The government’s publicised plan to auction the mining lease in Karoonjhar Mountain range triggered a public backlash in Sindh.
The scenic hills are bestowed with cultural, historic and religious significance in addition to idyllic appearance. Sindh government wants to auction the rights to excavate granite from the mountains.
As per the Minister for Mines and Minerals Mir Shabbir Khan Bjirani said on micron blogging site, Twitter, the auction advertisement by Mines and Minerals Development Department are processed by completing all codal formalities and abiding court orders. He said no protected area of Karoonjhar Mountain was included in the mining area. Karoonjhar Mountain area is completely banned for mining he said.
However, political and social activists have raised red flag over PPP-led Sindh government bid to destroy the natural beauty and ecology of the scenic hills by auctioning mining rights only to fill its coffers.
The nationalist leaders, the people of Tharparkar district, where the mountain range is located, and even voices within the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party are at loggerheads with the government over mining the mountain for natural resources.
The Sindh Mines and Minerals Development Department (MMDD) advertised the auction on July 21. Sindh Taraqipasand Party Chairman Dr Qadir Magsi on Sunday announced a sit-in protest outside the department’s office for July 31. He appealed all the people who reject the mountain’s mining to join the protest. “Let’s together stop the auction of Karoonjhar,” he said.
Qomi Awami Tehreek President Ayaz Latif Palijo, while condemning the auction on Sunday described Karoonjhar as a historical and cultural heritage of Sindh. “The PPP’s 15-year rule [in Sindh] has proved to be an attack on the resources and unity of Sindh,” he alleged in a statement.
He went on to blame the PPP’s Sindh government for giving away 1.3 million acres of land in the province during the last one and a half decade. “Karachi, Kohistan and the coastal belt has been handed over to the builder mafia,” he deplored.
“The world is preserving its mountains but PPP’s Sindh government is destroying even those which are regarded for culture and heritage worth,” lamented Jeay Sindh Mahaz President Riaz Chandio. Condemning the auction, he said JSM will start a protest movement against the move after Muharram. “This mountain is home to Hindu and Jain temples as well as mosques besides being important for the local people because of agriculture and water resources,” he observed.
The Awami Tehreek’s Tharparkar based leader Devat Rai announced protest rallies in all parts of Tharparkar which will be organised from August 1 to August 6. “The PPP is selling out Sindh’s water, land and natural resources,” he alleged and condemned Karoonjhar’s auction.
Separately, in a letter addressed to the MMDD, CM’s Special Assistant for Human Right Surrendar Valasai requested Mines Minister to cancel the mountain’s auction. “Political, social workers and common people are unanimous against the auctioning of any piece of the glorious hills, which [posses] treasures of thousands of years of history and millenniums of pilgrimage traditions,” he wrote. “I also join those voices and as a Thari demand that the auction should be cancelled.”
Arbab Lutfullah, Tharparkar based Special Assistant to Chief Minister Sindh, in a separate letter to the concerned minister stated that the mountain is a ‘treasure trove’ of historical, ecological, geographical and cultural significance. “I strongly opposed the audacious act of auctioning Karoonjhar.” Lutfullah not only sought cancellation of the auction but also asked the government to hold a public hearing at Karoonjhar to hear grievances of the local people.
“The majestic mountain isn’t only a tourist attraction, but [it] also has sacred places for people of various faiths. It’s a place of immense spiritual importance,” the special assistant underlined.
The famous singer Saif Samejo demanded that Karoonjhar should be declared a world heritage site.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 24th, 2023.