Wednesday February 21, 2024

PTI takes U-turn as federal govt gives development funds to Karachi MNAs

March 17, 2020

The emergence of a group of disgruntled MNAs from Karachi has forced Prime Minister Imran Khan to take another U-Turn from his earlier stance of not giving development funds to MNAs and MPAs as the federal government has released developments funds of Rs3.4 billion to the party’s MNAs from the metropolis to appease the disgruntled group, The News has learnt.

The opposition parties are criticising the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led federal government for releasing funds only to the parliamentarians belonging to the PTI and its coalition partners to please them in order to save the government.

On Sunday, PTI Karachi President and MPA Khurrum Sher Zaman announced that the PTI MNAs elected from the city had received a large amount of fund each from the federal government to carry out development works in their respective constituencies.

“The disbursement of funds of Rs3.4 billion to Karachi’s MNAs was carried out under the prime minister’s programme to develop the city,” Zaman said. He added that the MPAs of the PTI from Karachi would also receive funds for development works.

The PTI had made a history in the last general elections by clinching 14 out of 21 National Assembly seats from Karachi. However, all did not go well for the party in the city after the polls as interviews with PTI Karachi leaders and legislators suggest that half of the PTI Karachi MNAs have formed a dissenting group to pressurise the PM into releasing development funds to them so that they could resolve civic issues of their constituencies.

Federal Minister for Planning and Special Initiative Asad Umar had conveyed the concerns of the disgruntled MNAs from Karachi to the PM, after which funds were released to the legislators, PTI leaders told The News.

Shakoor Shad, the PTI MNA who defeated Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) young supremo Bilawal Bhutto Zardari in the constituency of Lyari in the last polls, said he was thankful to the federal government for not only releasing funds to the party MNAs but also announcing and carrying out development projects for the city under the Karachi package. “Our grievances have been heard and now Karachi will see a genuine change after the completion of the federal government-funded projects,” Shad told The News.

Another U-turn

During his election campaign, Khan regularly employed the rhetoric that giving development funds directly to the MNAs was a way of ‘corruption’. The abolition of these funds was also promised in the PTI manifesto published in 2013.

Due to this, leaders of opposition parties are terming this development another U-turn of the PM. Kheal Das Kohistani, a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz MNA, said the PTI-led federal government violated the merit by giving funds to its members and those of its allied parties. “The funds should be given to all MNAs without discrimination,” Kohistani asserted.

Appeasing strategy

Sources from the PTI said the emergence of differences among the PTI lawmakers in Karachi forced Khan to change his stance over providing development funds to the MNAs and MPAs.

The differences among the PTI MNAs openly surfaced in the National Assembly session on January 15 when some of the disgruntled members rushed to the seat of Federal Maritime Affairs Minister Ali Zaidi, another PTI MNA from Karachi, to lodge their protest against him.

Zaidi also mocked the irate MNAs in the session by saying that they had come to him before the 2018 general elections to ask for the party tickets. In September last year, Shad had announced that he was considering to resign from the NA because the federal government and the party had continuously ignored him and his constituency of Lyari.

The disgruntled MNAs told The News that they needed development funds for their constituencies because whenever they visited their areas, they were questioned by the people why no development activity was being carried out there.

Discussions with the PTI Karachi leaders also gave this impression that there has been a clear division among the party’s 14 Karachi MNAs on the basis of their socioeconomic class. “Of the MNAs, those who are billionaires and live in affluent areas do not have any issue with the party over the development funds. But the MNAs who have been living in the middle-class and lower-middle-class areas and belong to working class are under severe pressure from their voters,” said an MNA who has been elected from a constituency comprising lower-income localities.

“We have won the elections by defeating the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan and the PPP in their strongholds and now voters are expecting that the federal government will launch development projects in their constituencies and address the civic issues,” he told The News. “But no one is listening to us – neither in the party’s meetings nor in Parliament.”

However, the pressure seems to have worked and the PTI was forced to take another U-turn by releasing funds to its MNAs from Karachi.