How to windup Pandora’s Box of MT Cherish?
UNFORTUNATELY, an inertia still exists in the places of pseudo-hegemonies at the federal level even after a decade of 18th Amendment in the Constitution of Pakistan, which is a major hindrance in smooth functioning of routine business affairs due to clash, confusion and contradiction.
It is undermining the national resolve for the provincial autonomy, encouraging intellectual wisdom of all without any discrimination and empowering decision-making process at the level of entrusted devolved governance segments at sub-national and local levels.
There are so many cases now in the state of artificial halt related to trade and economy and market competitiveness.
Apparently, the level of unrest always remained un-attended and un-reported as these hegemonial issues never got serious attention either at federal or provincial level. It is a major precursor in widening the gap of mistrust between the government institutions and the private sector.
Ultimately, it affects the consumer economy at large scale in Pakistan and indicates failure of the political governance system at all levels.
The overall scenario of end of life ship MT Cherish reveals the same hegemonial inertia for which there are queries from concerned genuine stakeholders regarding modality.
How to windup this Pandora’s Box which has no substance or solid ground but non-ending since long due to pseudo-hegemonies dealing with baseless allegations? Whose prerogative is this? In the context, this article is in continuation of my two previous articles published in Pakistan Observer on 22nd and 23rd of September 2021, and tries to draw clear lines to close the matter in accordance with law of the land, which provides constitutional guarantees to fundamental rights for justice to prevail.
It is pertinent to mention that the maritime link of Interpol has not matured yet worldwide as it is established recently, particularly in the case of Pakistan.
Although Interpol news, which termed as “likely”, had neither credible sources nor a solid legal cover, Pakistan was misled to take very harsh step against the ship owners.
Whereas, the prerogative of different federal and provincial institution was also confused with speculation and hegemonial inertia.
In the overall scenario for the cases of end of life ships reaching at Gadani Ship Recycling Yard, there is a need to understand the compliance requirements vis-a-vis jurisdiction and rules of various institutions at Federal and Provincial levels.
Gadani Ship Recycling Yard falls within the provincial jurisdiction of Balochistan under “the Balochistan Ship Breaking Industry Rules 1979”.
Today, it is a reality to be accepted that twelve (12) nautical miles of sea from high water mark is provincial jurisdiction after 18th (Constitution) Amendment.
There is no doubt about the professional outlook and fully devoted job of Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA).
However, PMSA’s role is to police the area for maintaining order at sea for the enforcement of national and international laws, agreements and conventions in the Maritime Zones.
In the presence of Federal and Provincial Environmental Acts, its role is to assist the relevant Environmental Protection Agencies for marine pollution related matters beyond and within 12 nautical miles respectively.
For example, if PMSA found an end of life ship indulged in illegal or irregular activity related to environmental aspects, then it must report the case to Balochistan EPA if within twelve nautical miles while beyond that needs to be tackled through Federal EPA. Besides, all such cases on-shore/or at Gadani beach don’t fall within the jurisdiction of PMSA.
In the case of MT Cherish, any action from PMSA after beaching the ship at Gadani shore on 30 April 2021 is not appropriate as PMSA has no legal mandate to cease operational activity at Gadani Yard, unless it approaches through Balochistan EPA.
Same thing is applicable to other federal institutions. The role of Federal Ministry of Maritime Affairs (MoMA) is limited to port call related affairs including facilitation to custom clearance etc. JMICC entrusted for sharing information about movement of ships into territorial waters.
MoMA has no legal cover to investigate environmental offences in the presence of fully empowered Federal and Provincial Environmental Protection Agencies duly supported with judicial system.
Given the law of the land, federal inquiry is neither legitimate nor it has solid evidence. Whereas, it has damaged this industry largely.
It has undermined the integrity of Balochistan EPA and has set a tone against the true spirit of devolution of powers to provinces. It is pertinent to highlight that it would be difficult to overcome trust deficit if it is established.
Therefore, based on facts, it is time to close all federal level inquiries and free the provincial institutions in their decision making process which is guaranteed by the Constitution of Pakistan.
Therefore, illegitimate inquiry led by MoMA should be closed immediately and let BEPA to play its role in accordance with rules of the business; and allow ship-cutting operation with environmental safeguards for saving national exchequer from further damage.
I was about to conclude this article when I got copy of an interim Court Judgement from Civil Court Hub, dated 8 October 2021.
Approaching the court was a right decision to break the inertia in the places of pseudo hegemony, which was damaging the industry and I hope that the private sector would have taken instant relief from this judgement since the matter was of urgency but remained on artificial halt.
I applaud the contents of the Judgement, which has established the fact that there was no such so-called huge quantity of the contaminated sludge as was speculated.
The matter is purely of an environmental concern for which no national/provincial legislation and international obligation restrict to halt operations in such cases. Since there is no more substance in the case, so it is likely to come to an end in the next hearing.
It is anticipated that in the light of Court’s decision and section 15 of Balochistan Environmental Protection Act 2012, Balochistan Environmental Protection Agency (BEPA) will process the pending Initial Environmental Examination (IEE) report of MT Cherish on priority.
Subsequently, it will submit it to the Court in writing a best suitable disposal option adopted and undertaken for the contaminated sludge.
So, sludge would be disposed of positively well before next court hearing. Besides, MoMA is likely to close the inquiry by furnishing report to the Court. Alternately, it is likely to be a matter of contempt of court.
—The writer is affiliated with maritime think-tank, contributes to the national press on a regular basis.