By Francesca Marino
Rome [Italy], October 14 (ANI): Days of demonstrations and protests all over Sindh are being held, led by leaders of the major political parties against the umpteenth nail on the coffin of democracy in Pakistan, to claim the right of the citizens of Sindh and to decide for themselves, according to the Constitution of the country and the international conventions. The Government of Pakistan – Law, and Justice division has in fact established, with the ordinance XI OF 2020: “The Pakistan Island Development Authority”. Stating in the first lines: “Whereas it is expedient to establish an authority for the development and management of the Islands in the internal waters and territorial waters of Pakistan. And whereas the Senate and the National Assembly are not in session and the President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is satisfied that circumstances exist which render it necessary to take immediate action”.
Translation from the bureaucratic language: the ordinance has been emanated without a discussion in the Parliament and, in its 25 pages, it is clearly stated that can not be challenged into Pakistani Courts. Meaning, nobody, starting from the Parliament democratically elected, can challenge the law. To chair the authority will be appointed, as stated by the ordinance, a bureaucrat, a businessman or “a retired officer of the armed forces not below the rank of a lieutenant general” and the authority will be exempted for ten years from paying income taxes.
According to the Pakistan press, the move of the government has been discussed only with the Army and with a couple of businessmen close to it. The ordinance has been emanated, it is clear to everybody, expressly to change the status of the islands located on the coasts of Sindh: in particular to take under the Central government’s control the twin islands of Bhundar (or Bundal) and Dingi. The Army baked Imran Khan’s government is in fact, in a big hurry and without informing the Parliament, trying to ‘develop’ the islands. Pity is that, according to the Pakistani Constitution, the Federal government has no authority to establish projects or mega projects or to build cities on the Sindh’s islands without the approval of the Sindhi government.
Besides this, the government move goes against a number of international conventions, like the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, that clearly state the rights to economic, cultural and social sovereignty of indigenous people and their right to be informed and to ask their consent before starting on their land any kind of project. Not only the government of Sindh has not been consulted or made aware of the move, but the projects, according to locals, are covered under a thick blanket of secrecy.
According to sources and to the voices of Sindhi, there’s China behind the move of the government, and China wants to develop the twin islands on the model of Hong Kong. The deal is apparently been finalised during the last meeting between Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chines President Xi Jinping, along with another deal regarding the Diamer Basha Dam which is now fully part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project even though the people of Sindh have already expressly denied their consent to the project.
Beijing, maintain locals and activists that fear the islands have already been sold to China, not satisfied with the invasion of Balochistan and the exploitation of its resources and of the rights of the citizens, wants now to explore new opportunities for human rights violations and destruction of the environment in Sindh. The coastal area of the region is in fact one of the largest mangrove areas and the seventh-largest delta of the world. ‘Developing’ the area, it has already happened in Balochistan, means destroy the ecosystem and deprive almost a million fishermen of their livelihood. Destroying mangroves barriers will make the coast vulnerable to tsunamis and cyclones.
Sindhis fear also the demographic change: has been calculated in fact that in Balochistan, already ‘developed’ by the Chinese with the help of the Army against the will of its citizens, will be in a couple of years a minority in their own country. Because of this, and because of the now usual treatment of citizens by the central government, a treatment based on torture, enforced disappearances, extra-judicial killings, and so on, not so long ago has been jointly launched by Sindhi and Baloch abroad a proposal to form governments in exile. Sindudesh and Mohajir leaders decided in fact to join hands and Altaf Hussain for the first time demanded complete freedom for Sindh.
The Pakistani generals, the rulers of the country, should think twice before going on with their dictatorship (not so much) in disguise. Baloch and Sindh leaders are calling for unity of the struggle against Islamabad, asking also Pashtun to join them. The usual strategy, labeling protesters as ‘foreign agents’ and ‘traitors’ will not work anymore. If a majority of the citizens in a country are made of traitors and foreign agents, the government, besides the funny declaration made by Imran Khan who states ‘I am democracy’, has a big problem.
(Disclaimer: The views expressed in this column are strictly those of the author)
By Francesca Marino