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January 16, 2021

Ordinance for islands development authority has lapsed, SHC told

Karachi

January 16, 2021

The Pakistan Islands Development Authority (PIDA) Ordinance 2020 has already lapsed as it was not approved by Parliament within the stipulated time, a federal law officer told the Sindh High Court (SHC) on Friday.

During the hearing of a petition against the promulgation of the PIDA ordinance, the federal law officer submitted that the federal government had not extended the ordinance or issued any new ordinance with regard to the status of islands of Sindh.

A division bench of the SHC headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar directed the federal law officer to file comments by January 27 with regard to the federal government’s stance on islands as well as on the memorandum of understanding signed between a foreign company and the federal government for establishing energy and desalination plants on the Bundal island.

The attorney general of Pakistan (AGP) had earlier undertaken before the court that the federal government was already engaged in a discussion with the Sindh government to resolve the differences, if any, with regard to the promulgation of the PIDA Ordinance 2020.

The AGP undertook before the high court that no development work on the project would commence without collaboration and cooperation of the provincial government, adding that all apprehensions of the provincial government would be addressed before taking any action.

Petitioner Shahab Usto had assailed the vires of the PIDA Ordinance 2020 promulgated for the development and management of the islands situated in the internal and territorial waters of the country.

He submitted in the petition that the federal government promulgated the ordinance to establish an authority for off-shore islands of the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan. He submitted that functions and duties largely involving infrastructural development and corresponding administrative and regulatory authorities were not the sole domain of the federation. He submitted that there was no justification to create such an authority based on the provisions of the Article 152 read with the articles 142, 172 and 173 of the constitution.

The petitioner submitted that the constitution provided no such mechanism to turn any part of a province into a federal territory overnight without a constitutional amendment under the Article 239 of the Constitution.

He contended that the impugned ordinance had altered the boundaries of Sindh within the meaning of the Article 239 and hence it was liable to be set aside. He submitted that the specified areas the Bundal and Buddo islands were situated within three nautical miles off the cost of Karachi and hence these islands had been historically treated as extensions of the city and always amendable to the writ of provincial government.

The petitioner submitted that the impugned ordinance had sabotaged the constitutional scheme by which the territorial integrity of the provinces had been guaranteed under the articles 1, 152, 172, 173 and 239 of the constitution and the impugned ordinance was tantamount to usurping the territories of the province.

The SHC was requested to declare the impugned ordinance as unlawful and restrain the federal government from taking over the two islands. The petitioner also requested the high court to direct the federal government not to proceed with the implementation of the impugned ordinance and restrain it from appointing the chairman of the islands development authority for which an advertisement had been published in national dailies.