The Sindh government has vehemently opposed the federal government’s plan to establish two nuclear power plants on the outskirts of Karachi, citing fears of environmental degradation and the risks associated with nuclear technology.
“We demand this project be scrapped. Not just Karachi, it can put the whole country at risk,” said the chief minister, as the representatives of the Sindh government took a stand against the plan during the ‘long-term development vision 2025’ meeting at the Sindh Secretariat on Saturday.
The consultative meeting was chaired by the Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal and was attended by the federal secretary for planning and development, Hasan Nawaz Tarar, Sindh chief secretary, Sajid Saleem Hotiyana, finance advisor to CM, Syed Murad Ali Shah, all administrative secretaries of the provincial government as well as the heads of private and semi-government organisations.
The meeting, which was convened to obtain Sindh’s input for the ‘vision’ turned into a fierce round of allegations and counter-allegations between the federal and provincial government. The Pakistan Peoples Party’s ministers, as well as the bureaucrats of the provincial government, decried the federal government’s attitude for not according due autonomy to the province. “What kind of provincial autonomy are you talking about? Even after the 18th Amendment, the provincial government has no right over its natural resources. Around 70 per cent of the oil and gas fields in the country are located in Sindh but the decisions to award the contracts for drilling of these fields are made by Islamabad,” said Murad Ali Shah.
Diverting the federal minister’s attention towards the issue of tax collection, Murad Ali Shah said, “The federal government is still interfering with our constitutional right of collecting the tax on services. You have devised a provision for building mega-dams in Vision 2025 even after stiff resistance put up by Sindh and other three provinces. These are anti-people projects and should be excluded from the long-term plan.”
The provincial lawmakers stressed the need to open the Pak-India border linking the Sindh and Rajasthan provinces. “Shahbaz Sharif is conducting trade meetings with his counterpart in the adjoining state of India but our chief minister does not even know who the chief minister of our neighbouring state in India is,” lamented Nazar Muhammad Mahar, a former additional chief secretary for planning and development.
For his part, Ahsan Iqbal repeatedly assured the Sindh government that their grievances would be addressed. In his remarks, he revealed that vision 2025 incorporated seven main factors. These included energy security, self reliance in growth-rate, development of human resources, social development, value addition in production units, modernisation and regional connectivity of infrastructure, promotion of small and medium enterprises and democratic governance of institution reforms.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 5th, 2014.