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June 7, 2021

Sindh, Centre clash over funds

KARACHI: While the water row between the federal government and Sindh is still on, the latter Sunday picked a fight with the former accusing that it was ignored in allocation of funds to the federating units for launching development schemes.

Addressing the inaugural ceremony of COVID-19 vaccination center at the Expo Center here, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah accused the federal government of adopting a discriminatory attitude towards his province.

Murad said no development scheme had been announced for Sindh in the last seven years and this time too the province was neglected and discriminated in the budget. Murad said he was happy at the progress of Punjab, KP and Balochistan but asked why the federal government was adopting a discriminatory attitude towards Sindh.

Talking about the vaccination process, Murad said the process had started on February 3 and so far 1.3 million people had been vaccinated. “In Karachi, 0.8 million people have been vaccinated against the virus. 90 percent of frontline health workers have also been vaccinated while the target is to vaccinate 0.2 million people on a daily basis,” he said.

“I request our citizens to vaccinate themselves as soon as possible if we have to normalise the situation,” he said. Murad warned that the provincial government employees not vaccinating themselves against the pandemic won’t get their salaries.

“We will take all decisions for betterment of the public,” he continued. Talking about his province’s recent reservations about water resources, Murad said, “I have taken the matter to the Sindh Assembly. All the parties there have agreed that Sindh is facing injustice, but the federal govt accuses us of water theft.”

Murad had also written a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday urging him to reconsider the proposed Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP). Murad termed the PSDP lopsided and detrimental to the interests of Sindh. The chief minister claimed that his province was treated with "abject bias" since the PTI came to power.

INP adds: Meanwhile, Sindh Minister for Local Government, Information, Religious Affairs and Forests Nasir Hussain Shah Sunday said his province was facing acute water shortage that might damage its paddy and cotton crops.

Talking to reporters here, he said Sindh was confronting water shortage right now and urged the Indus River System Authority IRSA to give equal share of water to all the provinces.

He termed water shortage the gravest threat to the province. He said Sindh was given 35% less water than its due share. He said the IRSA had declared that Sindh would get an equitable share of water but despite that the Authority had failed to take any practical measures in this regard.

He said every Sindhi was worried about what he called a biased attitude towards his province. He said if there was water deficit then it should be borne by all federating unit equally. He said the current year water shortage was more acute than in the previous years.

The minister claimed that Sindh was giving due share to Balochistan and objected to the IRSA’s decision to cut 35% share of water of other provinces in order to provide water to one province.

He said the Sindh government was wrongfully blamed for the delay of K IV water supply project, which had been pending for the last 19 years.

The minister said Sindh contributed 35% share of cotton yield to the total agri produce. Under the direction of Supreme Court, six hydrants are running, he said, adding that people were arrested for water theft during the crackdowns.

He said Karachi was expanding, as people from all over the country were settling there. He said the provincial government had never stopped water supply to any locality. Meanwhile, Sindh Governor Imran Ismail also said on Sunday that water shortage could be tackled by launching a massive tree plantation campaign in the province.

He said the province was facing water shortage and the government needed to boost tree plantation drive to overcome the crisis. Geo News adds: Meanwhile, Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar Sunday responded to Murad Ali Shah's complaints that the Centre had not allotted enough funds for development of Sindh and said the federal government will spend on the people of Sindh — not its government.

"I think the chief minister is confused because he is unable to distinguish between the people of Sindh and the government of Sindh.

"Chief Minister, sir, you may be the government of Sindh but you are not the people of Sindh. And we will spend on the people of Sindh, not on the government of Sindh," Asad said. He said the funds that had gone from the Centre to Sindh in the past had "resulted in palaces being constructed, diamond necklaces being discovered in Switzerland and towers being constructed in Dubai, and assets being accumulated in France".

"The people of Sindh know of what I speak, whether it is citizens living in the urban areas or in villages. The rest of Pakistan, on the other hand, may not even know how poorly developed Sindh is," the minister added.

Asad reminded everyone that PM Imran Khan had announced, within a year of coming into power, not one but two "historic" development packages which cover urban areas as well as rural areas, extending to 18 districts.

The federation, through the Ministry of Planning, Development & Special Initiatives, through the Public Private Partnership Authority, and with the help of other federal government institutions that are spending out of their own budget, will spend more than Rs1,000bn on Sindh over the course of three years, he said.

He said Imran Khan was not the prime minister of any region but the whole country and he did not do biased politics. He assured the chief minister that many projects had already been inaugurated in Sindh and now work on the ongoing projects would be speeded up.