NEW DELHI:The island development ordinance promulgated by Pakistani President Arif Alvi seems to be a plan to sell off Pakistani islands to future investors or maybe even China. Controversial sections in the Pakistan Island Development Authority (PIDA) ordinance have triggered massive protests and a major controversy, as people in Sindh feel the Imran Khan government is taking over their land.
A careful reading of the ordinance shows that the federal government is hiding something as the ordinance has several red herrings in it. The ordinance says that once the government takes over the islands in Sindh, located around the Pakistani port of Karachi, the police, judiciary and the local government will not have any jurisdiction over them. Why the Imran Khan government has inserted such a clause has become a matter of speculation and worry.
Geopolitical analyst Mark Kinra says: “It is clear that the federal government does not want any authority or power within the country to interfere with what it is doing on the islands. It is like creating an extra-constitutional authority which has overriding powers over all existing democratic institutions. For the people of Pakistan this is an area of concern as it impinges on their rights and the country’s sovereignty.”
He added, “Sub-Section 1 of Section 45 under ‘Ejectment of unauthorized occupants’ clearly states that subject to the opportunity of hearing, ‘the Chairman or any person authorized by the Chairman may summarily eject any person in unauthorized occupation of any land or property vested in the Authority and may for such ejectment use such force as may be necessary.’ Further, Section 49 under Jurisdiction of courts barred states that, ‘Save as otherwise provided by this Ordinance, nor court or other authority shall have jurisdiction to question the legality or anything done or any action taken under this Ordinance by at the instance of the Authority’.”
Another clause in the ordinance, probably even more controversial, says that the federal government has the right to sell the land acquired through the promulgation of this ordinance. This clause has raised eyebrows as there are hardly any governments in the world that sell or even think of selling land which is considered to be a national asset. Pointing out the relevant section, Kinra says: “Section 47 under Power to dispose of land states that, ‘The Authority may retain, or may lease, sell, exchange, rent or otherwise dispose of any land vested in it’.”
Pakistan’s bosom buddy China itself is an interesting example of this. In China, there is no private ownership of land. The two kinds of land ownership under the Chinese system are State ownership and collective ownership. Private enterprise, foreign investors or companies in China may be provided land by the State but the ownership remains with the government while the structures over the land are with the corporate entity. Land in urban areas, as also land in mountains and other regions, is owned by the State while agricultural land is owned by cooperatives.
However, Pakistan has historically shown a cavalier attitude towards its own land.
Last year, in the first week of December 2019, Khan had announced that he will sell off land and other State assets to foreign and Pakistani investors. The idea was to sell State-owned but unused land at the Dubai Expo 2020-a mega global event that was to be hosted by Emirates. The six-month expo which was to begin in October 2020 has now been postponed by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Opposition parties and Pakistani leaders are protesting over the Pakistan Island Development Authority ordinance
The island development ordinance promulgated by Pakistani President Arif Alvi seems to be a plan to sell off Pakistani islands to future investors or maybe China. Controversial sections in the Pakistan Island Development Authority (PIDA) ordinance have triggered massive protests and a major controversy, as people in Sindh feel the Imran Khan government is taking over their land.
In the recent clashes between India and China on the Ladakh border, the Pakistani government and indeed many Pakistani citizens had expressed extreme happiness and were looking forward to a full-scale Chinese assault on India. What many Pakistanis forgot was the fact that China had used the same salami-slicing tactics with Pakistan much before it applied the same to India. Pakistan had earlier in 1963, through the Pakistan-China Boundary Agreement, ceded the Shaksgam Valley (part of Gilgit-Baltistan region) to its expansionist Big Brother.
More than half a century later, big brother China is still eyeing Pakistani territory. To be fair to China, Pakistani governments have been as eager to part with their land as China has been to acquire theirs. The citizens of Gilgit Baltistan (GB) say that China now controls the mines and most of the land in what India calls the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. With the mammoth $64 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the Pakistani government and its Establishment are ceding more territory to iron-brother China. It is possible that Pakistan does not bother about this land in Kashmir as it has snatched it from India, therefore, sees no loss or shame in giving it away to China.
Wajahat Hasan, chairman of the Gilgit-Baltistan Thinkers Forum (GBTF), has highlighted on many occasions that Pakistan has been taking away land from its own people and giving it away to Chinese companies and the PLA. Hasan even addressed the UN that Pakistan has been intimidating its own people so that it can gift away their lands to China for development. Hasan even alleges that it is the Pakistani Army which is instrumental in parting with land to the communist nation.
Pakistan and its relationship with its own land has remained nebulous.
In 2015, it handed over 2,000 acres of land in Gwadar, Balochistan, to China to build the Gwadar port. The Baloch people, like the people of GB make the same allegations-that Pakistan has been taking over the lands of people and handing them over to China. The people also do not foresee any development in their region through the China-run projects as the Pakistani military and politicians benefit from the sale of their lands.
Kinra says: “It is possible that the Pakistani government and Establishment might be planning to create mega-cities for the Chinese people or even for naval purposes, something which only time can tell. It is, therefore, obvious that they do not want the judiciary, the police or the local authorities to be poking their nose into what China is doing. And by inserting the clause of selling the land, it is once again possible that the federal government may sell off these lands and properties to big investors. For Pakistan, that big investor could be China.”
Concerned Pakistanis and many in the international community feel that it is only a matter of time China usurps Pakistan and fills it up with the Han Chinese.