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PM Imran Khan urges governor to work with Sindh, resolve Bundal island issues

SHC issues notices to Centre and Sindh on petition challenging development of island authority

By Web Desk
October 08, 2020
In this file photo, Prime Minister Imran Khan (L) is in a meeting with Governor Sindh Imran Ismail. — Photo courtesy Imran Ismail

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday urged Governor Sindh Imran Ismail to work with the Sindh government to find a solution to the issues raised by them related to the development of Bundal island.

In a meeting with Governor Ismail, PM Imran Khan said that the Bundal island project would provide ample opportunities for investment and employment.

The governor gave a detailed briefing to the prime minister on the execution of the Karachi Transformation Plan.

Addressing a press conference later with Federal Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Zaidi in Islamabad, Ismail said that the prime minister wants to build two new cities on the islands of Karachi.

"Bundal island will remain a part of Sindh," he said, adding: "150,000 jobs will be created and the income from the island will go to the Sindh government."

He said the meeting between him and the premier at Prime Minister House was especially focused on Bundal island and Ravi City — the two new cities the premier wishes to build.

Ismail said that PM Imran Khan wants to see Bundal island emerge even better than Lahore's Ravi City and rejected the impression that it is a housing project. "The Bundal project will even leave the likes of Dubai behind."

The governor said that the city will be built under a comprehensive master plan keeping in view environmental concerns.

"The water of Bundal island will be purified," he said.

He also responded to concerns that the Centre is seeking to exert control over Sindh’s islands through the presidential ordinance by the PTI government. "It's not as if the island will be taken away to Islamabad," he said.

Ismail said that four to five million tourists will visit the island and reiterated that all revenue generated will go to the Sindh government.

The Sindh governor said that the provincial government would be taken into confidence while building the island city.

"People from all over the world are contacting the Prime Minister's House. International investors are taking interest in it," he said, adding that $50 billion will be invested in the project.

"Dollars will come, domestic and foreign investors will come," Ismail said.

He said that these will not be "Imran Khan's plots or those of Ali Zaidi or Imran Ismail". "The development of Sindh is linked with the development of Bundal island," he stressed.

Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Zaidi (L) and Governor Sindh Imran Ismail address a press conference in Islamabad, on October 8, 2020. — PID

Ismail said the prime minister is also thinking of packages for other districts of Sindh and will introduce a special initiative for people working in the fisheries sector.

"These projects will help Pakistan's economy. No one should have reservations about this (Bundal) project. It is this project that will fill the gap of tourism in Sindh," he said.

Meanwhile, Zaidi said that the impression that someone will "occupy the islands" is wrong.

"We are dumping a large amount of dirty water and solid waste into the sea every day," he said, adding: "The colour of the sea water has changed."

The minister said that the Centre will set up a plant for wastewater treatment.

"We must keep political differences aside if we have to develop Pakistan. We are willing to work with the Sindh government."

On the other hand, a petition against handing over the management of the islands to the federation was heard today in the Sindh High Court and the court has issued notices to the federal and provincial governments seeking a detailed reply by October 23.

Reaction to development of island authority

PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Monday lashed out at the PTI government over the establishment of Pakistan Islands Development Authority (PIDA) through a presidential ordinance to develop islands and likened the move to Narendra Modi’s annexation of Kashmir.

The government on August 31 promulgated an ordinance to establish the authority to develop and manage the islands in the internal and territorial waters of Pakistan.

According to a report by The News, the authority is being created to “initiate and maintain a continuous process of reclamation and urban planning and identify immovable properties and projects suitable for the development of schemes within the internal and territorial waters of Pakistan.”

The Bundal and Buddo islands, on the Arabian Sea and off the coast of Karachi, will be the initial focus of the authority, the publication said.

Reacting strongly to the development, the PPP chairman said his party will oppose the “illegal annexation” of Sindh’s islands.

“I ask how is this act any different to Modi’s actions in occupied Kashmir?”

Bilawal said that the move will be opposed in the National Assembly, provincial assembly and the Senate.

As news of the ordinance began to spread, there was outrage among certain sections in Sindh, the report said.

A seminar addressed by representatives of political parties, including the ruling PPP, and civil society groups strongly criticised the move as impinging on provincial autonomy.

Many prominent lawyers in Sindh have also dubbed the move unconstitutional and vowed to challenge it.

Environmentalists came out strongly on social media alleging that developing the islands would add to environmental degradation and damage fisheries and the mangroves.

Subsequently, on Tuesday, the Sindh cabinet unanimously rejected the presidential ordinance under which PIDA has been established and demanded that the Centre withdraw it at once, according to a statement from the Chief Minister House.

Under the ordinance, the federal government took custody of some islands, which previously were provincial property, to launch mega commercial and housing schemes, said the statement.

The provincial cabinet said that the ordinance was "an attempt to trample the rights of the people of Sindh".