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ISLAMABAD: The Cabinet Committee on CPEC (CCoCPEC) has directed Ministry of Defence to vacate 52 acres of land at Shamba Ismail, Gwadar presently under possession of Pakistan Navy to hand it over to the Chinese concessionaire, well informed sources told Business Recorder.

Sharing the details, the sources said, in compliance with CCoCPEC decision of March 9, 2021, a note for Chairman CCoCPEC stating the ground position and implementation plan was submitted by Ministry of Defence (MoD) on June 10, 2021 through Ministry of Maritime Affairs (MoMA) 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 Minister, 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.”

The sources said in order to evolve consensus among stakeholders, MoD requested Special Advisor to Prime Minister on CPEC, Khalid Mansoor to chair a meeting 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 obtaining fresh comments of MoMA and those of GDA.

Land dispute at Gwadar Port: CCoCPEC will consider four options

MoMA, in its letter reiterated its stance of Aug 26, 2021 with respect to allotment of 12000 acres of land to Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA) in the Joint Cantonment Gwadar, though there does not exist any Joint Cantonment in Gwadar notified by Military Lands. However, zoning/master plan for Cantonments Department of MoD, a cantonment at Gwadar, of total land of 9227 acres, is yet to be prepared by GHQ.

Gwadar Development Authority (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. PN is clearly assigned responsibility to “defend creek areas, ports and harbours and offshore infrastructure” under Joint Military Directive-2018 Article 61 b (3). MoD/PN upon a detailed study/analysis has the considered view that the geographical dictates make Shamba Ismail the only central advantageous location seaward for 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.

Ministry of Defence further contended that PN due to this very rationale acquired the land in 1980, well before inception of Gwadar Master Plan.

The sources maintained that keeping in view the ground realities, PN’s mandate for defence/ security of Gwadar Port, the following implementation/ vacation plan were submitted to the CCoCPEC on February 17, 2021: (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 03 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 it’s handing over to concession holder.

The CCoCPEC held a threadbare discussion on the matter.

Minister for Planning, Development and Special initiatives, Asad Umar/ Chairman CCoCPEC, observed that the Federal Cabinet took the decision on the issue long time back but it had not been implemented. He expressed serious concerns over not complying with the orders of the Cabinet.

The Ministry of Defence stated that there were no issues as far as 52 acres of land was concerned and assured that the same shall be vacated soon. However, as the remaining 20 acres of land was required for security purposes, the Ministry; therefore, proposed to provide alternate land to the Chinese side in lieu of Shamba Ismail land.

Chairman, Gwadar Port Authority stated that as the land being discussed by the CCoCPEC was legally under the control of the Chinese side; therefore, the Committee cannot take any decision on it. Chairman, CPEC Authority stated that the issue was discussed with the Chinese side during the last visit of the Prime Minister of Pakistan to China, and the Chinese had expressed their willingness to endorse the same in view of security requirements of the area.

Minister of Interior, Sheikh Rashid Ahmad observed that there could be serious security issues in Gwadar in future, and therefore, this aspect should be also taken into consideration while taking the decision.

After discussion, the CCoCPEC directed Defence Division to ensure vacation of 52 acres of land at Mauza Shamba Ismail, Gwadar immediately by the Pakistan Navy and GPA to expedite the handing over of land to the concessionaire.

Furthermore, CPA was directed to seek No-Objection from the concessionaire on provision of alternate land (20 acres) before transferring the remaining 20 acres of land required by Pakistan Navy for seaward security of Gwadar.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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