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PAKISTAN: About 500,000 fishermen will be jobless due to the government's unlawful long-term lease of two Islands to a company

The AHRC was informed that the Federal Government of Pakistan has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that stated a 99-year lease on twin Islands namely Bhudal and Bhuddo located in Karachi city, Sindh province to Dubai based Emaar Properties PJSC Company in September 2006. The company has a project to rename the islands ‘Diamond Bar City’ and construct high-rises, residential resorts, hotels, casinos and a 1.5 Kilometer bridge connecting the islands to Karachi city over the next 13 years at a total cost of US$ 43.135 billion. After the MOU, the said company reportedly demolished some 1,000 fishermen’s huts with the help of the police and the army in October 2006. It is alleged that 35 villagers were arrested and a 5-year-old boy was killed during the demolition.

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ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAM

29 January 2007
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HA-002-2007: PAKISTAN: About 500,000 fishermen will be jobless due to the government's unlawful long-term lease of two Islands to a company

PAKISTAN: Violation of right to food and adequate housing; displacement of indigenous people; unlawful process of selling government property
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission has received information that the livelihoods of about 500,000 fishermen will be directly and severely affected and approximately 100,000 persons will be displaced as the Pakistan government has signed a 99 year lease contract on twin Islands, namely Bhudal and Bhuddo in Karachi, Sindh province to a Dubai based foreign company. The affected fishermen are indigenous people who have been living on the islands for centuries. The company plans to build hotels, casinos and residential resorts. However, the Pakistan government's action is unlawful as it did not conduct an Environment Impact Assessment as required by law, before making the contract. Pakistan has one federal assembly, one federal senate and four provincial assemblies. However, it is reported that the Government did not hold any discussion for approval of the project in any of the senate or assemblies including the Sindh provincial assembly as well as its own federal cabinet about this matter before giving the lease to the company.

CASE DETAILS:

The AHRC was informed that the Federal Government of Pakistan has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that stated a 99-year lease on twin Islands namely Bhudal and Bhuddo located in Karachi city, Sindh province to Dubai based Emaar Properties PJSC Company in September 2006. The company has a project to rename the islands ‘Diamond Bar City’ and construct high-rises, residential resorts, hotels, casinos and a 1.5 Kilometer bridge connecting the islands to Karachi city over the next 13 years at a total cost of US$ 43.135 billion. After the MOU, the said company reportedly demolished some 1,000 fishermen’s huts with the help of the police and the army in October 2006. It is alleged that 35 villagers were arrested and a 5-year-old boy was killed during the demolition.

The two Islands have a total area of 12,000 acres that have been used for fishing and housing for fishermen for centuries. There are creeks around the two Islands used by more than 5,000 boats daily for access to the open sea. According to the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) and the Pakistan Mahigir Tehreek, the organisations representing fishermen, these passages will become inaccessible when the islands are developed by the company as planned. The PFF insists that the development project would devastate the local fishing communities, destroy the ecosystem and marine life that provides thousands of fishermen with their livelihood.

Seventeen major and several minor creeks along with vast mangroves lands of Karachi city, Thatta and Badin districts form the Indus delta. About 90 percent of the population in this region depends on fishing and related activities for their living. According to the PFF, the project would inflict poverty and hunger on 8 million fishermen and their family members, who are historical inhabitants of coastal areas traditionally earning their livelihood along the Sindh coast.

Furthermore, before signing in MOU, the Pakistan government did not conduct an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) that is required by law. Under the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act 1997 and Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (Review of IEE and EIA) Regulations 2000, an EIA is required by law for any 'urban development and tourism scheme' of this scale. Furthermore new 'federal or provincial highways or major roads' with a total cost of 50 million rupees (about 1.13 million USD) and above, such as the proposed bridge, are also subject to an EIA by law. Though several ministers had objected to various aspects of the project during the meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC), the sub committee under the federal cabinet in September 2006, the Government still approved this project through the ECC rending some observations redressing the objections. Furthermore, the Government did not bring this matter to any of the senate and the federal and provincial assemblies including the Sindh provincial assembly as well as its own federal cabinet for their approval or consideration before signing the MOU.

All the major opposition parties in parliament and civil society organisations are opposing the project and holding protest meetings and demonstrations since April 2006 after the plan was announced. Also some members of Assemblies and Senate of the opposition parties worked out the Assemblies and Senate as a way of expressing their protest, when they were not reportedly allowed the right of speaking about this matter.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:

The project initiated by the Pakistan government and Emaar Properties PJSC Company violates the right to adequate to an adequate standard of living of the fishermen, which is guaranteed under Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). Article 11(1) of ICESCR states, "The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions. The States Parties will take appropriate steps to ensure the realization of this right, recognizing to this effect the essential importance of international co-operation based on free consent."
 
Besides, although the said land is the public property of the Sindh provincial government, the federal government of Pakistan has signed the MOU with the company without the approval of the Sindh provincial government, which is in violation of the Constitution of Pakistan. Also, the decision to allot the twin islands to the United Arab Emirates-based company was made by the country's top economic body, the Economic Coordination Committee of the federal cabinet in such a hasty and suspicious way and even the Sindh provincial government was not informed about that.

Besides, the fact that the purported invitation of bids has not been widely advertised puts the transparency of these mega projects open to question. For example, in another development project launched by the federal government in Sindh province, the Chief Minister Dr. Arbab Rahim, had expressed that he did not know about the much publicized development plan of 'a new city of international standards' on the threshold of Port Qasim. Dr. Arbab said that he had heard about the plan but the provincial government had not yet been taken into confidence in this regard. The chief minister further said that "the Sindh government has not even been consulted about the plan" and that he would take up the issue with the federal government. However, due to pressure from the federal government, the cabinet of the Sindh provincial government approved the federal government's plan on its meeting on 3 October 2006, just three days after the chief minister's statement against the project.

SUGGESTED ACITON:
Please write to the relevant authorities listed below and express your concern about this serious case. Please urge them to halt the development projects in the two islands and to review the project thoroughly. Please also demand that an Environment Impact Assessment is conducted to research the effect of the project on the livelihood of the affected fishermen immediately.

To support this appeal, please click:

Sample letter:

Dear ________,

PAKISTAN: About 500,000 fishermen will be jobless due to the government's unlawful long-term lease of two Islands to company

Those affected: about 500,000 fishermen and their family members living in Bhudal and Bhuddo locating in Karachi city, Sindh province, Pakistan
Location: 12,000 acres of land in Bhudal and Bhuddo islands

I am deeply concerned that about 500,000 fishermen's livelihood will be directly and severely affected and approximately 100,000 persons will be displaced due to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the Pakistan government and Dubai based Emaar Properties PJSC Company in September 2006. The MOU states a 99 year lease contract on two Islands namely Bhudal and Bhuddo in Karachi, Sindh province to the said company.

According to the information I have received, the company has a development projects on the islands by constructing high-rises, residential resorts, hotels, casinos and a 1.5 Kilometer bridge connecting the islands to Karachi city for the next 13 years at a total cost of 43.135 billion US dollars. After the MOU, the said company reportedly demolished some 1,000 huts of fishermen with the help of the police and the army in October 2006. It is alleged that 35 villagers were arrested and a 5-year-old boy was killed during the demolition.

The two Islands have 12,000 acres of land in total, which have been used for fishing and housings of fishermen for centuries. There are creeks around the two Islands used by more than 5,000 boats daily to access the open seas. I was informed by the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) and the Pakistan Mahigir Tehreek, the organisations of fishermen, that these passages in the two Islands will become inaccessible when the islands are developed by the company as planed and it will severely affect the livelihood of the local fishing communities and destroy the ecosystem and marine life. The PFF also insists that the said project would inflict poverty and hunger on 8 million fishermen and their family members, who are historical inhabitants of coastal areas traditionally earning their livelihood along the Sindh coast. About 90 percent of the population in this region depends on fishing and related activities for their living.

I also want to draw your attention that the process of signing the MOU was unlawful.

1. The Pakistan government did not conduct an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) that is required under the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act 1997 and Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (Review of IEE and EIA) Regulations 2000. According to these laws, an EIA is required for any 'urban development and tourism scheme' of this scale. Furthermore new 'federal or provincial highways or major roads' with a total cost of 50 million rupees (about 1.13 million USD) and above, such as the proposed bridge, are also subject to an EIA by law.

2. Furthermore, the Pakistan government did not bring this mater to any of the senate and the federal and provincial assemblies including the Sindh provincial assembly as well as its own federal cabinet for their approval or consideration before signing the MOU. The decision was made in a hasty and suspicious way only by the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC), the sub-committee under the federal cabinet.

3. Although the said land of the islands is the public property of the Sindh provincial government, the federal government of Pakistan has signed the MOU with the company without any consult and the approval of the Sindh Provincial Assembly in violation of the Constitution of Pakistan. I was informed that Sindh provincial government was not informed about this decision.

4. The fact that the purported invitation of bids has not been widely advertised puts the transparency of these mega projects open to question.

Article 11(1) of International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights stimulates the responsibility of the states to recognize and ensure "the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions".

In light of the above, I strongly urge you to ensure that;

1. The MOU should be withdrawn as its process was unlawful.

2. The development projects in the two islands are halted until the project is thoroughly reviewed and an Environment Impact Assessment is conducted to find the effect of the project on the livelihood of the affected fishermen. The government should cancel the project if the EIA finds that the livelihood of the affected fishermen and the ecosystem in the region are severely affected by this project.

3. Demolition of the affected fishermen's huts should be stopped immediately and adequate compensation should be given to those whose houses are demolished as well as those injured and killed during the previous demolition process. Strong action should be taken against responsible army and police officers in this regards.

4. This development project should be thoroughly reviewed at the federal Assembly and Senate as well as Sindh provincial assembly.

5. The government should provide clear and proper rehabilitations to the affected persons in case that the development project is approved through lawful process. 

Thank you.

Sincerely yours,


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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTER TO:

1. General Pervez Musharraf
President
President's Secretariat
Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 51 922 1422, 4768/ 920 1893 or 1835
E-mail: (please see - http://www.presidentofpakistan.gov.pk/WTPresidentMessage.aspx)

2. Mr. Muhammad Wasi Zafar
Minister of Law, Justice and Human Rights
S Block, Pakistan Secretariat
Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 51 920 2628
E-Mail: minister@molaw.gov.pk

3. Makhdoom Syed Saleh Hayat
Minister for Environment
CDA Block No. IV, Civic Centre,
G-6, Melody, I
Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Email: minister@moenv.gov.pk

4. Mr. Justice Iftekhar Choudhry
Chief Justice of Pakistan
Supreme Court building
Islam abad
PAKISTAN
Fax: + 92 51 9213452

5. Mr. Justice Sabih Uddin
Chief Justice of Sindh High Court
High Court Building
Saddar
Karachi
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92-21-9213220
Email: info@sindhhighcourt.gov.pk

6. Mr. Malik Amin Aslam Khan
Minister of State for Environment
CDA Block No. IV, Civic Centre,
G-6, Melody,
Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Email: mos@moenv.gov.pk

7. Dr. Ishrat UL Ibad
Governor of Sindh
Karachi
PAKISTAN
Tel: + 92 21 920 1201

8. Dr. Arbab Abdul Rahim
Chief Minister of Sindh
Chief Minister House
Karachi
PAKISTAN

9. Mr. Jean Zeigler
UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food
c/o Mr. Carlos Villan Duran
Room 4-066, OHCHR, Palais Wilson,
Rue des Paquis 52, Geneva
SWITZERLAND
Tel: +41 22 917 9300
Fax: +41 22 9179010 (ATTENTION: SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR RIGHT TO FOOD)

10. Mr. Miloon Kothari
Special Rapporteur on adequate housing
Attn: Ms. Cecilia Moller
Room 4-066/010
UNOG-OHCHR
CH-1211, Geneva 10
SWITZERLAND
Tel: +41 22 917 9265
Fax: +41 22 917 9010 (ATTENTION: SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ADEQUATE HOUSING)

PLEASE ALSO SEND A COPY OF YOUR LETTER TO:

Emaar Properties PJSC
Head Office
Emaar Business Park, Building 3
P.O. Box 9440
Dubai
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
Tel: +971 4 367 3333
Fax: +971 4 367 3000
E-mail: enquiry@emaar.ae


Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ahrchk@ahrchk.org)

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