A city for the rich
“WHEN the Diamond City comes up on Bundal (Bhundaarh in Sindhi) island all the rich of Karachi will move in there and the poor will be left behind. We will then not even get drinking water,” observes Ahmad (not his real name) with profound wisdom. Ahmad has been in the fishing trade for decades. He studied up to grade four in Ibrahim Hyderi village before joining his father in his boat trips to learn the maritime skills. He now knows the Indus delta and its various creeks, where he plies his hired motor launch, like the back of his sea-worn hands.
The islands Ahmad was referring to have been in the news for sometimes now. It has been reported that Port Qasim Authority has signed an agreement with Emaar, the Dubai-based construction company, to develop Bundal and the adjoining Buddo (Dingi in local parlance) island into an exclusive area for a diplomatic enclave, an offshore financial district, hotels, recreational spots, water sports and a five star residential area. According to reports the Governor of Sind, members of the local government and the Board of Revenue are working on the plan. To obtain the Port Qasim Authority’s point of view I put in a number of calls but was told that only the chairman is authorized to speak to the press. The rear admiral was locked in a meeting every time I tried to reach him and he never returned my call.
Ahmad took us on a cruise of the islands in the Phitti Creek, one of the 17 major creeks of the shrinking Indus delta which still, along with five others, receives fresh water from the river. The remaining are now fed only by the salty waters of the Arabian Sea.
A trip to Bundal and Buddo was most rewarding and exploded quite a few myths being propagated by supporters of the island project. They are not exactly as they are being described – uninhabited and deserted, and of no use to any one. Buddo which is about 20 minutes launch ride away from Ibrahim Hyderi is lush green and has a rich mangrove plantation. There were camels grazing there and Ahmad informed me that the animals swim from the nearby coast and are brought here to allow them to have their fill. Wildlife is in abundance as the pictures we took testify to.
It took us another 20 minutes to reach Bundal, the largest island in the delta, eight km in length and four km in width. It emerges as a solid block of mangroves as you approach it from the north. But further south the mangroves thin out and sand dunes take their place pointing to the wave erosion taking place there. As the launch moves on there emerges a shrine – that of the loisare held after Eid every year. The changes in the fresh water courses in this area – many man-made — have not been good for the mangroves. The ravages inflicted by human development have been worse. From 263,000 hectares in 1977 the mangroves covered area has shrunk to a mere 80,000 hectares in 2002.
The sea weaving through the inlets in the islands, the greenery, the wildlife and the clear blue sky converge to present scenic beauty untouched by human hands. But for how long? When Emaar enters the scene and fortifies these islands as claimed by the Port Qasim Authority, the first casualty would be the ecology of the area. Land would be reclaimed from the sea, as is already being done off the DHA coast, and a bridge 1.5 km in length would link Bundal with the mainland. The mangroves will obviously have to go. The wildlife would migrate when its natural habitat is disturbed. These changes will mean the end of the breeding grounds for the fish, shrimps and green turtles.
Click to view the larger image
The fisher folk, the real stakeholders in the area, have been deeply upset. They feel the noose tightening round their neck. They can anticipate the fate that awaits them. When the PAF base at Korangi Creek came up they were shooed away and asked to keep a distance from the shore. Then the Marina and Creek Clubs made more areas out of bound for them. The new city will take away their historical rights to vital resources, namely, water, air and biodiversity, which the Indian activist Vandana Shiva refers to as the ‘common spaces’. Conventionally these cannot be privatised and are held in perpetuity as the common property of a community. Not so when 12,000 acres are handed over for development.
Bundal is also used by the fishermen as a transit point when they venture out to the high seas for fishing. We saw some temporary shelters and families camped there. They were drying their catch of fish and mending their nets. We could have disembarked there but jumping off the launch to a smaller boat to reach the shore didn’t appear to be a very inviting exercise. The five children who had accompanied us with our seven-man crew nimbly made it to the shore. They have virtually lived on the boats I was told, as they are too poor to go to school.
Nearly 4,000 fishing boats make a trip every day near the Bundal coast. The Fisher folk Forum fears their routes will be disturbed. Even today, the deep water channel has narrowed down due to the changes that have taken place. With more land reclamation, the construction of a bridge and deforestation, the depth and width of the navigation channels will be affected.
Given these implications, the debate on jurisdiction – the federal or the Sindh government’s – seems to detract from the real issue. That is the need to preserve the ecology of the area, as any environment impact assessment would confirm. Land use will ignore social and environmental considerations. Worst of all the project will be undertaken for the rich without consulting the stakeholders who also happen to be poor. The class divide will widen further.
Ahmad understands this too well. Hence his plaintive query, “Can’t you stop the new city?”.
Who owns the allotted islands?
LAST month, the federal government allotted, through the Port Qasim Authority (PQA), the Bundal and Buddo islands located off the Karachi coast to a UAE-based real estate giant Emaar. This company is to develop a modern city on this land with an investment of $43 billion over the next 13-16 years.
The ownership of the islands is disputed as the Sindh government claims that they were not included in the area leased to the PQA for port related operations. However Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz declared (on Oct 14) during his visit to assumed owners besides the PQA including the Defence Housing Authority, Pakistan Navy and the Sindh government. Sadly the historical claim to ownership of the islands of the poor fishermen is not recognised.
The City District Government of Karachi (CDGK) has also laid to the islands and according to reports appearing in this newspaper (Oct 8) it signed an MoU with four entrepreneurs (including a firm from Thailand) for establishing an IT infrastructural project. This envisaged the ‘Karachi Technology Island City’ to be set up on a 300-acre piece of land, opposite the creek of Karachi. At the MoU signing ceremony, the City Nazim at the time, Naimatullah Khan, had assured the signatories that the city government was ready to provide land and other infrastructural facilities for the project but federal minister for science and technology, Dr Atta-ur-Rehman, who was the chief guest on the occasion, apparently understood the implications of the ownership issue and urged all the stakeholders to be clear about giving a legal shape to the project.
PQA has been a major player in the race for occupying the islands. At one stage it was considering the Bundal island as one of the potential sites for setting up a terminal for liquid natural gas (LNG) and a consortium of leading Japanese and Korean companies had expressed interest in setting up an LNG terminal at Bundal island in response to an Expression of Interest (EOI) issued by PQA. This sparked a strong reaction from the Sindh government which challenged the ownership of the area.
At one stage the Port Qasim Auhtority had also allotted 2,700 acres of land to Pakistan Navy, without any authorisation. Although Pakistan Navy later shifted the facility to Ormara for which the land
was acquired though it still
lays claim over the Bundal island.
The Defence Housing Authorityreportedly approached General Musharraf in 2001 to get this land to develop a theme park. The Chief Executive’s secretariat sent a letter to the government of Sindh, which stated, “while approving the concept of developing Bundal and Khipranwala islands, the Chief Executive directed that first the status of ownership of these islands be determined by DHA asking comments from the government, the ministry of communications, PQA and Pakistan Navy.” However the project requiring an investment of 69 million dollars could not take off as the Sindh government took a strong stand on the ownership of the island.
The EDO (Revenue) of Karachi through a letter sent on Sept 6, 2001 reported, “the ownership of these islands vests in the provincial government. In the past the government of Sindh has made allotments to DHA and PQA but these islands have not been allotted.”
The Sindh government continued to claim the ownership of the islands. In a meeting held at Sindh Governor’s House on Feb 23, 2006 the Senior Member Board of Revenue said that the islands are the property of the government of Sindh. According to him, when PQA was established, its area of operation was defined, which does not include the Bundal island.
The Senior Minister (Excise and Taxation) also endorsed this point of view and said that Bundal island has never been allotted to PQA.
The provincial law department is also of the view that the land allotted by the federal government was the property of the provincial government. According to the law secretary Syed Ghulam Nabi Shah, under Sindh Land Revenue Code (Repealed) all lands, the bed of the sea, harbours, creeks below the high-water mark etc. were the property of the provincial government. Similarly, Section 50 of the Sindh Revenue Act, 1967, also upholds the same right of the provincial government. The Sindh High Court has also given a judgment in favour of the provincial government in a dispute with the DHA about the latter’s claim to 250 acres of reclaimed land near the seashore of Clifton beach.
Barrister Zamir Ghumro says the federal government does not possess any land in any province and all land within the jurisdiction of any province belongs to the province only. However the federal government can approach the provincial government for acquiring land for a specific purpose. But this will not change the ownership status of the land. In this context PQA cannot be the owner of the island, since it acquired the area from Sindh province for port related activities only.
A letter of the law department, dated Sept 9, 2000 explains the legal position: “Under Article 172 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973, the land reclaimed through natural or artificial process located in the province of Sindh vests in the government of Sindh. This view gets support from the observations made by Mr. Justice Shabbir Ahmed, Honorable Judge of the High Court of Sindh, while deciding the injunction application by the government of Sindh in suit No 778 filed by the government of Sindh.”
According to Section 50 of the Land Revenue Act of 1967 any forest or quarry or any unclaimed, unoccupied, deserted or waste land or any spontaneous produce or other accessory interest in land belonging to no landowners, it shall be presumed to belong to the government.
Article 172 (1) of the constitution also supports the point of view of the Sindh government. It says, “any property which has no rightful owner shall, if located in a province, vests in the government of that province and in every other case, in the federal government.”
It is strange that no one from the local communities has ever been consulted to ascertain the historical rights of fishermen, who have lived and worked in the area long before the country came on the world map.
Extension study on origin of Urdu
The claim that Urdu was Punjab’s mother tongue generated great deal of interest and aroused much controversy when it was discussed in this column a couple of years ago. Prof Fateh Mohammad Malik, Chairman Muqtadera (National Language Authority), who had made this well researched postulation in the monthly Akhbar-i-Urdu, kept quiet as correspondent after correspondent wrote to the editor contesting his position. To some the idea was bizarre, to others baseless and unacceptable. Unfortunately very few opinions referred to the sources that Prof Malik had used to base his thesis on.
Hafiz Mahmood Shirani who had boldly laid out his claim to this effect in a series of detailed and documented essays in his book, Punjab Mein Urdu, was debunked by some as a crank, like most authors of new ideas generally are, but as they should have, they did not seem to have paid due attention to the views of other eminent persons like Sufi Tabbassum, Maulana Mohammad Hussain Azad, Dr Jamil Jalbi et al. To some in the Indian Punjab, understandably, the idea of owning Urdu appeared as abhorrent as owning an illegitimate baby. By publishing a comprehensive and focussed body of work on Urdu’s origin, Muqtadera (the National Language Authority), has shown how not only in Punjab but in all provinces of Pakistan the eagerness to own Urdu has all along been evident in scholarly studies that trace its roots to their respective soils. It appears the relationship of Urdu to Punjab is critically close like charged particles sparking on coming near.
Extrapolating on Shirani’s title the five volumes are named Pakistan Mein Urdu. The first volume digs up old roots in Sindh. Hisamuddin Rashdi suggests Hafiz Shirani stops short of reaching Sindh where the earliest Muslim Hindu interaction took place, if Urdu’s origin is to be traced to the arrival of Muslims in India. He quotes Suleman Nadvi’s opinion that “that which we call Urdu today must have had its form developed in the Vale of Sindh”. Among other writers who have dwelt upon the subject and discussed Urdu-Sindhi linguistic interaction and contribution of Sindhi writers to Urdu literature are Prof Rahmat Farrukhabadi, Dr Jamil Jalbi, Dr Sharfuddin Islahi, Sheikh Ayaz, Dr Nabi Bakhsh Baloch, Dr Yusuf Khushk, Syed Mazhar Jalil, Dr Mohanlal Premi, Dr Shahida Begum, Mirza Qulich Beg, Syed Mustafa Ali Barelvi, Dr Mueenuddin Aqueel, Himayat Ali Shaer, Dr Rauf Parekh, Ali Raza Rind, Syed Javed Iqbal, Asif Farrukhi and Samina Qureshi.
The second volume probes Urdu’s evolution in Balochistan predating the arrival of Arabs in Sindh as Qalat and Khuzdar had been under Muslim rule since 23 Hijra. Balochistan was the Turan province of the Eastern Caliphate where Arabic, Persian and Balochi languages including Turkic and Kurdish were pooling their vocabularies to form what would one day become Urdu in its travel further into the heart of the subcontinent. Dr Abdur Razzaq Sabir, Ghaus Bakhsh Sabir, Dr Inamul Haque Kausar, Bairam Ghauri, Prof Anwar Rumani, Dr Jamil Jalbi have discussed the possibilities of such a likelihood in their essays. Wahid Buzdar goes deeper into the past to discuss the commonality of our linguistic heritage. In all, this volume has 57 very informative articles covering a range of related topics and literary figures of Baluchistan who have made important contribution to Urdu literature.
The third volume of Pakistan Mein Urdu stretches Urdu roots to the mountainous belt of Sarhad through which the Ghaznavide invasions started in AD 1001. Hindko, the language of Peshawar and Kohat is not a Punjabi variant as is generally thought. It is the earliest form of Urdu, says Farigh Bukhari. Prof Mohsin Ehsan doesn’t think differently. He notes its reach into the one time impassable valleys of Chitral and Kafiristan where Sanskrit, Persian, Dari and Chitrali (Khowar) have been spoken for ages but where Urdu is widely understood. Khatir Ghaznavi similarly has no hesitation in arguing in favour of Hindko as Urdu’s well spring. This volume also includes studies of influences and sources in the Northern Areas (Gilgit- Baltistan) that remained remote and cut off from the rest of the subcontinent up until recent times. Badshah Munir Bukhari in his scholarly research has discussed the phonetic similarities between Urdu and Khowar, and Inamullah with Toorwali. Other studies in this volume touch upon topics like Urdu and the Khudai Khidmatgar movement, literary associations, the tradition of humour in Sarhad, and literary figures — Patras Bukhari, Ghani Khan, Ahmad Fraz, Sardar Abdur Rab Nashtar, Sajjad Ahmad Jan, Dr Syed Abdullah.
In the fourth volume on Kashmir, Chaudhri Mohammad Ashraf (advocate high court) after 10 years of research comes to the conclusion that Gojri is the primordial broth in which the genesis of Urdu took place. And, this fact, Chaudhri Sahib alleges, researchers and scholars of all denominations have been trying to hide in order not to weaken their own pet positions. He quotes Dr Jamil Jalbi: “Gujerat at that time was Urdu’s first and only centre in the subcontinent. Shah Burhanuddin Jaanam who is a true Deccanite calls Gojri as his language at several places in his writings. In the words of Chaudhri Sahib, Urdu is Gojri’s daughter. Both kept to their separate paths. The mother roamed the mountains while the daughter reached the courts to show its elegance, whims and fancy ways. One couldn’t agree less with this subtle dig of our lawman.
The fifth and last volume of this extended study starting with Hafiz Mahmood Shirani’s ground breaking work presents views of eminent scholars of Urdu literature and linguistics, among them Sufi Tabassum, Sher Ali Khushk, Ainulhaque Faridkoti, Ikram Chughtai, Dr Memon Abdul Majeed Sindhi, Dr Jamil Jalbi, Bazgha Qandeel, Sheikh Abdul Qadir, Makhdoom Altaf Hussain, Dr Tahir Taunsvi, Prof Rubina Tareen, Dr Mehr Abdul Haque, Shahid Ahmad Dehlavi, Hameedullah Hashmi, Prof Ashraf Kamal, Dr Gauhar Naushahi and Pandit Brij Mohan. In the concluding article Prof Fateh Mohammad Malik veers the discussion away from the narrow geographical issue of Urdu’s birth to the wider and deeper terrain of its philosophical and civilisational moorings. He sees it evolving in the distinct egalitarian culture of Islam in contrast to the stratified Brahmanic order that held prakrit or the language of the common people as lowly, impure and demonic.