Opposition moves resolution in Senate, wants PIDA law nixed

ISLAMABAD: In an effort to block the Centre’s move to take control of two islands for developing them as trade and investment hubs and international tourist destinations, the opposition parties on Tuesday submitted a resolution to the Senate Secretariat, seeking disapproval of the controversial Pakistan Islands Development Authority (PIDA) Ordinance, 2020.

The resolution carrying signatures of 10 members belonging to five opposition parties was submitted to the Senate Secretariat under Rule 145(2) of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Senate, 2012, four days after Prime Minister Imran Khan directed Sindh Governor Imran Ismail to sort out the matter related to the project in consultation with the provincial government of Sindh led by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).

PPP’s Sassui Palejo is the main mover of the resolution which has also been signed by her other party colleagues, Sherry Rehman, Dr Sikandar Mandhro, Maula Bux Chandio, Keshoo Bai and Gianchand, besides Dr Jahanzeb Jamaldini of the Balochistan National Party-Mengal, Usman Kakar of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party, Mir Kabir Shahi of the National Party and Mushtaq Ahmed of Jamaat-i-Islami.

Having a majority in the 104-member Senate, the opposition recently managed to defeat the government on the key FATF-related legislations, forcing the latter to get them passed through a joint sitting. Besides this, the opposition had already disapproved a couple of ordinances through similar resolutions in the Senate owing to its majority.

Sindh governor says provincial govt fails to understand importance of the island project

There is no doubt that if the opposition manages to ensure the presence of its members on the day the resolution will be put for voting, it can easily defeat the government and get the ordinance disapproved.

Keeping parliament out of the loop, President Dr Arif Alvi had on Aug 31 promulgated the PIDA Ordinance to allow the federal government to take control of the two islands — Bundal and Buddo — along the Karachi coast to initiate and maintain a continuous process of reclamation, master planning, urban planning, spatial planning and to promote and stimulate the twin islands as trade, investment and logistics centres, duty-free areas and international tourist destinations.

The promulgation of the ordinance triggered criticism from the ruling party of Sindh as PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari equated the move with the illegal annexation of India-held Jammu and Kashmir by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year.

Terming the step “illegal annexation of Sindh’s islands through the presidential ordinance by the PTI government”, the PPP chairman alleged that the federal government “seeks to annex these lands/islands which are properties of the provinces, to exploit them for financial gain by allowing crony capitalists to undertake housing and such other projects, including tourism, which has been devolved to the provinces” under the 18th Amendment.

Bundal island project

On the other hand, speaking at a news conference after his meeting with the prime minister in Islamabad, Sindh Governor Imran Ismail said the provincial government had failed to understand the importance of the project.

Accompanying Maritime Affairs Minister Ali Zaidi, the governor said there were some confusion in the Sindh government, declaring that these islands would remain part of the province.

Mr Ismael said the major chunk of revenues generated from the project would go to Sindh and the only interest that the federal government had in the project was foreign investments amounting to around $50 billion which would help strengthen foreign exchange reserves.

Apart from huge foreign investments, he said, the Bundal island project would generate around 150,000 jobs and four to five million tourists were expected to visit the area annually.

Apparently contradicting the governor, Ali Zaidi said that the Bundal island was under the Port Qasim Authority as per the coordinates established in 1973 and lease to establish a base there was given by Port Qasim to Pakistan Navy, and it was a federal land.

Previously, Mr Zaidi had posted on social media a Sindh government letter, dated July 6, 2020, through which it had made “available” Bundal island to the federal government.

The Sindh government has been asking the federal government to “immediately” withdraw the ordinance, saying the islands belonged exclusively to the people and the government of the province.

At a press conference in Karachi last week, the representatives of the provincial government said the Sindh cabinet had decided not to hold any further discussion with the Centre regarding the development of the islands.

Sindh government’s spokesman Murtaza Wahab said the provincial government had showed willingness to the proposal “in good faith” and for the progress of the local residents. But, he added, the Centre attacked the rights of Sindh and Balochistan by issuing this ordinance without any consultation and showed ownership of something which was not theirs.

He said the ordinance, published in the Gazette on Sept 2, was made public in the first week of October which, he alleged, showed the federal government’s “ill-intent”. He also disclosed that a letter addressed to the federal government regarding the proposal for the islands’ development had also been withdrawn by the Sindh cabinet.

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