Centre ‘already engaged’ in talks with Sindh over islands issue, SHC told

Published October 24, 2020
The top law officer of the federal government on Friday assured the Sindh High Court that no development work on the project of twin islands along Karachi’s coast would commence without collaboration and cooperation of the Sindh government.— Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons/File
The top law officer of the federal government on Friday assured the Sindh High Court that no development work on the project of twin islands along Karachi’s coast would commence without collaboration and cooperation of the Sindh government.— Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons/File

KARACHI: The top law officer of the federal government on Friday assured the Sindh High Court that no development work on the project of twin islands along Karachi’s coast would commence without collaboration and cooperation of the Sindh government.

Attorney General of Pakistan Barrister Khalid Jawed Khan informed a two-judge bench headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar that the Pakistan Islands Development Authority (PIDA) Ordinance was not the last word as necessary amendment may be made, if required, after due deliberation with the provincial government.

When a petition challenging the vires of the recently promulgated PIDA Ordinance came up for hearing on Friday, the bench was informed two more petitions were filed on the same issue.

The bench issued notices to the top federal and provincial law officers on the new petitions.

The lawyers for all the petitioners submitted that as an interim measure some restraining orders might be passed so that any development work could not be started there.

Attorney general assures court no work on islands would be launched without Sindh govt’s cooperation

The attorney general argued that in case of a dispute between the federation and province, the Supreme Court had jurisdiction to entertain the proceedings under Article 184 of the Constitution.

However, he maintained that the federal government was already engaged in discussion with the Sindh government to resolve the difference, if any, with regard to the promulgation of the impugned ordinance.

Barrister Khan assured the bench that the development work would not be started on the project without cooperation of provincial authorities and all apprehensions of the Sindh government would be addressed.

He argued that all environmental issues including mangrove trees would be fully addressed and protected and averred that the purpose of promulgating the ordinance was not to take over the islands but to develop the same.

“The ordinance is not the last word and if required, necessary amendment may be made after due deliberation and discussion with the provincial government,” the attorney general concluded.

The bench took his statement on record and asked the respondents to submit their replies before Nov 13.

Initially, Advocate Shahab Usto had petitioned the SHC and submitted that the object of the impugned ordinance was reportedly to establish an authority for offshore islands of Sindh and Balochistan and particularly Bundal and Buddo islands along Karachi’s coast.

The petitioner submitted that the impugned ordinance had sabotaged the constitutional scheme by which the territorial integrity of the provinces had been guaranteed under the Constitution.

Pleas concerning MDCAT tests

The same bench has directed the Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC) to bring on record till Oct 28 the latest development regarding preparation of syllabus and announcement of date with a sample paper for the medical and dental colleges admission test (MDCAT) in the province.

Five public medical and health universities of Sindh and some pre-medical students filed two petitions against the PMC and the admission test in province, respectively.

At the outset of the hearing, the lawyer for the PMC said that comments had already been filed.

The bench said that it was necessary to bring on record these latest developments before or till the next hearing.

The counsel for the national health services ministry also filed statement and copies had been provided to the lawyer for petitioners.

The additional advocate general submitted that he would file a reply on behalf of the provincial admission committee during the course of the day with an advance copy to the counsel for petitioners.

The bench allowed an application to name the National Testing Service as respondent and directed the counsel for petitioners to file an amended title within two days.

The deputy attorney general submitted that since the question of law was involved and vires were under challenge, he would argue on question of law.

On Oct 16, the bench had restrained the provincial authorities from holding the admission test for medical and dental universities and colleges in the province due to a conflict of approach between the federal and provincial authorities over the admission policy.

Published in Dawn, October 24th, 2020

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