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March 30, 2020

PPP takes a flak after Jiyalas fill committees to provide rations to poor

Karachi

March 30, 2020

The Sindh government has been under severe criticism from opposition parties and social activists after deputy commissioners (DCs) have allegedly included local leaders of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in the COVID-19 relief committees that had been formed at the union committee levels to provide rations to the needy people during the lockdown.

It is being alleged that the relief committees are providing free food items among the PPP supporters only. Even in some of the relief committees, the PPP candidates for the National and Sindh assemblies in the 2018 general polls have been included.

Also, a mere 250 ration bags have been given to each relief committee to distribute in its respective union committee, the average population of which is around 70,000. The reason behind the formation of the COVID-19 relief committees was to distribute ration bags among the needy persons at the union committee and ward level. The DCs were to supervise and monitor the distribution of the rations, according to a notification issued on March 26 by the Sindh chief secretary.

The notification also provided the mechanism for the composition of the relief committees at the union committee level. According to the notification, a representative of the relevant DC would be the relief committee's convener while its other members would include the union committee chairman or ward councillor, chairman of the local zakat committee in the locality, a representative of a prominent NGO, a notable of the locality, and a notable women activist or women councillor.

The notification said that the relief committee will “identify daily wage earners, labourers, street hawkers and the poor segment of society” residing in the respective union committee and distribute ration bags among them. The notification also asked the relief committee members to ensure social distancing in order to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Cronyism in committees

However, many political parties in the opposition in Sindh, including the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), and a large number of social activists have complained that the DCs have nominated many local leaders of the ruling PPP as the relief committee conveners who have been distributing rations only among the PPP supporters.

After reviewing the names in the relief committees in many areas of Karachi, The News found out that except the representatives of DC and UC chairmen, the rest of the relief committee members in most of the union committees are affiliated with the PPP.

Almost all the chairmen of the Zakat committees have been appointed by the PPP who are the members of the relief committees as per the notification. Moreover, many Jiyalas have also filled the slots for NGO workers, notables of the area and women activists.

For example, Shahzad Natha, who contested the last provincial assembly elections from PS-106 on the PPP ticket, has been included as the area notable in the relief committee for Pakistan Quarters UC in District East.

Similarly, Farukh Niaz Tanoli, a PPP National Assembly candidate, has been included in the relief committee for the Soldier Bazaar UC in District East in the slot for the notable person from the area.

In the same district, Farzana Mehar, a local PPP woman leader, has been included in the relief committee for two union committees — Gajro and Safoora Goth.

In Malir and West districts, almost all the PPP's local leaders have been accommodated in the relief committees, who are allegedly distributing free rations among the party’s supporters.

Haleem Adil Shaikh, the PTI parliamentary leader in the Sindh Assembly, said the PPP did not spare an opportunity to do corruption even in the severe crisis of the pandemic. “The PPP allocated Rs2 crores to each district in the name of relief committees and accommodated its party leaders in the committees to embezzle it,” said Shaikh.

He demanded that the relief goods and free rations be distributed through security forces to ensure that the poor suffering from the lockdown are able to receive them.

Niaz Muhammad Khan, a member of the Al-Khidmat Disaster Management Committee, a Jamaat-e-Islami-linked relief project, in Landhi Industrial Area said the genuine charities, such as the Al-Khidmat Foundation had been totally ignored in the relief committees and members of the PPP had been accommodated.

“Residents in neighbourhoods in Landhi Industrial Area of District Malir have been the most affected people due to the lockdown because most of them are daily-wage workers, street hawkers and rickshaw drivers,” said Khan. “In our fieldwork, we have known that a majority of the people in these neighbourhoods have not received free rations yet and it is mainly because the deputy commissioner has handed over the task to members of the ruling party who will only distribute the ration bags among the party supporters.”

Too little relief

A union committee chairman in Landhi Industrial Area said the Sindh government had allocated only 250 free ration bags for the union committees, which are inhabited by around 70,000 people.

“Among the 250 ration bags, the UC chairman along his team of councillors will distribute a mere 70 bags and the rest of the bags will be distributed by other members of the committee, who are members of the PPP,” he told The News, requesting anonymity.

Protests

In various parts of the city, groups of people held protests on Sunday against the fact that the relief funds and items were not reaching the deserving people even on the seventh day of lockdown.

In Ibrahim Hyderi, hundreds of people, including women and children, organised a protest demanding that the government initiate fund distributions to the fishermen who have not been allowed to work because of the lockdown.

They also expressed concern over the distribution mechanism of the free rations. “We demand that the government engage genuine community leaders in the distribution of the free rations among the residents. The PPP leaders will only distribute them among the party supporters,” said Shakeel Malah, a fisherman.