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ISLAMABAD: The Cabinet Committee on CPEC (CCoCPEC) is to resolve dispute over 72 acres of land of Gwadar between Ministry of Maritime Affairs (MoMA) and Pak Navy, well informed sources told Business Recorder.

MoMA urges that the directives of the President, the Prime Minister, Cabinet and CCoCPEC be implemented in letter and spirit.

As per the background of dispute, Ministry of Defence (MoD) in compliance with the CCoCPEC decision of March 9, 2021, sent a note for Chairman CCoCPEC stating the ground position and implementation plan was submitted by MoD on June 10, 2021 through Ministry of Maritime Affairs that endorsed its comments on Aug 26, 2021.

Chairman CCoCPEC, in his note approved the following: “MoD may be directed to implement the decisions of the President, Prime Minster, Cabinet and CCoCPEC and to come up with clear vacation plan with reasonable timeline for the vacation of 72 acres of land at Mouza Shamba Ismail at Gwadar, presently under possession of Pak Navy.”

However, MoD has expressed serious reservations on the comments of MoMA on the land which is in occupation of Pakistan Navy (PN). MoD and Pak Navy (PN) have always complied with Government directives without fail. As regards handover of PN land at Shamba Ismail to GPA, PN has been forthcoming and has voluntarily given up land for the sake of national interests. PN vacated 500 acres (out of 584 acres) in 2014 and transferred the land to GPA as directed by Prime Minister’s Office on May 28, 2014.

In 2019, PN voluntarily vacated another 12 acres of land for passage of Gwadar East Bay Expressway, purely in the national interest. As regards the remaining 72 acres, MoD had submitted a workable implementation plan to Chairman CCoCPEC in Jun 2021 through MoMA. After lapse of more than two months, MoMA endorsed its comments and forwarded it to Chairman CCoCPEC. The Chairman again directed for submission of a clear vacation plan with timelines.

In order to evolve consensus among stakeholders, MoD requested Special Advisor to Prime Minister on CPEC to chair a meeting to discuss the way forward. Accordingly, a meeting under the chairmanship of SAPM on CPEC, Khalid Mansoor was held on Oct 12, 2021. The SAPM, acknowledging the security imperatives of Gwadar Port and related seaborne activity, directed MoD to submit the summary to CCoCPEC highlighting the critical requirement of land for PN to ensure security of the Gwadar Port and requested fresh comments of MoMA and those of GDA.

Cabinet CPEC body asks PN to vacate 72 acres of land

MoMA, in its O.M. of November 4, 2021 reiterated their stance of 26 Aug 2021 which has been adequately countered. However, with respect to allotment of 12000 acres of land to Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA) in the Joint Cantonment Gwadar as highlighted by MoMA, there does not exist any Joint Cantonment in Gwadar notified by Military Lands and Cantonments Department of MoD. However, zoning/master plan for cantonment at Gwadar, at a total land of 9227 acres is yet to be prepared by GHQ.

GDA has proposed a joint survey by all stakeholders for allotment of land to PN by Revenue Department, Government of Balochistan, if any, according to the land zoning of the master plan. PN is responsible for Maritime Defence and ensuring security of Maritime Zones, ports and harbours in accordance with Article 245 of Constitution of Pakistan and is clearly assigned responsibility to “defend creek areas, ports and harbours and offshore infrastructure” under Joint Military Directive-2018 Article 61b(3).

MoD/ PN upon detailed study/ analysis have the considered view that the geographical dictates make Shamba Ismail the only central advantageous location for seaward security/ response generation. PN’s sole purpose for retention of said land with seafront is to ensure PN’s timely response for defence/ security of Gwadar Port against ubiquitous asymmetric threat. PN due to this very rationale acquired the land in 1980, well before inception of Gwadar Master Plan.

Keeping in view the ground realities, PN’s mandate for defence/ security of Gwadar Port, following implementation/ vacation plan is submitted for consideration of CCoCPEC: (i) PN is to coordinate with GPA and identify the location/ coordinates of 20 acres of land at Shamba Ismail, Gwadar essential for seaward security; (ii) GPA is to transfer identified 20 acres of land at Shamba Ismail, Gwadar to PN;(iii) PN while retaining possession of 20 acres of land, is to vacate remaining land at Shamba Ismail within 3 months of transfer of 20 acres of land by GPA. Subsequently, GPA is to handover the land vacated by PN to concession holder; and (iv) in lieu of 20 acres’ land awarded to PN, GDA is to provide GPA 20 acres of land at alternate location. GPA is to coordinate handing over of the said land to concession holder.

In the instant case, the Prime Minister, who is the Chief Executive and head of the Federal Government, has issued directions twice for vacating the land. Moreover, Ministry of Interior, mandated with internal security of the state, in a notification of October 26, 2016 has assigned the security of Gwadar/ CPEC to Special Security Division comprising troops from the Pak Army and Civil Armed Forces. Moreover, for seaward security, PN Akram is already stationed at the hammerhead of Gwadar, which is in addition to 1000 acres of land at Mouza Shamba Ismail. Navy’s position for retention of 20 acres of land for the security of Gwadar is in addition to 1269 acres of land at PN Akram and an additional 1000 acres of land at Pishukan allotted to Pak Navy in lieu of the present piece of land at Mouza Shamba Ismail. Pak Navy also has 12,000 acres of land in the Joint Cantonment.

According to MoMA, no significant structures of security set up were established by Navy on the land in their possession; however, some have been erected recently, in violation of clear directions of the CCoCPEC.

MoMA has reiterated that the land under possession of Pak Navy is part of Gwadar Free Zone, which is going to be a Custom-Bonded Area, manned and controlled by Pakistan Customs, adding that presence of PN establishment in the middle of Custom-Bonded area does not fit.

MoMA further contends that the directives of the President, the Prime Minister, Cabinet and CCoCPEC may be implemented in letter and spirit and the land in question be vacated and handed over to the Concession Holder.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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