Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah has said that Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) will not be deterred by criticism and continue the Zulfikarabad project if it is elected to power again.
“It’s going to be a good project for the residents of Thatta’s coastal areas. It will bring economic prosperity to the area,” said the chief minister at a public gathering in Mirpur Sakro, Thatta, on Wednesday evening.
Sindhi nationalist parties view the Zulfikarabad project as an attempt to make Sindhis lose their status as a majority in the province. Even civil society, represented by writers, poets and intellectuals, has protested against the project. Those who reside in the area have raised concern about their possible displacement, resettlement and alternative sources of livelihood. They have also complained that the government is not training them so that they would be able to be a part of Zulfikarabad’s skilled workforce.
But the chief minister said that the detractors were simply refusing to acknowledge the project’s benefits. “Zulfikarabad will prevent the sea from moving further inland into Thatta and Badin. It will save thousands of acres which might be submerged when the water moves inland.”
According to Shah, the project was originally envisioned by Benazir Bhutto under the name of Keti Bander port. The present PPP-government only renamed it as Zulfikarabad to honour the party’s founding president, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
The new city has been planned over Keti Bunder, Kharo Chhan, Shah Bunder and Jati talukas of Thatta. A total of 375,311 acres from the settled area of these talukas and 957,041 acres from the sea will be used in the project. But the opponents of the project say that it will affect 480 villages, six archaeological sites, 17 creeks of the Indus delta, 223 kilometres of the coastal belt and displace over 400,000 people.
At a press conference organised on Wednesday in Hyderabad, the leaders of Sindh Progressive Nationalist Alliance vowed to continue opposing the project if the next government pursued Zulfikarabad or introduced a divisive local government system. “The PPP, under a foreign conspiracy, wants to [split the province],” said Awami Tehreek’s president, Ayaz Latif Palijo.
Power to the masses
Before the press conference on Wednesday, the chief minister inaugurated electricity supply schemes worth Rs26.9 million for 16 villages in Mirpur Sakro. The provincial ministers Sassui Palijo and Sadiq Ali Memon were also present at the inaugaration ceremony. He also announced that a campus of Sindh University, a medical college and an engineering college will be established in Thatta. He also promised to fund the rehabilitation and renovation of Zaid Bin Annahyan hospital in Thatta as well.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 8th, 2013.