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The UN Commission on Limits of Continental Shelf hason Friday 21st March 2015 finally announced adoption of the recommendations for Extension of Pakistan Continental Shelf. With this Pakistanís continental shelf limits stands extended from 200 to 350 nautical miles, giving Pakistan sovereign rights over additional areaof 50,000sq km beyond Pakistanís Exclusive Economic Zone thus increasing Pakistanís maritime area from 240,000 sq km at present to about 290,000 sq km.

Earlier realizing the significance of Continental Shelf Extension, the Ministry of Science & Technology initiatedthe Projectback in 2004, to work on the details required for the submission of its case to the United Nations under the Law of the Sea to which Pakistan is a signatory since 1997. Government of Pakistan entrusted the responsibility of this national Project to the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), under the administrative control of Ministry of Science & Technology. The NIO along with technical support of all the stake holders; like Ministries of Foreign Affairs,Defence, Hydrography Department of PN, Law, Justice & Human Right, Science & Technology, Petroleum and Natural Resources and the Planning Divisionetcafter completed the entire requirements and Technical and Scientific Guidelines of the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf for submission of Pakistanís Case for the extension of its Continental Shelf to the United Nations on 30th April 2009.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) defines the different maritime zones and regulates marine sovereignty rights and rights of use, among others. The juridical Continental Shelf of a coastal state comprises the submerged natural prolongation of its land territory, and consists of the seabed and subsoil of the shelf, the slope and the rise. According to Article 76, coastal states had - under certain geological conditions - extended their juridical Continental Shelf and thus gain marine sovereignty rights beyond the 200-nautical-mile limit of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Within the extended zone, a state has among other things the exclusive right of exploring and exploiting non-living-resources of the seabed and subsoil as well as sedentary species, whereas fishing rights remain limited to the EEZ.

Pakistan gave a formal presentation to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) on 16 August 2013 at United Nations, New York. Pakistan demonstrated that high quality bathymetric and seismic data were acquired during Pakistanís Continental Shelf Programme and the case submitted to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf is based on concrete scientific evidence. Further the Pakistanís scientific team was well supported both onshore and offshore by leading international experts. The Chairman Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf,established a seven member sub-commission to review Pakistanís submission. In the yearlong process Pakistan technical delegation held multiple interactions with the UN Commission. The Sub-commission undertook critical review of Pakistan Submission and detailed analysis of the data submitted by Pakistan as per article 76 and Scientific & Technical Guidelines. During each interaction Pakistan delegation was posed number of technical questions and the preciseness and speed with which Pakistan delegation responded to each query helped in culminating the whole process successfully within a year, while some other states have taken more than 3 years to complete this process.

Members of Pakistan technical delegation who pursued Pakistan submission during 2013-15 include are Commodore Zafar Mansoor Tipu SI(M) Judge Advocate General of Pakistan Navy, Dr Asif Inam Director General National Institute of Oceanography and also Director of Pakistan Continental Shelf Project, Commander Salman Ahmed Khan Pakistan Navy Hydrographic Department, Mr Mohsin Tabrez and Mr Khalid Mehmoodof National Institute of Oceanography.

The Subcommission established to examine Pakistanís submission presented the recommendations to the main Commission during its 37th Session on 10th March 2015. On the same date Pakistan also made a formal concluding Presentation on the submission. The presentation of the Sub-commission and Pakistanís delegation covered all technical and legal aspects of the submission, in conformity with relevant clauses of the Law of the Sea - UNCLOS.

Pakistan has become the first country in the region amongst India, Oman, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, to have the sea limits extended and secured the vast non-living mineral and oil & gas resources of the extended area.

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