Centre’s moves over twin islands termed exercise in futility

Updated 14 Nov 2020

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Spokesperson for the Sindh government Murtaza Wahab. — DawnNewsTV/File
Spokesperson for the Sindh government Murtaza Wahab. — DawnNewsTV/File

KARACHI: Expressing ignorance about the federal government’s moves pertaining to the development of twin islands off the city’s coast, Chief Minister’s Adviser and spokesperson for the Sindh government Murtaza Wahab on Friday reiterated the provincial administration’s stance on the matter saying the centre could not take any unilateral decision as these islands were the property of Sindh under the law and the Constitution.

“Currently, the case is sub judice. The Attorney General of Pakistan also admitted Sindh’s ownership to the twin islands in a recent hearing of the case and stated that no action would be taken without Sindh government’s consent,” he said.

The federal government had never shared any details about the project, he added.

He was talking to Dawn in the backdrop of reports indicating that the controversial Pakistan Islands Development Authority (PIDA) has started work on the Bundal and Buddu islands off Karachi’s coastline.

Describing the federal moves on twin islands as an “exercise in futility”, Barrister Wahab expressed doubts that any party would invest in the project without taking into account ground realities about islands’ ownership and the fact that the PIDA Ordinance, with a validity period of 120 days, would expire next month.

The provincial government, he pointed out, had already conveyed to the federal government its strong reservations in writing as well as through a Sindh Assembly resolution.

Murtaza Wahab says PIDA Ordinance is going to expire next month

“Today, the Sindh High Court was scheduled to hear the twin islands’ case. It got adjourned in view of the death of Peshawar High Court’s chief justice.”

‘Unprecedented response’

According to a press release dated Nov 12 displayed on the website of the Press Information Department, the PIDA has received “unprecedented response” from international firms to its advertisement seeking expression of interest for environmental studies and master planning of Bundal Island.

“PIDA had invited firms via advertisement for master-planning and environmental studies which has attracted large interest amongst international consultants namely Artelia Group UAE, Surbana Jurong and SMEC Singapore, Urban Scale & Nespak Malaysia, Meinhardt Singapore, Bridge Factor/HR Wallingford UK, Royal Haskoning Netherlands, Asian/ Dar Engineering UAE, Seattle Engineering, Allied Engineering, Arch Vision, Naqvi and Siddique, APUDG, GCG Development, APUDG and ECIL.”

The short-listing process of these firms would be initiated by the PIDA and the request for proposal (RFP) would be issued in due course of time after the list is finalised, it adds.

It may be recalled that the Sindh government as well as all major political parties and civil society groups have been fiercely opposing PIDA Ordinance since its promulgation on August 31 by the president.

Its first schedule specifically mentions Bundal and Buddu islands. The Sindh government has been asserting its ownership over the islands, describing any attempt to develop them without the provincial cabinet’s approval as unconstitutional.

Published in Dawn, November 14th, 2020