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PPP slams govt for not laying PIDA Ordinance before parliament

PPP slams govt for not laying PIDA Ordinance before parliament

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) on Saturday criticised the government for not laying the controversial Pakistan Islands Development Authority (PIDA) Ordinance, 2020, before the National Assembly or the Senate when both houses were in session on Friday.

“Both houses of parliament have met but this ordinance was still not laid before them. There is a clear mala fide intent in not tabling this ordinance before parliament. The entire opposition is united against this blatant usurpation of provincial powers and rights of indigenous people,” said PPP’s parliamentary leader in the Senate Sherry Rehman in a statement.

She said Article 172 of the Constitution clearly stated that “any property which has no rightful owner shall, if located in a province, vest in the government of that province”. The islands, she said, belonged to Sindh and this ordinance was a blatant attempt by the federal government to overreach into the concerns of the Sindh province.

Says Centre wants to take control of 300 small and big islands located off the Sindh coastal belt

“It is ultra vires of the Constitution in more ways than one, which is why they are afraid to bring it to parliament but they will have to,” Ms Rehman said.

The opposition parties last week submitted a resolution to the Senate Secretariat, seeking disapproval of the PIDA Ordinance in an effort to block the Centre’s move to take control of the two islands for developing them as trade and investment hubs and international tourist destinations.

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 PPP-led provincial government of Sindh.

Having a majority in the 104-member Senate, the opposition recently managed to defeat the government on the key FATF-related legislation, forcing the latter to get the bills 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. 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 on Aug 31 promulgated the PIDA Ordinance to allow the federal government to take control of the Bundal and Buddo islands 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 last year by the Modi 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.

In her statement, Ms Rehman said that there were 300 small and big islands located off the Sindh coastal belt which the federal government wanted to take under its control but it was forgetting that these were the property of the indigenous people living there and their land could not be taken away without their consent.

“Sindh’s people will not allow federal government to steal and misuse its lands,” she added.

The PPP senator explained, “Territorial Waters and Maritime Zones Act, 1976, confirms the opinion that nothing in that Act empowers the federal government to assume control over and vest in itself the ownership of the Bundal and Buddo Islands.”

Published in Dawn, October 18th, 2020

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