KARACHI, July 23: The federal government has decided to devolve Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation properties to Sindh in what officials described as “a significant move” towards completing devolution under the 18th constitutional amendment, it emerged on Tuesday.
A ceremony to hand over the PTDC properties to Sindh and other provinces is expected to be held in Islamabad on July 29, said Sindh tourism secretary Arif Elahi.
Under the 18th amendment, the ministry of tourism has been devolved to the provinces.
Initially, only two attached offices of the ministry — the Pakistan Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management, Karachi, and the Directorate of Tourist Services — were devolved to Sindh on March 31, 2011.
However, the remaining six offices — PTDC regional office in Karachi, the tourist information centre also in Karachi, a 14-room motel at Hawkesbay, the tourism information centre in Thatta, a 13-room motel at Moenjodaro and a piece of PTDC land in Sukkur — were not devolved to Sindh.
Several summaries were moved by the Sindh government to the centre to demand these assets.
This issue was also raised in the Council of Common Interests, the high- powered committee constituted by the cabinet division to resolve post-devolution issues, the special committee of the senate on devolution and the standing committee of the CCI.
After deliberations and a series of meetings, another meeting was held on July 1 under the chairmanship of the IPC secretary in the cabinet division, which decided to hand over the PTDC assets and employees to the provinces.
It was also decided that the provinces would assess the outstanding liabilities of each unit separately and report to the federal government for a decision on clearing the outstanding liabilities.
Dawn has learnt that when the federal government planned to set up a cell titled ‘Tourism regulation of services in motels and restaurants till the provincial assemblies promulgate their own acts of hotels and restaurants’, the Sindh government protested over the move and termed it “interference in the provincial autonomy after the devolution”. Thus this idea of setting up a cell at the federal level was frustrated.
“This is a big achievement,” said Mr Elahi.
He said a high-level meeting presided over by Sindh chief secretary Muhammad Ejaz Chaudhry was held at the Sindh secretariat recently, which decided to formally take over the PTDC properties. However, Mr Elahi said a PTDC land measuring 2.3 acres had been encroached in Sukkur, which required to be vacated.
He said the meeting also reviewed different options to run the motels, restaurants, tourist sites probably with the help of the private sector or as a public-private partnership to earn revenue. He said the PTDC motel building at Hawkesbay had been completed and just needed finishing. It was ideally located with a beautiful scenic view and a barbecue facility. Moreover, there was a basement with a capacity of 50 to 100 persons and a hall with a capacity of 100 to 200 persons, which could be used as a conference room or for small functions.
Besides, he said, the Sindh government from its own funds was establishing a hotel there, which was also nearing completion. He said those projects could help the Sindh government earn large sums if run properly with the help of the private sector or developed on ‘the Malaysian pattern’.
The tourism secretary said he had demanded Rs25 million annually for managing those properties while around Rs50 million to Rs60 million would be required to complete the under-construction motels, restaurants and tourist sites.
He said the total liabilities of the devolved PTDC properties were estimated to be Rs20 million.
It was also pointed out at the meeting that the historic vehicle used by Sir John Marshall, who had discovered Moenjodaro during the colonial period was kept at the Moenjodaro resort. The chief secretary directed that efforts be made to properly maintain it and, if needed, the original manufacturer firm be approached for it.
The participants were informed that the 13-room motel situated in the vicinity of Moenjodaro airport was almost complete. However, the contractor was reluctant to hand over its possession on claims of outstanding liability. It was proposed that if the government decided to clear the liabilities and took over the motel, “it would be a good attraction for the tourists”.
Similarly, it was revealed at the meeting that work on the under-construction tourism facilitation centre near the Abdullah Shah Ghazi shrine had been stopped because of the contractor’s liabilities.