Pakistani fishermen fear development of islands into ‘new Dubai’ could empty their nets

Pakistani fishermen pull a fishing net ashore at the Clifton beach in Karachi on April 1, 2019. (AFP)
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Updated 05 November 2020

Pakistani fishermen fear development of islands into ‘new Dubai’ could empty their nets

  • Bundal and Dingi taken over by federal government through an overnight presidential ordinance last month, $50 billion investment planned
  • Fisherfolk say they have not been consulted, are leading a protest campaign saying fishermen are “the rightful owners” of the islands off Arabian Sea coast

KARACHI: In the quarrel over building a gleaming “new Dubai” on two small islands off Pakistan’s Arabian Sea coast, the voices of the fishermen who have plied these waters for centuries often go unheard.
Steering his boat out of the Jamote jetty in the village of Ebrahim Haideri, 25-year-old fisherman Shakil said the islands around which he catches fish, crab and shrimp are now patrolled by armed guards.
“We have been fishing in these waters for centuries,” said Shakil, who did not want to give his full name. But when he tried to go near the island of Dingi recently he was apprehended by military guards and ordered to get into the “murgha” stress position, he said.
“If we did not do it they said they would hit us with batons,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
A month ago, the twin islands of Bundal and Dingi at the mouth of Qur’angi Creek in the port city of Karachi in Pakistan’s Sindh province were taken over by the federal government through an overnight presidential ordinance.
With an investment of about $50 billion, the government aims to develop a city that will “surpass Dubai” and create 150,000 jobs, Sindh Governor Imran Ismail said at a news conference in the capital Islamabad earlier this month.
But fisherfolk say the development on the islands — spread over 12,000 acres (49 square kms) — could destroy their livelihoods and that they have not been consulted.
“We continue to remain invisible to both the (Sindh and federal) governments,” Mohammad Ali Shah, founder of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) that aims to protect the rights of fishermen and fishing communities, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Nasir Hussain Shah, the Sindh government’s information minister, rejected the central government’s takeover of the islands and said Islamabad had not shared its development plans. Pakistan’s Minister for Maritime Affairs, Ali Haider Zaidi, did not respond to a request for comment.
The PFF is leading a protest campaign against the island development, arguing the fishermen are “the rightful owners” of the territory. It has called upon the provincial government to protect the rights of Sindh’s fishermen.
“Do not think of these islands as mere tracts of land,” said Shah. “We are inextricably linked to them by culture, custom and heritage.”
He said thousands of fisherfolk and their families gather for traditional festivals on these islands every year.
But more importantly, the fishing communities are concerned about the impact of construction — and the diversion and pollution of water — on the islands’ fragile ecosystem.
“After the creeks dry up, the mangroves will die. This, in turn, will destroy the habitat of many marine creatures which is a source of our livelihood,” Shah said.
LIVELIHOODS
Fishing provides employment to 600,000 people in Sindh province, according to Sindh Fisheries Department’s director, Aslam Jarwar.
“Seventy-one percent of Pakistan’s fish comes from the province through the Arabian Sea, estuaries, canals and inland lakes,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The coastal waters are the habitat for 40 species of fish and shellfish and 15 species of shrimp, which make up 60% of Pakistan’s fisheries exports.
For fisherman Kamal Shah, the development will spell disaster: “They might as well kill us; we exist because of these islands, if they occupy them, it will be a death blow to our livelihoods,” he said.
Although no one lives permanently on the islands, lawyer Shuhab Usto said the fisherfolk had customary rights to use the land. He said it is clear the islands have been used as “transit stations” and “easement” by the fishermen for centuries.
“Suddenly dislodging them and depriving them of their right to earn a living is not legally tenable,” as it contravenes Articles 9 and 18 of Pakistan’s constitution, he said.
And the takeover of the islands has caused legal confusion for the fisherfolk, he said.
“Which high court do the complainants (fishermen) take their petition to? If the islands are the federal government’s property, these are beyond the territorial jurisdiction of the Sindh High Court,” he said, while the high court in Islamabad would not have jurisdiction over the territory.
PROMISED EMPLOYMENT
The government has promised employment for the fisherfolk once construction work gets started although no details have been shared. Kamal Shah is skeptical.
“In the last over two decades the fishermen had been ousted from three prime fishing spots. Not only that, no villager has been employed either,” Kamal Shah said, adding that not only have fish stocks dwindled, but the areas in which the fishermen can cast their nets has shrunk due to development.
“Our people ... used to fish where you now see the Marina Club and that string of restaurants,” he said, pointing in the direction of the private club reserved for the wealthy to moor their boats. “We are shooed away from there,” he said.
A nearby Pakistan Air Force base and the Port Qasim Authority, controlled by the Ministry of Maritime Affairs, are high security zones and security patrols prevent fishermen from entering the surrounding waters.
“The same will happen when developers come on these islands; we will be told we are trespassing,” said Shah.
The father of eight does not want his children to join his profession. “All my kids are studying,” he said with pride. “It is best they keep away from this.”
It is not the first time the islands have been eyed for development. In 2006, the government signed the multi-billion-dollar Diamond Bar City project with a Dubai-based real estate firm to develop the islands.
And in 2013, Pakistani real estate tycoon Malik Riaz signed an agreement with a US investor to build the “world’s tallest building” on the island city. Nothing materialized from either deal.
Mohammad Ali Shah, the PFF’s leader, said he was hopeful the latest development plans would also be quashed.
“We want the governments, for once and for all, to make a policy that these islands will remain their natural self,” he said.


PM Khan performs Umrah, meets OIC Secretary General

Updated 09 May 2021

PM Khan performs Umrah, meets OIC Secretary General

  • Khan also visited and prayed at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah
  • Khan arrived in the Kingdom on Friday at the invitation of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is on a three-day official tour of Saudi Arabia, performed the Umrah pilgrimage in Makkah on Sunday after which he met the Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), according to the PM office.

 

 

He is soon scheduled to address the Pakistani community at a ceremony regarding Roshan Digital Account in Jeddah.
Khan performed Umrah alongside his wife, Bushra Bibi, and was received by a number of officials of the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques and the special force for the security of the Grand Mosque in Makkah.

 

 

Khan arrived in the Kingdom on Friday alongside high ranking Pakistani officials at the invitation of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the two leaders held wide ranging bilateral and delegation level talks on Saturday in Jeddah.
Earlier on Sunday, Khan left Madinah headed for Jeddah, after he visited the Prophet’s Mosque and performed prayers there.
He was seen off from Prince Mohammad bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah by a number of senior, civilian and military officials.


Pakistan's Kamyab Jawan invests in youth, regardless of gender

Updated 09 May 2021

Pakistan's Kamyab Jawan invests in youth, regardless of gender

  • PM's aide says Kamyab Jawan aims to support youth, especially from marginalized communities, by creating employment opportunities
  • Pakistan has the world's youngest population, with 68 percent of its residents being below the age of 30

RAWALPINDI: In its most recent project, the government's program focused on empowering youth, has invested in a tailoring shop of a transwoman fashion designer — a move activists welcome as a great step toward social inclusion and equality.

Pakistan has the world's youngest population, with 68 percent of its residents being below the age of 30.

The government’s Kamyab Jawan program aims to invest in Pakistan’s youth by creating employment opportunities. It has so far supported 10,000 young businesses with Rs8.5 billion, according to the prime minister's special assistant on youth affairs, Usman Dar.

As he shared a video narrating Naz's struggle in the face of social ostracism against the trans community, Dar said in a tweet on Sunday that the government is especially "working for the empowerment of marginalised strata of society."

To run her business, Naz Boutique, the Lahore-based designer received Rs1 million from the program.

“I as a transgender person want to transform people’s mindsets,” Naz said in the video, “we can do more than just dance or be involved in negative communities.”

“When I saw that the prime minister has launched this scheme, I felt optimistic ... When programs like this come about, there are always only two columns, one for men, one for women, but this time the third gender was there, and I really appreciate the initiative."

Nayyab Ali, a transgender politician and activist, told Arab News the program is a "great step towards financial inclusion of vulnerable communities in Pakistan," as employment exclusion, which deprives people of opportunities in social and economic activities, is the worst form of inequality.

"Being a community representative, I appreciate this step, it should be extended at a larger scale," Ali said. "Socioeconomic issues are the leading cause that pushes the transgender community towards the extreme level of marginalization within society and creates barriers in their joining mainstream society."

"Pakistan must collectively work towards inclusion through participation, social acceptability, and policy reforms to ensure and enforce the rights of all individuals and Kamyab Jawan in righty working in this direction."


Pakistan’s largest COVID-19 vaccination center opens in Karachi

Updated 09 May 2021

Pakistan’s largest COVID-19 vaccination center opens in Karachi

  • The center has a capacity for between 25,000- 30,000 people
  • CanSino, AstraZeneca and Sinopharm vaccines will be administered at the center

KARACHI: Pakistan’s largest vaccination space opened on Sunday at the Karachi Expo Center in southern Sindh province, which holds the capacity to tend to between 25,000-30,000 people daily and will be open 24 hours a day.
Pakistan has announced that it will open vaccinations for all age groups after the Eid holidays.
Sindh Health Minister, Dr. Azra Pechuho, inaugurated the mass vaccination center and said that starting May 16th, all individuals above the age of 18 would be able to get vaccinated in the province.
Currently, only people above 40 years are eligible to get registered for the vaccination through a government portal.

Health workers at the inauguration of mega vaccination center at Karachi expo center on Sunday, May 9, 2021. (Photo courtesy: Sindh Health Department)

A hundred cubicles have been established in hall no.4 of the mega center, in line with standard operating procedures (SOP’s), and a workforce of around 500 medical professionals and volunteers will be offering their services at the center. 
The provincial health minister also said the center would be offering CanSino, AstraZeneca and Sinopharm vaccines.
Pakistan has so far received 10.19 million doses of different vaccines from China-- Sinopharm, Sinovac and CanSino-- while 1.23 million doses of British vaccine Astrazenca procured through the COVAX program were received on Saturday, according to official data.
Currently, Pakistan is battling a third wave of COVID-19, and on Sunday reported 3,785 new infections and 118 deaths.


Pakistan's top leadership condemns Israeli 'apartheid' against Palestinians

Updated 09 May 2021

Pakistan's top leadership condemns Israeli 'apartheid' against Palestinians

  • ‘Violation of norms of humanity and law,’ says PM Khan
  • Israeli police opened fire on Palestinians protesting evictions from their homes in East Jerusalem

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's Prime Minister and President on Sunday condemned Israeli attacks on Palestinian worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque-- with President Alvi terming the attacks an 'apartheid'-- in the wake of ongoing protests against forced evictions of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem.
At least 90 Palestinians were injured by Israeli police on Saturday in a crackdown on protesters in the Old City of Jerusalem, as tens of thousands of Muslim worshippers prayed at nearby Al-Aqsa Mosque.  
A day earlier, over 200 protesters were injured when Israeli security forces fired tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades on Palestinians who opposed being forced out of their homes claimed by Jewish settlers.
"It is a shame that Israeli apartheid against Palestinians continues. Atrocious attack on peaceful praying Muslims is given the usual media spin of 'clashes,'" President Arif Alvi said on Twitter.
"My brothers don't lose hope," he added. "Time is near when International Politics will be based on morality & not on vested interests."

 

 

Prime Minister Imran Khan in a separate tweet also strongly condemned the Israeli forces attack and said it was in violation of “all norms of humanity & int [international] law.”
“We reiterate support for Palestinian ppl. Intl community must take immed action to protect Palestinians & their legitimate rights,” PM Khan tweeted.

 

 

Other top Pakistani leaders have also condemned the crackdown by Israeli ‘occupation forces.’
"Condemn in strongest terms the attack on innocent worshippers in Al-Aqsa Mosque, first Qibla of Islam, by Israeli Occupation Forces in the holy month of Ramzan. Such brutality is against very spirit of humanity & human rights law," Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said in a tweet, as he expressed Pakistan's "steadfast support" of the Palestinian cause.
Religious Affairs Minister Noor-ul-Haq Qadri said in a statement that Israeli shelling on unarmed Palestinians at Al-Aqsa Mosque is the "worst act of terrorism and inhumanity."
The Pakistani opposition echoed the government's condemnation.
Top opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif questioned the role of the willingness of the international community in stopping the "worst human rights abuses" that are taking place in Palestine.
"There is no one to put stop to Israel's desire for occupation of more Palestinian lands,” he said on Twitter.
Meanwhile, Pakistani and Saudi leadership reaffirmed full support for the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.
In a joint statement issued on late Saturday, during Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Saudi Arabia, the two countries expressed their "full support for all the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, especially, their right to self-determination and establishment of their independent state with pre-1967 borders.”
They also recognized East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine "in accordance with the Arab Peace Initiative and relevant UN resolutions.”


'You will be turned back:' No tourism allowed, warns Pakistani minister 

Updated 09 May 2021

'You will be turned back:' No tourism allowed, warns Pakistani minister 

  • Pakistan is battling a third wave of COVID-19
  • Earlier this month, Pakistan announced a new set of restrictions, including closure of all tourist resorts during Eid holidays

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s planning minister Asad Umar on Sunday warned people not to go to tourist areas within the country during the Eid holidays, and said anyone who tried ‘will be turned back.’
In a tweet, Umar, who also heads a federal body overseeing Pakistan's pandemic response, said:
“In NCOC meeting today, chief secretaries from federating units which have popular tourist destinations, requested to remind everyone that tourist areas are closed from 8th to 16th, so please do not come, or you will be turned back.”

 

 

In the middle of a third wave of COVID-19, Pakistan announced a new set of restrictions earlier this month which includes the closure of all tourist resorts from May 8 to 16.
Every year in the Eid holidays, Pakistanis from southern regions throng to the northern areas and hill stations of the country to enjoy the good weather.Meanwhile, President Arif Alvi urged Pakistanis to follow the standard operating procedures (SOP’s) set up by the government to control the virus spread and to stop the third wave of COVID-19 from getting worse.
“Don't let your guard down. Strictly follow SOP’s, in Ramadan/Eid & all Smart Lockdown Policies,” the President’s tweet read.

 

 

The South Asian country of over 220 million people reported 118 deaths and 3,785 new confirmed cases over the last 24 hours on Sunday. Since the start of the pandemic in February last year, Pakistan has reported 18,915 deaths from COVID-19 among 858,026 confirmed cases.
In neighboring India, a record number of daily cases have been reported in the last month as the healthcare infrastructure in some Indian cities has completely collapsed, according to reports.