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KARACHI, July 10: President Asif Ali Zardari on Tuesday sought to remove misgivings about the proposed port city project of Zulfikarabad that it would turn the locals of Thatta into a minority due to the influx of people from other parts of the country when he declared that necessary legislation would be done to ensure that only the locals retain property ownership rights.

On the pattern of other countries where non-locals coming to contribute towards development schemes were issued specific cards, which did not give them right to own property there, the laws related to the proposed port city project would be amended, said the president while speaking to office-bearers of the Pakistan People’s Party, journalists and residents of the district agitating over the project after listening to their apprehensions on the subject.

Sources privy to the meeting told Dawn that Mr Zardari assured them that no village would be removed from the three Talukas falling in the project area; instead the villages would be developed into model villages with all civic facilities.

He also directed Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah to carry out a thorough inquiry into complaints about changes in land records of the revenue department to deprive the real owners of compensation for their land falling in the new port city.

According to the sources, the president asked the government to spread awareness by organising seminars and conferences in Thatta and through all other means of publicity to dispel apprehensions of the residents.

The sources quoted him as saying that this project was being opposed by those who did not want development in Thatta.

Earlier, according to the sources, a detailed briefing on the project was given by the managing director of the Zulfikarabad Authority.

After the meeting, Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Inam Memon told media persons outside the Bilawal House that the participants in the meeting from Thatta district were informed about the importance of the mega project to be implemented with the assistance and cooperation of China.

He said that Zulfikarabad would emerge as a new modern port spread over 1.2 million acres for which the government had signed a memorandum of understanding with China.

The minister said foreign entrepreneurs from other countries as well as local investors were welcomed to make investment in development projects in the new port city.

Of the 1.2 million acres, he said that 0.3 million acres were available but affected with water logging while over 0.9 million acres would be reclaimed from the sea to develop an economic zone.

He said had this project not undertaken by President Zardari, the entire district would have been disappeared over the next 15 years due the erosion of land by the sea.

In reply to a question, he said the nation had already been suffering due to unwise decisions of winding up the Keti Bunder and Thar Coal power projects by the Nawaz Sharif government in the past.

Mr Sharif would not get any chance to drop the Zulfikarabad project, he added, expressing the hope that the outcome of next general elections would be no different from the results of the last elections.

After meeting President Zardari, Irrigation Minister Saifullah Dharejo told the media that according to a briefing given to the president by Met officials there was no threat of floods to the province in the coming monsoon as the rains would be normal.

Yet the government had done all necessary preparations to face any eventuality, he added.

Mr Dharejo said that 76 schemes of irrigation had already been completed and all the breaches that appeared during the last year rains and floods had been plugged with quality work. He said work on the LBOD project was carried out on a war footing.

He said the Sindh government had also set up a central control room and monitoring centres in every district to provide correct information to the media on floods.