MQM Chief, Altaf Hussain. — File Photo
KARACHI, June 28: In remarks made with totally unexpected though studied candour, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah on Friday made an impassioned plea to Muttahida Qaumi Movement chief Altaf Hussain to review his policy of giving strike calls in mourning against killings, arguing that a single Karachi shutdown causes an estimated Rs15billion loss to an already ailing economy.
Winding up the general discussion on the Sindh budget for the financial year 2013-14 in the provincial assembly, the CM added: “If there is a mistake on our part, we are open to dialogue, as all misunderstandings and issues could be sorted out through negotiations”.
He said that the Pakistan Peoples Party wanted to have cordial relations with the MQM and see it become part of the government but they themselves had opted to sit on the opposition benches.
Referring to the law and order situation, he said that the situation could be checked effectively provided the house sincerely supported the efforts of the government which, he claimed, was determined to curb the menace of terrorism.
Mentioning the shortcomings of the provincial government, he said that the inspector general of police and the chief secretary were the appointees of the federal government, whereas the province had no control over the Rangers. “We are training and developing police and the intelligence agencies.”
Clarifying an allegation about the budget being favourable towards the rural areas, he said: “Terming the budget as a rural budget was injustice with PPP, as the government spent Rs64 billion on urban development during the past five years and gave Rs500 million additional grant to the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation for paying salaries to its employees without any inquiry and their job placement. Besides, a huge amount is being spent on the Lyari Expressway and Karachi Circular Railway projects.”
He defended a decision to increase the property tax and said that the urban lands were so expensive that he was ready to give his 50 acres of rural land for a plot of 800 square yards in Karachi.
About a demand made by the leader of the opposition about the local government system, he said: “Let the budget be approved. We can talk on the local government system which should be acceptable to all and in the interest of people.”
The chief minister almost touched on every issue raised by the opposition in the budget, including the issue of setting up a university in Hyderabad.
He said the government was making efforts to set up maximum educational institutes and the issue of setting up the university in Hyderabad could be sorted out with Senior Education Minister Nisar Ahmad Khuhro.
He said that the Jinnah Medical University was established in Karachi on a demand of the MQM and its vice chancellor was also appointed on their recommendation.
He said that Sindh’s Rs80 billion was outstanding against the federal government, which had promised to compensate by making seven per cent more than our share in the divisible pool in the coming budget.
It was the sixth day of the ongoing discussion on the budget and so far 119 lawmakers participated in the debate.
Operation against illicit weapon Earlier, Leader of the Opposition in the Sindh Assembly Syed Faisal Sabzwari highlighted the importance of the local government system and offered full support to the government to craft a new law which could deliver to the people if the Sindh Peoples Local Government Act 2012 was not liked by some people.
He said that for restoring peace in Karachi, a criminal had to be called a criminal, and illegal weapons be recovered through a merciless operation throughout the country and the MQM would have no objection if such an operation began from Karachi.
He said that all licensed arms should also be checked.
Mr Sabzwari said that the MQM had moved a bill for legislation in parliament to make the country weapon free.
He recalled that nobody took serious the statements of MQM chief Hussain about the presence of the Taliban in Karachi some five years back. However, repeated incidents of terrorism and the recent attack on Justice Maqbool Baqar of the Sindh High Court made it clear that he was right, he added.
He also called for setting up a university in Hyderabad for which a resolution had been passed in the house.
The opposition leader made out a strong case for a tax on agriculture income with exception to poor farmers.
He said that the government had done injustice by increasing property tax from 20pc to 25pc.
Demanding formation of the provincial finance commission at the earliest, he said that a sense of deprivation was being created among the people due to unjust distribution of resources and hefty expenditures.