of two islands in Sindh province has been slammed by the Opposition parties in Pakistan, with PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto calling it an “illegal annexation”.
President Dr Arif Alivi on September 1 promulgated the ordinance for establishing Pakistan Islands Development Authority (PIDA) 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 of Bundal and Buddo along the Karachi coast.
While the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government managed to keep it out of limelight, Bhutto on Monday posted the development on Twitter, vowing that his party would oppose the federal government’s move in the National Assembly, Senate and the provincial assembly.
“The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) will oppose the illegal annexation of Sindh’s Islands through Presidential ordinance by the PTI government,” he said in a tweet on Monday.
“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.
Former chairman of Senate and PPP leader Raza Rabbani termed the ordinance a crude attempt to bring under control of the federal government the coastal areas of the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan,” the Dawn newspaper reported. Under the ordinance, PIDA would be exempted from paying income tax for one full decade. It is also empowered to retain, lease, sell, exchange, rent of otherwise dispose of any land vested in it, the report said.
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.
Several nationalist parties, writers, intellectuals and poets also announced to launch a massive movement against the decision by organising rallies and demonstrations in various cities and towns if the decision was not taken back, The Express Tribune reported. Human rights activist I A Rehman said these islands were property of the people.
“You cannot take them without their consultation. Any takeover of the islands will be against the country,” Rehman said.
“Due to this recent decision, 800,000 fishermen who live there for centuries would be displaced. 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,” said Pakistan Fisher-folk Forum (PFF) Chairman Mohammad Ali Shah.
Noting that this was not the first time the islands (over 12,000 acres of land) were being snatched, Shah said 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.
Former PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto had announced a movement against the decision to take over the islands during General Pervez Musharraf’s regime in 2007. After protests by the PPP, the national parties and the civil society organisations, the government had to take back the decision.
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