PM wants islands issue resolved amicably

Updated 22 Oct 2020

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Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Javed Khan calls on Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday. — PID
Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Javed Khan calls on Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday. — PID

ISLAMABAD: Amid the opposition’s strong stand against the Centre’s move to take control of the two islands off Karachi’s coastline, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday said he wanted to resolve the matter amicably.

“The prime minister was of the view that the government wanted to work with Sindh on the issue,” Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Javed Khan told Dawn after meeting Mr Khan at the Prime Minister House.

According to the Prime Minister Office, the attorney general called on the prime minister and discussed important issues, including Pakistan Islands Development Authority (PIDA) Ordinance 2020 and related matters.

They also took up cases being tried in the Supreme Court and the country’s high courts, including those related to the Federal Board of Revenue.

The prime minister lauded the efforts of the attorney general and his team for effectively pursuing cases in the courts. The issue of establishing 120 accountability courts in line with the directives of the Supreme Court also came under discussion.

Meanwhile, a well-placed source said the federal government was waiting for the hearing to start on a petition filed in the Sindh High Court on the administrative control of the islands during which the Centre will present its point of view for the first time.

“The government’s detailed point of view will be helpful for the critics as well as other people to understand the factual situation,” the source added.

Asked under whose jurisdiction the islands fell, the source said the position of both Sindh and the federal government was justified, but they should not be at loggerheads with each other on national issues.

The source said Prime Minister Khan believed that there would be no foreign investment in the country if the Centre and provinces continued to confront each other on matters of national interest.

“We should not escalate the situation; rather it should be de-escalated,” the source added.

President Arif Alvi had promulgated PIDA Ordinance 2020 on Aug 31 to facilitate the Centre to take control of Bundal and Buddo islands along the coast of Karachi, triggering a strong reaction from the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).

The party’s chairman, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, even equated the move with the illegal annexation of India-held Kashmir by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year.

Two weeks after the ordinance was notified, President Alvi held meetings with businessmen, including Malik Riaz, Aqeel Karim Dedhi and Arif Habib, and discussed with them development of Bundal Island.

PIDA is being established “for the development and management of the islands in the internal waters and territorial waters of Pakistan”, but only Bundal and Buddo islands are mentioned as “specified areas” in the first schedule of the ordinance.

PIDA will be directly answerable to the prime minister, who will serve as the patron of the authority. Besides approving policies, the prime minister will also give a go-ahead to all development schemes.

The islands’ issue features as a priority on the agenda of the joint opposition’s Pakistan Democratic Movement.

On Tuesday, the opposition staged a walkout in the Senate in protest against the ordinance.

PPP Senator Mian Raza Rabbani referred to Article 152 of the Constitution, which reads: “The Federation may, if it deems necessary to acquire any land situated in a Province for any purpose connected with a matter with respect to which Parliament has power to make laws, require the Province to acquire the land on behalf, and at the expense, of the Federation or, if the land belongs to the Province, to transfer it to the Federation on such terms as may be agreed or....”

The senator said since no agreement had been reached with the province, promulgation of the ordinance was a violation of the Constitution.

“This extra-constitutional way of rule and advancement towards one unit is a dangerous tendency,” he had warned.

Responding to Mr Rabbani’s reference of Article 172(2), Leader of the House in the Senate Dr Waseem Shahzad clarified that the article reads “all lands, minerals and other things of value within the continental shelf or underlying the ocean beyond the territorial waters of Pakistan shall vest in the Federal Government”, and not with the provincial governments as claimed by the PPP senator.

He said the prime minister and Sindh governor had already assured that nothing would be done without taking the province on board.

Surplus current account

Prime Minister Khan said the country’s current account was in surplus of $73 million during September, which was “great news”.

“Great news for Pakistan. We are headed in right direction finally,” the prime minister tweeted.

The surplus of the first quarter in the country’s current account rose to $792 million compared to a deficit of $1,492 million during the same period last year.

The prime minister also pointed out that exports had grown by 29 per cent and remittances by nine per cent over the previous month.

Wapda briefing

The prime minister was given a detailed briefing on the under-construction Mohmand and Diamer-Bhasha dams during his meeting with Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) Chairman retired Lt Gen Muzammil Hussain.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Khan presided over two separate meetings on healthcare and small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

He stressed the need for provision of better health facilities to people, and said there was a dire need to expand the government’s ambitious health card programme to all parts of the country. Under the programme, people are given a health cover of over Rs700,000.

In the other meeting, the prime minister said the country’s SMEs could not compete with the international markets due to high cost of electricity and gas.

He urged the relevant authorities to finalise a plan to facilitate SMEs.

Citizen’s Portal

Prime Minister Khan announced that the complaints registration and redressal app of the federal government had crossed three million mark of public participation.

Of the 2.6 million complaints that Pakistan Citizen’s Portal (PCP) received, 2.4m were resolved, said Prime Minister Khan in a tweet on Wednesday evening. He also mentioned the satisfaction rate and appealed to the citizens to make use of the technology for effective resolution of their complaints.

Mr Khan tweeted: “Today, Pakistan Citizens Portal crossed 3 million mark of public participation. Out of 2.6 mn complaints 2.4 mn resolved. 5,91000 confirmed satisfaction. PCP has truly empowered the common citizen. I urge all our citizens to use @PakistanPMDU for effective complaints’ resolution.”

Published in Dawn, October 22nd, 2020