There was a common demand on Thursday at the floor of the Sindh Assembly – members of the ruling party and joint opposition complained of contamination and a severe shortage of drinking water in their districts.
Lawmakers from Karachi to Kashmore talked against what they said was the negligence of the government to allocate a proper budget for this. “More than 80 per cent of underground water has become contaminated in the entire province,” said the Pakistan Peoples Party’s Imdad Pitafi of Tando Allahyar. “There is only one major demand, which is drinking water.”
Discussing on the budget proposals, Pitafi said that they had to beg for votes and it would be difficult to get them in the next election if they failed to provide people drinking water. No district was spared arsenic contamination and the government should consider including more schemes in this sector. “Go and visit [these places], sir,” he said. “You will find most of the kidney patients in Karachi’s public hospitals hail from rural Sindh. This is because the water is so contaminated.”
Earlier on, MPAs Daya Rama Essani and Mohan Lal Kohistani, ministers for wildlife and minorities, talked about the same problem in their Kohistan of Jamshoro districts. MPA Anwar Mahar spoke of Sukkur’s water shortage and said that local administration had given a contract to an organisation to provide water to the people of Sindh’s third biggest city but it had failed.
Wasim Hussain of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement felt that in developed countries more emphasis was given to water and the environment, but the government had not earmarked any budget for them here. A majority of people living in Karachi drank unfit water and the government was dropping water and sanitation schemes from its Annual Development Programme.
“The city district government has prepared a proposal for the K-IV scheme worth Rs75 billion to provide safe drinking water to the people of the city, but despite directives issued by the president the project has not been included in the budget,” he said.
This was the fourth consecutive day for a discussion on the budget but most of the MPAs kept repeating the speeches of their colleagues and praising their party leadership. Few of them seemed to have actually studied the budget papers.
Around 18 members out of 168 took part in the discussion on Thursday. Most of them demanded the same special package and schemes, which have been given to Khairpur, Larkana, Benazirabad, Karachi and Hyderabad districts.
Rana Sanaullah of the Pakistan Muslim League-F said that PPP-dominated areas had been given packages, therefore such schemes should be started in his area, Sanghar.
Others complained about ghost schools and hospitals. Faseeh Shah of the PPP said that allocations for health and education were good, but the government should take action against ghost teachers and doctors who were being paid but weren’t doing the work. “Can you believe that despite many attempts I have not been able to make my village school functional yet,” he said.
Auqaf minister Abdul Hasib Khan said that bureaucrats were not even obeying the orders of the president. “The president had ordered approval of a scheme worth Rs1.7 billion to renovate the Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine, but bureaucrats are of the view that they cannot approve the scheme and have refused,” he said.
On the law and order situation, he said, “There are black sheep even in the paramilitary forces, who want to create a law and order situation in the city. These people should be expelled from the force,” he said.
The target killings were discussed with members of the MQM saying that some people who have the full backing of a political party have now started burning houses in Orangi Town.
Earlier, as the session started, the Karachi Electric Supply Company was brought up. But the speaker refused to let anyone talk about it as it was a budget session. Nonetheless, Minister for Power Shazia Marri stood up and said that the KESC worker protest continued. “There are blackouts in some areas, which has created a law and order situation,” she said.
During the session, after every member of the ruling party finished their speech they demanded the return of Zulfiqar Mirza, saying that he should go back to work as the home minister.
The session will continue today.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 17th, 2011.