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June 19, 2021

Dangerous divide

 
June 19, 2021

As appeared at the meeting of the Council of Common Interests, chaired by the prime minister, it is abundantly clear that Sindh and the federal government do not see eye to eye on a number of issues. These include the key issue of the Indus waters’ share, development projects conducted by the centre in Sindh which the province says are illegal, the amount of funds transferred from the federation to Sindh, and the national electricity plan with Sindh CM Murad Ali Shah demanding that energy produced by Sindh, especially alternative energy produced through wind turbines, be charged at Rs5.7 per unit as was previously the case, while the prime minister has said that the lower federal government tariff of Rs3.5 per unit must be adhered to.

There is a broader problem behind these differences, which are to be worked out with a new draft proposed to be put before both parties on Monday. Sindh has been clear in its differences with the centre for some time and even in his budget speech, Murad Ali Shah had lashed out at the federal government for overlooking Sindh. In turn, Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry and other ministers have accused Sindh of failing to carry out development works that should be undertaken in the province. Things seem quite untenable as they are, and efforts have to be made by both sides to come to some sort of middle ground. Sindh deserves to be able to run the province as it sees fit, but on the other hand, it must demonstrate it is indeed able to run the province with the present state of cities and smaller towns putting this issue into question. However, most important are the constitutional requirements that the provinces and the federation coordinate and cooperate with each other in a specific manner. The CCI is the right forum to take up such matters. We hope that the new draft being worked out will be agreed upon by both sides, though this is still under question.

We also need the centre and the provinces to work together in order to run the country effectively. Verbal tirades, battles over key issues such as the share of water, along with other differences do not help run a country which is in desperate need of development. It is also true that the people of Sindh urgently require help to shift them away from the poverty that has engulfed them for decades and which has not improved for many years. It is also essential that the federal government understands what it means to be a democratic federation and to recognise that federating units have their rights. But the people who live within these federating units have also to be respected and given the same protections as people who live elsewhere in the country. This is a matter that must be worked out through negotiations. It is hardly wise strategy to constantly put down a provincial government. It is only the federation that suffers in the end.