Let’s start with a positive. Let’s trust the new Sindh chief minister’s ‘Stanford University education’, where he received advanced degrees in economic systems and civil structure engineering. It may be a good omen that he has been elected to the Sindh Assembly for a third time, having sacrificed his Canadian citizenship for the role. Yet being a taxpaying citizen of this poverty-ridden province, I am still deeply concerned.
My worries have a certain basis. How can one have a faith in the leadership of an individual who was least concerned about his own ministry? A case in point is the preparation of the Sindh budget 2016-17 during his tenure as finance minister. I do not refer to the nature of the budget or whether it will effectively generate growth and employment opportunities for all of us. I refer to the fact that he failed to get the required time for a discussion on the floor of the assembly and did not allow a good number of the motions to be tabled.
I am gravely concerned that he is now inheriting a nearly irrecoverable governance system where lots of coordinated and time-barred efforts are needed, especially in the areas of the management of economy, rule of law, education, service delivery and public finance.
After taking oath as the new chief minister of Sindh on July 29, he told the media that his areas of focus were ensuring peace in Karachi, a greener Thar and the general betterment of Sindh. We are thankful to him for the declaration of his good intentions. But we are also interested in knowing about various budgetary allocations and their execution mechanism. Certainly, he must know more than us about the prerequisites of peace in Karachi. In plain words, how will he serve the interests of the powers that be and the MQM while maintaining the sanctity of the Sindh Assembly? This is a Herculean task, and he has claimed that he will deliver it in a short span of time. For the welfare and development of the people of Sindh, a lot could be learnt from our old masters — the West. In addition to slavery, colonisation, stealing of resources and a war economy, Western powers also created new institutions, acquired technologies, invested in long-term projects, set new norms, and created spaces for women to contribute. It can be argued that doing the same is but a dream for us, the realisation of which needs statesmanship and nerves of steel.
Even a mediocre leader would know that measures need to be taken to revive the dying cities of Sindh. Steps should be taken in increasing energy production, creating employment opportunities and management of water resources, and establishing a system of meritocracy as well as accountability. Many believe that Murad Ali Shah will prove to be another toothless chief minister who will fail to prevent any attempt at dividing Sindh, the cornering of the Sindhi people into a minority, or the flaring up of hate politics based on language, ideology and worldview. The vested-interest-based inner politics of the PPP have compelled him to keep some important ministries with himself which, according to political pundits, will lead to poor delivery and surely worsen an already deteriorating governance system. One cannot help but feel that his rhetoric is aimed chiefly at repairing the shattered image of the PPP. In the guise of a verbose approach, he may end up following the footsteps of his master and it is obvious from his chosen cabinet that his top priority is to win the next elections.
As much as I try to play the ostrich and bury my head in the sand hoping all around me is well, I cannot ignore the glaring truth that it is virtually impossible to trust a chief minister, appointed by a man, who has converted the PPP into a corporation of cronies.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 3rd, 2016.