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April 17, 2021

Fighting mafias in Punjab kept me away from focussing on Sindh: PM Imran Khan

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April 17, 2021

SUKKUR: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday announced a massive development package of Rs446 billion for 14 under-developed districts of Sindh, saying the effects of the investment would be visible within a month.

While addressing a ceremony in connection with the government's flagship Kamyab Jawan Programme at the Sukkur IBA University, the prime minister said he was pleased to be visiting interior Sindh and added that as he was fighting the biggest mafias in Punjab, he could not focus on Sindh.

Federal Ministers Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Dr Fehmida Mirza, Ali Haider Zaidi, Asad Umar and Muhammad Mian Soomro, Governor Sindh Imran Ismail, Special Assistants to PM Dr Sania Nishtar and Usman Dar, Senator Saif Abro, Haleem Adil Shaikh, Mobin Jatoi and Syed Tahir Shah were also present on the occasion.

The prime minister said instead of progressing with time, villages and rural areas in Sindh were going backwards. He said he had travelled far and wide across Pakistan and had seen several poor areas, adding that Sindh also had a lot of poverty.

“Sindh has always been deprived of the basic facilities, while the underprivileged have had no rights,” he said. “If we can equip the youth with skills and education, we can turn them into an asset for the country,” he added. Imran Khan said the Centre was giving the provinces their share as per the 18th Amendment while running on credit.

The prime minister told the gathering that his government inherited the biggest debt burden. He said in the last two and a half years, his government had returned a debt of Rs35,000 billion -- Rs15,000 billion more than the previous government.

He said the same Rs15,000 billion could have been spent on public welfare projects such as construction of roads, irrigation and infrastructure development to change the fate of backward areas.

Imran Khan regretted that the Sindh government had cancelled the no objection certificate for the Bundal Island off Karachi’s coast, saying the investment on the island could benefit the people of the province.

“I urge the Sindh government to review its decision so that the returns from the island can uplift Sindh's economic status,” he said. “It was unfortunate that while the project was good to go, the Sindh government rescinded the no objection certificate it had provided earlier to the federal government to carry out development work there,” he added.

The prime minister said his government had told the Sindh government that profit earned from the development on the island would be handed over to Sindh. “I represent every province of Pakistan,” he said. “No part of the country will witness less development than the other.”

About the COVID-19 lockdowns, the prime minister said: “We didn't shut down the country following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic -- as was the case with several developed countries -- and we reaped the benefits.”

He said the government distributed cash assistance under Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme among 15 million families after the poor suffered due to COVID-19 lockdown. He said Sindh, with 22% population, got 33% share in Ehsaas Cash Programme, which manifested that the amount was distributed fairly and without any political discrimination.

Aimed at the socio-economic development of the districts, the Rs446 billion package announced by the prime minister includes construction of the Nai Gaj dam for irrigation of 28,800 acres of land and the 306-kilometre Sukkur-Hyderabad motorway.

Imran Khan said the Sukkur-Hyderabad Motorway would facilitate the transportation of logistics besides bringing ease of doing business in the country. Under the scheme, rehabilitation of 200,000 acres of land will provide livelihood opportunities to the people.

The package will also ensure gas supply to 160 villages and additional 30,000 annual electricity connections. Improving power transmission to help reduce line losses and outages is also part of the scheme.

As part of the education reforms, the ratio of higher education will be brought to 52 per cent. Moreover, 14 passport offices will also be upgraded under the package. Earlier, the prime minister also distributed cheques of business loans among youths under the Kamyab Jawan Programme and certificates among those who completed skill training.

Later, the prime minister also examined the disbursement of Ehsaas cash assistance among women through biometric identification and also handed over cheques to them. Briefing the prime minister, SAPM Sania Nishtar said for the first time, biometric technology was being used to ensure transparency in cash dispensation.

She said 80% Ehsaas survey had been completed and rest would be done by June. Dr Sania said the people should send their CNIC number to 8171 helpline to know their entitlement. Moreover, special desks would also be set up at district level to register more families.

In his address, Planning Minister Asad Umar said despite being a resource rich province, the people of Sindh were deprived of development and basic facilities. He said the Sukkur-Hyderabad Motorway project would be approved by the CDWP and Public Private Partnership Board by next week.

He said under the package, Rs52 billion would be spent for power and gas supply to the deprived areas and Rohri and Hyderabad railways stations would be upgraded. He said the federal government decided to accomplish Nai Gaj Dam project to irrigate 28,800 acres after the Sindh government refused to do its part.

He said 100,000 youth in 14 preferred districts would be skill trained and sports facilities would be developed for benefit of 130,000 youth including 35,000 girls. The package would also ensure introduction of 3G and 4G services to 3.7 million population and optic fiber connectivity to 1.2 million people.

He said after the upgradation of 14 passport offices, 200,000 people would not have to travel outside their districts for passport related work. He said the prime minister had given three months to all the ministers concerned to start execution of their projects.

Sindh Governor Imran Ismail said Imran Khan believed that his vision for change was much awaited in Sindh where people faced most injustices, be it power and gas supply or the policing system. He also thanked Asad Umar for drafting the package by visiting the areas to ascertain the needs in consultation with the local leadership.