Syed Murad Ali Shah of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) was elected as Sindh’s chief minister for a second term on Thursday. After his expected swearing-in on Saturday, he would become the 29th CM of the province.
Shah’s first term as the chief executive ran from July 29, 2016 to May 28, 2018. He is going to head the third consecutive administration of the PPP in the province.
The Sindh Assembly conducted the poll to choose the next CM, the leader of the house, with newly elected Speaker Agha Siraj Khan Durrani in chair. Shah faced off Shaharyar Khan Mahar of the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA).
Shah was elected to the provincial legislature on winning the PS-80 Sehwan Sharif constituency while Mahar on securing the PS-8 Shikarpur seat. In the one-to-one poll, Shah bagged 97 of the 158 votes. One Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal MPA and three Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan lawmakers chose not to participate in the open ballot.
After being declared the leader of the house, Shah said in his speech that his father had been MPA, minister, CM and speaker, saying that he was provided the same opportunities except the post of the speaker. “God willing, I’ll serve Sindh’s people to the best of my abilities.”
He claimed that the PPP was certain of winning two-thirds majority, but most of the party’s seats were snatched from them, and he knows how that happened.
He said that in the 2013 general elections, the PPP had secured 3.2 million votes and the number increased to 3.9 million in last month’s polls.
Showing a copy of the PPP’s manifesto, he said he was all set to implement it because his party had won the elections on the basis of this document.
Talking about his priorities, Shah said the topmost was law and order. Responding to the speech of an opposition member, he said he was committed to introducing police reforms and turn the Sindh police into the most efficient, community-friendly and effective force.
“We had started capacity-building of the police force in our last tenure, as under that programme, most modern training at army training centres was started, over 10,000 police officials were recruited on merit and the force was equipped with the latest weapons and gadgets.”
Shah said some people believe that the solution of overcoming water shortage lies in the construction of dams. “This is totally wrong. Dams are cemented walls, but their raw material is water,” he said. “We don’t have water in the system, and construction of dams would not resolve this issue.”
He said the solution of water shortage lies in conservation and adoption of the most modern irrigational methods. He added that he has conceived a project to install a desalination plant on the sea to obtain potable water.
Talking about industrial water requirements, Shah said recycled water would be provided to the industries. He also said that hardly a portion of water in the city is treated but “we have started a water treatment project and it would be completed shortly”.
He said the provincial government has installed thousands of water supply schemes in villages and towns, but they have failed because of prolonged power outages and load-shedding. “We had started solarising the schemes, and in this new tenure the project would be accorded top priority.”
Shah said health facilities have been established all over Sindh and most of them have been upgraded to the level of basic health unit-plus, taluka and district headquarters hospitals.
He said cardiovascular facilities have been established in different districts as satellites of Karachi’s National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases. “Now cardio hospitals are available all over the province within an hour’s drive.”
Shah said he had declared an education emergency in the province, but could not achieve the desired results as he had in the health sector. He said the main issue in the education sector is teachers.
“We would accord special focus to the education sector by launching the most modern teaching methods and teacher training programmes, and scientifically improve the syllabus in line with the international standards.”
Shah said PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has directed him to launch a special poverty alleviation programme. “We have a plan to fight against poverty by launching income-generating programmes, particularly in the rural areas,” he said, and warned the federal government against discontinuing the Benazir Income Support Programme.
Shah said that for empowering women, he would launch different projects under which they would be provided with employment opportunities. “We would further strengthen the women development department to work for women’s empowerment.”
He said the urban transport projects he had launched during his last tenure are near completion. “I’m sorry to say that the Centre-funded Green Line project is still incomplete.”
Shah said the federal authorities had been advising him during his previous tenure to procure passenger buses to ply on different routes, adding that had he procured the vehicles, where they would have been plied.
In an indirect reference to the speeches delivered by the MPAs who had been elected to the provincial assembly for the first time, he said they should be taught parliamentary norms. “I’m sorry to say that you [the opposition MPAs] were speaking in such a harsh way as if there was a war between the opposition and treasury benches.”
Shah advised them to go to the library and read the record of the speeches delivered by the members of the assemblies in the 1970s and “you’ll be able to know how much decency, respect and dignity was in their work”.
He said that some members of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf had claimed that they would solve all the problems between the federal and provincial administrations. “Thank you so much for your offer. I’d request you to ask the Centre to constitute the National Finance Commission (NFC) in the first phase,” he said, and urged them to ensure that Sindh is given its due water share.