The country’s top law officer on Friday said the federal government was prepared to amend the Pakistan Islands Development Authority Ordinance to address the reservations of the Sindh government.
“The federal and the provincial governments can resolve the issue of the [Bundal] island’s ownership. It cannot be addressed by the judiciary,” Attorney General for Pakistan Khalid Javed Khan told reporters after appearing before the Sindh High Court in connection with the petitions filed against the ordinance promulgated by the Centre to develop islands off the shores of Karachi.
“The people of Sindh will benefit if there is development on the islands,” he added. “I assure the people of Sindh that nobody would infringe upon their rights.”
Earlier, the attorney general told the SHC that development work on the islands would not be started without taking the Sindh government into confidence.
The lawyer for the petitioners told the court that that federal territory in the sea started after 12 nautical miles and Bundal and Buddo islands off the coast of Karachi were properties of the province as they fell within that limit.
He also informed the court that his clients were concerned about the environmental impact of the development work on the islands, particularly about the damage it would cause to the mangroves.
The attorney general told the SHC that the federal government was aware of the reservations of the fishermen community and would ensure that mangroves were not affected by the development work.
Sindh Assistant Advocate General Shehryar Mehar told the court that the provincial assembly had passed a resolution against the ordinance.
The attorney general replied that the federal government respected the resolution passed by the Sindh Assembly and the reservations of the provincial government would be addressed.
President Arif Alvi had promulgated the PIDA ordinance on August 31 to develop the islands off the Karachi coast. However, the Sindh government opposed the ordinance and requested the Centre to withdraw it.
Maritime Affairs Minister Ali Zaidi said that the two islands fell in the jurisdiction of the Port Qasim Authority, which is a federal entity. He further argued that Sindh government had given its consent to the construction work on the islands through a letter dated July 6, 2020.
However, the Sindh government, through a letter to the cabinet division secretary, rolled back its earlier decision to hand over the islands to the federal government. It said that the government engaged with the Centre for the development of Island with certain conditions, which had not been fulfilled.