KARACHI: Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah has said that the federal government is not serious about running constitutional bodies, which was evident from the fact that the prime minister left the National Economic Council (NEC) meeting without getting the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) approved. The next day, the national media had carried the news that the PSDP was approved.
CM Shah made these remarks on Thursday while addressing a press conference at the committee room of the Old Assembly Building. He was flanked by PPP Sindh President Nisar Khuhro, Excise Minister Mukesh Kumar Chawla, Information Adviser Murtaza Wahab and Adviser on Jails Aijaz Jakhrani.
The chief minister said that the NEC was a 13-member constitutional body headed by the prime minister and was mandated to meet twice a year. This was the first meeting of the year, he added.
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According to Shah, the federal government presented a five-year plan in the NEC meeting, which was hastily approved by the prime minister. "At this, I told him [PM Imran] that neither had the plan been shared with the provinces, nor had comments or suggestions been heard in the meeting. Then how could it have been approved?" he said, adding that this was how national issues were being handled at the federal level.
CM Shah recalled that he had written a letter to the prime minister with a request to direct the National Highway Authority (NHA) to expedite work on the Rs14 billion rehabilitation of the Jasmhoro-Sehwan Road, for which the provincial government had already released its Rs7 billion share to the NHA. The prime minister directed his State Minister Murad Saeed to settle the issue. "When Saeed came to Karachi, he told me to meet him at the Governor's House," said the CM. "I told him to come to the CM House but he did not bother and then he was promoted as a fully fledged minister," he added.
Speaking about the Karachi Circular Railway, the chief minister said that the Railways authority had given an undertaking to the Supreme Court that they would start the local train service in 15 days. Contrary to the undertaking, however, the Railways minister was now saying that the Sindh government would operate the local train. "Railways are a federal subject and in the past, it was the railways ministry that used to operate the local train in the city," he recalled, questioning how the provincial government could be expected to run the train service when it had no engines or bogies.
The CM said that his government had been pressing the Centre to award the same concessions to the KCR, which it had given to the Orange Line in Lahore. "We are ready to launch the KCR as it was approved in the CPEC projects, but due to federal government's reluctance it is still hanging in balance," he lamented.
Speaking about the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) ministers, the CM said that one of these 'sophisticated' ministers [nafees people according to the prime minister] was misguiding the prime minister on legal and constitutional issues. He said that not a single penny in the Karachi package had been released so far. "These nafees representatives of Karachi are deceiving their constituents," he said.
The chief minister said that the 12th five-year plan has set a target of 5% average annual growth, but "I don't think they will be able to achieve the target. I don't think they will even be able to achieve 4%," he said. "This is because the prime minister does not meet stakeholders such as officials of provincial governments, traders, businessmen and industrialists to seek their input," he added. Shah said that he had told the prime minister that he was not meeting chief ministers. "At least you are not meeting me and even avoid meeting me in Karachi," he claimed to have told the prime minister.
The solution of Pakistan's decreasing recoveries lies with the Sindh government, said Murad. "I have advised the federal government to give collection of sales tax to the provinces. Yes, we are ready to start collection on behalf of the federal government and deposit it in the national exchequer but their [federal government] policy is very simple - 'don't work and do not let others work'".
The chief minister said that the federal government has already deleted 36 on-going schemes from its PSDP. These schemes include the World Bank-assisted rehabilitation of Sukkur Barrage, construction of a bridge on River Indus to connect Sukkur-Rohri, construction of Mirpurkhas-Umerkot section, construction of Southern by-pass in Hyderabad, rehabilitation of the existing Sehwan-Rato Dero Carriageway, lining of KB Feeder to provide water to Karachi and the construction of a feeder canal to Manchar Lake.
Vagueness in the PSDP
The chief minister said that the federal government had started a new policy with regard to the PSDP in which location of the schemes was not reflected, as a result of which the provinces could not calculate their share. "In the last NEC meeting held in March 2018, I had raised this issue and it has been recorded in the minutes too," he said.
Shah said that the federal government has also refused to finance the Makhi Rarash Link Canal Project for the supply of water to the Thar Coal project. "They [fed govt] are saying that it was a province-specific or localised project, which is a joke. This is a national project from where electricity is being produced for the entire country," he lamented. He added that the federal government has launched a number of localised projects in South Punjab, KP and Balochistan.
Shah also disclosed that apart from the 36 on-going schemes, the federal government has also deleted another 31 new schemes from its next PSDP.
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He said that in the next budget, the federal government was going to impose heavy taxes which would further increase poverty in the country. "In such circumstances, the provincial government has worked out a poverty reduction programme under the banner of `Peoples' Promises' to be launched by PPP chairman in the next budget," he disclosed.
With regard to the recent outbreak of HIV in Larkana district, the chief minister said that it was a serious matter and the provincial government had taken it seriously. "We are establishing an Endowment Fund for the purpose and have started investigations to unearth the reason for the outbreak," he said.
Shah urged the media not to disclose the names of the HIV positive patients. "This attitude will lead to social problems. We should focus on their rehabilitation instead of making their lives miserable," he said, besides urging politicians to avoid politicising the issue.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 31st, 2019.