KARACHI: As opposition members criticised the budget presented by the Sindh government for the upcoming fiscal year, MPAs from the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) retaliated by lambasting Prime Minister Imran Khan for the Centre’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
As the provincial assembly session began on Thursday, Sindh Culture Minister Sardar Shah took the opportunity to call for the registration of an FIR against PM Khan for the deaths of 3,930 people as a result of Covid-19. He claimed that Khan and the federal government had failed to take the pandemic seriously, only creating confusion among the masses.
“If a proper lockdown was imposed, with other drastic measures, we would not be facing such a situation. We are now suffering due to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government,” he insisted.
The minister then turned to the skyrocketing prices of essential commodities and fuel in the country. “We used to hear titles such as ‘Quaid-e-Millat’ (Leader of the Nation), but our premier is the Quaid-e-Qillat (Leader of Scarcity),” he complained.
Moving on to his own department, Shah claimed it was only under the PPP that historic locations and heritage were being preseved in Sindh, while excavation had begun at various archaeological sites.
The leader of the opposition, PTI’s Firdous Shamim Naqvi, meanwhile, insisted that his demand for governor rule in Sindh was not against the law, pointing out that the clause was inserted in the Constitution by PPP founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto himself.
Addressing the house, Naqvi said, “PPP leaders criticise me when I talk about it. If it was wrong, why did Bhutto make this clause part of the 1973 Constitution? I am not against the 18th Amendment but want to remove anomalies in it.”
He added that the lockdown was a good thing but had not been implemented in letter and spirit, forcing the needy and the daily-wage workers out on the streets from hunger. He further lambasted the Sindh government for complaining about its share in the National Finance Commission while refusing to distribute resources at the grassroots level under a provincial finance commission award.
Grand Democratic Alliance MPA Hasnain Mirza, too, criticised the Sindh government for failing to allocate funds and introducing new schemes for poverty-ridden districts, including Tharparkar, Mirpurkhas and Badin. “There are ventilators in Badin but no one to operate them,” he pointed out, adding that the Sindh University’s Laar campus and the cadet college scheme were languishing under the government’s neglect.
He further pointed out that Sindh was not the only province to receive fewer funds than expected this year, given the shortfall faced by the federal government.
Sindh Education and Labour Minister Saeed Ghani, though, insisted that the PTI had destroyed the country’s economy. “By the time the pandemic started, Pakistan’s economy had already sunk. When PTI came into power, the GDP growth was 5.7 per cent, but now it’s negative.”
“Sindh is the only province that has passed 16 different laws for labour rights. Everyone from the opposition criticises us, but can anyone dare to appreciate us for increasing the salaries of government employees?” he questioned, adding that those who spoke about the rights of Karachi had been responsible for the worst law and order situation in the metropolis. “The development done in Karachi by the PPP government was never done in the past.”
However, PTI’s parliamentary leader Haleem Adil Sheikh disagreed, berating the Sindh government for “reducing the megacity to ruins.”
According to him, the PPP was targeting constituencies where opposition members had won, including his, as a means of revenge. “They should take revenge on me, not the people,” he remarked, decrying that the poor in his constituency were deprived of civic facilities.
“Karachi feeds the country but the PPP has turned it into a kachra kundi (garbage dump),” he declared, accusing the PPP of refusing to allot it funds because it did not have a vote bank in it.
Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s Mangla Sharma, meanwhile, asked why bodies were transported in donkey-carts and women forced to give birth in rickshaws in the absence of ambulances. “If the Sindh government has done well, why do hospitals lack basic facilities?” she inquired.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 26th, 2020.
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