The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Thursday issued notices to the federal and provincial authorities on a petition challenging the Pakistan Islands Development Authority (PIDA) Ordinance.
A two-judge bench, headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar, directed the governments to submit their replies at the next hearing scheduled for October 23.
A few days ago it emerged that President Arif Alvi had promulgated the ordinance on August 31, keeping parliament out of the loop. The first schedule of the ordinance mentions Sindh’s two islands — Bundal and Buddo.
The Sindh government had reacted fiercely, asserting its ownership over the islands and describing any attempt to develop them without the provincial cabinet’s approval as unconstitutional. PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari had likened the move to India’s illegal annexation of Kashmir.
However, the issue took another turn after Maritime Affairs Minister Ali Zaidi posted a letter on social media from the Sindh government dated July 6, making Bundal island “available” to the Centre.
Meanwhile, Information Minister Shibli Faraz on Wednesday had accused the provincial administration of “playing politics” over the issue.
During today's court hearing, petitioner Advocate Shahab Usto contended that the ordinance was promulgated in violation of Articles 1, 97 and 172 of the Constitution.
He argued that after the 18th Amendment, water within 12 nautical miles belonged to the province. Both the islands along with the Karachi coast, he said, are located within this distance and belong to Sindh.
He added that such amendments could not be made in the Constitution through an ordinance; they could only be passed by a two-third majority in the national and provincial assemblies.
He argued that after the promulgation of the ordinance, both islands had lost writ jurisdiction since these areas don't come under the domain of the SHC or the Islamabad High Court. He contended that the ordinance should be declared ultra vires since it violated the Constitution.