After Sindh islands, now Pakistan wants to sell Sindh’s Karoonjhar mountains to China

Islamabad has plans to sell Karoonjhar mountains located in the Sindh province to China, a move that has fueled public anger amongst the native Sindhi population. The Sindhi people have begun to see Pakistan as an agent of China that wants to slowly turn Sindh into a Chinese colony by selling off natural resources of Sindh province. Barely a month ago, Islamabad’s federal government had made efforts to sell coastal Sindh islands Bundal and Dingi.

The sale of Karoonjhar mountain range to China by Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)-led provincial government of Sindh is actually a deal made between the PPP and federal government of Pakistan. PPP gave the ‘sell letter’ to Frontier Works Organization (FWO) that allows the plunder of Karoonjhar mountains by China and in return PPP will get the corruption cases withdrawn against itself. This is not the first time that PPP have sold the resources of Sindh to save their skin. But the people of Sindh will never allow the federal government of Pakistan or the Pakistan Army to loot the resources of Sindh and sell them to China. Karoonjhar mountains, the Bhundar (Bundal) and Dingi coastal islands are Sindh’s natural resources that belong to our future generations as well.

The Frontier Works Organization (FWO) is a Pakistan military engineering company that works directly under the Pakistan Army. The FWO had started mining and quarrying work on the Karoonjhar mountains without the prior approval of Sindh’s provincial government a few months ago, but due to resistance from Sindhi people they stopped the work on site and now they have fraudulently got this ‘sell letter’.

Karoonjhar Mountains in Sindh.

Karoonjhar mountains have a historical significance, they are our collective heritage that are located in Tharparkar, Sindh. The Karoonjhar mountains rise to a height of 305 metres on the northern edge of the Rann of Kutch and run approximately 19 km in length and are famous due to their being the seat of oldest Jain temple. The Karoonjhar mountains are full of granite and gold.

A mega granite city and factories project has been announced by the government authorities in this region which is spread across one lakh fifty thousand acres out of the total two lakh acre area. People of Sindh are furious with such day light loot and several protests are being held across Sindh against the illegal ordinance of selling Sindh’s islands to China. A mega city project was announced last month that is connected with the CPEC and this illegal occupation of Karoonjhar mountains is a threat for the people of Sindh.

Sindh’s provincial government had set up a fact finding committee in November 2019 to assess the impact of mining in Karoonjhar mountains. (Photo: News Intervention)

Project’s Adverse Impact
* Indiscriminate mining contributes to deforestation, loss of biodiversity and misuse of a large number of water resources that can lead to adverse climate change.
* Karoonjhar is not just a range of Granite deposits, it’s a symbol of Tharparkar’s resilience and history .
* Destruction of Karooonjhar mountains will erase Sindh’s history.
* It will distortion our heritage and culture.
* Threat to geography and demography of Sindh.
* It will lead to shortage of water because in the monsoon season, rainwater flows down the Karoonjhar mountains into more than 20 streams.
* Local people’s daily life will be affected directly because this is a tourist place and a source of earning for them.

This is not first time that Karoonjhar mountains are under attack by greedy people and the enemies of nature. The first contract of cutting the stones was issued during Zia-ul Haq’s regime, and then in 2008 soon after Pervez Musharraf’s departure from power the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government issued a 20-year lease to a private company.

The Sindh Concession (Granite) Order 2007, mentions the “Restriction on Grant of Exploration Licenses or Mining lease: No Exploration Licences or Mining lease whatsoever shall be granted in the Karoonjhar range mountains of Nagarparkar”.

FWO and Chinese companies have begun the loot of natural resources from Karoonjhar mountains. (Photo: News Intervention)

In 2011, a notification was issued by the government of Sindh, on behalf of the Director General Mines and Mineral Development, which states: “With the approval of the Competent Authority, the Mining lease over an area of 659 acres, out of the already granted area of granite, comprising 2,636 acres, is hereby granted to M/s Kohinoor Marble Industries (Pvt) Ltd.,” until 2030.

Then in 2012, Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja gave directions to the DC Tharparkar that the cutting of stone must be restrained. But this time the situation is not same as before people of Sindh are now more worried that before because of China and Chinese companies presence in Tharparkar and the influence of Punjab in selling Sindh lands, islands and mountains to China has increased rapidly. After the sale of the black gold –the Thar Coal, to China a project of CPEC has damaged the environment of the region and left the local people devastated. Now this new project will bring more suffering for the people of Sindh and it is clear aggression and exploitation.

Save Karoonjhar Save Sindh

Karoonjhar mountains are located in the Nangarparkar Tharparkar Sindh, a rock formation which is approximately 5 billion years old with immense geographical importance and archeological significance for this region. Because of rich history and cultural significance the natives consider these mountains a sacred place with 108 ancient historical remains like the Jain Gori temple, Bhodesar Talao, Sardaro, Anchlechure, Gao Mukhi, Punraj Gadr, Chandan Gadr and Marvi Jo khooh (well) among several others located in these mountains. Local people, regardless of their religious beliefs, consider these mountains to be a very sacred place.

Hindus consider these mountains as their second holiest place after the River Ganges and they perform their funeral rites “Antyeshti” at the Karoonjhar springs.

These mountains are not only precious for Sindhi people but for animals and birds too. The place provides a safe refuge for peacocks, endangered deer, jackals, wolves and hyenas, while boasting of a wide variety of flora and fauna. In Sindhi folklore, there are songs and tales of the famous Shaheed Rooplo Kolhi a prominent personality who fought the British Army and was hanged in Karoonjhar.

Rocks earmarked for transport. (Photo: News Intervention)

Karoonjhar range is spread on a total area of two lakh acre stretching till the Indian border, with deposits of 20 billion tons of special types of granite and Chinese clay. Natives say Karoonjhar yields about 100 kilogram of gold everyday.

However, the greedy Punjab province of Pakistan and its Punjabi army generals have always had an eye on the lands, island and resources of occupied provinces since the creation of Pakistan. The dominant province of Punjab has always exploited the assets and natural resources of historical oppressed nations.

This loot never stopped, rather it increased continuously because now the Punjab province has backing of expansionist China. Frontier works organizations (FWO) is a military engineering organization, and one of the major science and technology commands of the Pakistan Army that was commissioned and established in 1966. The FWO includes active duty officers from the Pakistan Army and civilian scientists and engineers. Since its establishment it has been credited with the construction of bridges, roads, tunnels, airfields and dams in Pakistan and it controls 65% of construction projects across Pakistan.

Illegal mining activities at the Karoonjhar mountains. (Photo: News Intervention)

In 2019, the FWO illegally entered this beautiful Valley with 12 multinational companies, mostly Chinese, and started the extraction of granite from Karoonjhar mountains and this region became a “no go” area for local people. But when natives watched loaded trucks carrying out granite they started protests in local cities and a social media campaign was launched as “Save Karoonjhar” in November 2019.

Local people reached the police station in the city for registration of FIR over illegal granite extraction but was refused by authorities due to the involvement of FWO and the federal government. The locals then reached out to elected politicians of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) of Sindh. PPP refused to comment or talk about these illegal activities. Finally matter reached the Sindh High Court and a case was filed by local resident of Nangarparkar. A division bench of Sindh High Court, Hyderabad circuit, stayed the excavation of stones in Karoonjhar mountains of Nangarparkar, while issuing notice to federal secretary of natural resources, secretary of forest and wildlife, Frontier Works Organization (FWO), secretary of mines and minerals and different marble companies. The bench also issued notice to the additional advocate general and deputy attorney general with directives to file comments till the next hearing date. As per court order respondents were jointly restrained from cutting mountains or moving any minerals from the site.

But the weak provincial government of Sindh under the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), a party of corrupt feudal lords and thugs who have always sold Sindh to Punjab for their personal interests came out once again. In order to save their skin from the several corruption cases against them, the PPP provincial government released a notification with an approval to carry out operations in the Karoonjhar mountains. They have thus put a stamp to destroy this sacred place and sold the Karoonjhar to Frontier Works Organization (FWO) and Chinese companies for their 10% commission under pressure of the federal government and Pakistan Army.

Zafar Sahito
Zafar Sahito
Zafar Sahito is a Sindhi nationalist and Vice President of Jeay Sindh Thinkers Forum.

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