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Murad says Centre must stop treating Sindh like ‘East India Company’

KARACHI: Criticising the National Economic Council (NEC) for allegedly ignoring the development of Sindh, Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah has said that the federal government shouldn’t interfere in the affairs of Sindh like the East India Company, to carry out development works in Sindh. Rejecting the notion, Federal Minister Asad Umar said the Sindh government of the PPP and the people living in that province are two different entities and added the amount allocated for Sindh by the PTI government during its three years was unprecedented and never before has any federal government in history spent so much money in Sindh.

A charged-up Sindh chief minister made the new accusations during a press conference at the CM House on Tuesday. He was accompanied by his Senior Adviser Nisar Ahmed Khuhro and Sindh Information Minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah.

CM Shah said that the province, which contributed up to 70 per cent of Pakistan’s revenue, was rewarded mere pittance when compared to the development schemes offered to other provinces. The CM said that the Planning & Development Division, in the proposed PSDP 2021-22, has eight schemes of Rs44.5 billion with an allocation of Rs10.29 billion for Sindh. It has not given any scheme to other provinces. In Sindh, they have been given a large allocation to execute projects through Sindh Infrastructure Development Company Limited (SIDCL), he said and added last year these projects were shown under the head of Cabinet Division. The CM said last year, too, he had objected to the Centre’s intervention in the affairs of the province like the East India Company. A visibly irritated chief minister said that SIDCL was working in the province in the manner of the East India Company. “We don’t accept the presence of any East India Company in Sindh,” he remarked.

He said that the NEC was a 13-member constitutional body that had eight members from the provinces and five from the federal government, including chairman, the Prime Minister. “Eversince, the PTI government has come to power [in the Centre], it has been treating Sindh with abject bias and discrimination,” Murad Ali Shah charged and added that in the financial year 2017-18, there were 27 schemes for Sindh in the PSDP with an allocation of Rs27.38 billion. In 2018-19, the number of schemes was reduced to 22 with an allocation of Rs14.26 billion. In 2019-20 the schemes were further reduced to 13 along with an allocation of Rs8.5 billion. In 2020-21, the number of schemes dropped down to six with an allocation of Rs8.3 billion. In 2021-22, only six schemes were proposed with an allocation of Rs5 billion. “A grave injustice is being meted out to the people of Sindh ever since the PTI’s [federal] government has come into power in August 2018."

Talking about the National Highway Authority (NHA)’s schemes, Murad Shah pointed out an alleged injustice with the people of Sindh. He said the federal government has launched 22 schemes for Punjab at an estimated cost of Rs824.55 billion against which an allocation of Rs32.151 billion has been proposed for 2021-22. Whereas, he said, the NHA has only two schemes of Rs46.79 billion for Sindh against which Rs7.1 billion have been proposed for 2021-22. He added that KP and FATA have been given 21 schemes of Rs535.26 billion value with a proposed allocation of Rs41.25 billion for 2021-22. Balochistan has been given 15 schemes of Rs355.47 billion and an allocation of Rs24.1 billion has been proposed for the next financial year.

Shah said the difference between the number of schemes given for Sindh as opposed to the other provinces was quite painful. He said that the Sehwan-Jamshoro Road project of Rs14 billion for which 50 per cent cost has been shared by the Sindh government back in April 2017 was still incomplete. As a result, fatal accidents are taking place every day for which the chief minister held the federal government responsible. The CM said that the second scheme was for land acquisition for Karachi-Lahore Motorway. “Again, it is astonishing that the Lahore to Sukkur section of this project was undertaken through funds provided under the PSDP but the work on Sukkur to Hyderabad section has not started yet and on top of it the project would be completed under the Public Private Partnership mode."

He said the Finance Division executes its schemes through respective provincial governments, and added that for the next financial year 2021-22, the Finance Division has given 14 schemes of Rs86.6 billion to Punjab against which Rs15.06 allocation has been proposed for 2021-22. On the other hand, the Sindh government has been given only two schemes of Rs4.8 billion with a proposed allocation of Rs1.51 billion for 2021-22. The KP and FATA has been given 10 schemes of Rs86.7 billion and allocation of Rs66.78 billion has been proposed for the year 2021-22. Balochistan has been given 28 schemes of Rs144.49 billion against which Rs18 billion have been allocated for 202-1-22.

Most of these schemes are of provincial roads, being executed by the provincial government with funding from the federal government, he said and added “Out of the 11 new projects given to Punjab [by the Finance Division], 10 are of provincial roads with cost of Rs71.699 billion with allocation of Rs12.461 billlion for the next financial year. The provinces of Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan have been given new schemes by the Finance Division, but Sindh has been ignored."

He disclosed that the two ongoing schemes in Sindh were approved during the tenure of PML-N’s government and no new scheme by the Finance Division has been given to Sindh by the PTI’s federal government.

The Sindh chief minister said the Housing and Works Division during 2020-21 launched 14 schemes of Rs29.29 billion with an allocation of Rs3.7 billion in Punjab, while 18 schemes of Rs11.46 billion with an allocation of Rs8 billion in Sindh. The Housing & Works Division is responsible for construction of federal government buildings in the federal capital and in the provinces through the Pak PWD, Murad Ali Shah said: “The Housing Division portfolio showed that it was constructing bridges on rivers and roads in Punjab and Balochistan.” In Sindh, the schemes assigned to them were those previously reflected in the PSDP 2020-21, he said and added that in previous NEC meetings, he had raised objections to these Union Council-based schemes launched in Sindh under the federal PSDP. Shah said that the federal government had committed to complete these schemes within a year and had an allocation of Rs9.9 billion in 2020-21. But only Rs500 million were released. He added that the federal government was supposed to consult with the provincial government before launching such schemes but neither he was consulted, nor the schemes were being executed through the provincial government. Therefore, the quality of these development works is sub-standard. He recalled that the unplanned execution of the Green Line project played havoc during the heavy rains last year in Karachi.

Murad Ali Shah said that the Water Resource Division has allocated Rs26.6 billion for K-IV bulk water supply project for Karachi but expressed apprehensions that the federal government would not spend the reserved amount and as a result people of this city would continue to suffer.

Rejecting the tirade of the Sindh Chief Minister, Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives, Asad Umar, said the Sindh government of the PPP and the people living in that province are two different entities. He alleged the CM Sindh was "confused" and couldn't differentiate between the people of the province and the provincial government.

While responding to concerns raised by Sindh chief minister, Federal Minister Asad Umar said the amount allocated for Sindh by the PTI government is unprecedented and never before has any federal government in history spent so much money in that province. Umar said the PPP had remained in the federal government four times and led the provincial government six times, but they had never utilized a penny for motorways in Sindh. He said the PTI government made a payment of Rs90 billion for the Multan-Sukkur Motorway. The federal government provided funding for several projects that stood at Rs93 billion and in the next budget this amount would go up to Rs125 to Rs130 billion, if VGF in 2021-22 is also taken into account.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Political Communication Dr Shahbaz Gill said Murad Ali Shah was misleading the public by using his traditional card of provincialism.

In a video message, reacting to the statement of CM Sindh, he said in the federal Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP), projects worth Rs93 billion were given to Punjab province and Rs90 billion to Sindh province, adding that even in the last two years, more funds were given to Sindh than to Punjab. He said replies of the letters written by Sindh government to the Federation were also given.

Gill said a national level political party, even after shrinking to Sindh, could not change its attitude. He said Pakistan Tehreek Insaf (PTI) was a national level political party and all the provinces including Giglit Baltistan and Azad Jammu Kashmir were equal for them.

He said Sindh government was looking for cash funds. He that federal government will give projects to Sindh province, not funds. He said funds will be spent on the people of Sindh and not in fake accounts.