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KARACHI: The Punjab government has agreed to fully support Sindh’s stance at the next meeting of the National Finance Commission (NFC) against the federal government’s proposal about the allocation of seven per cent funds from the divisible pool for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor security and development of Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir.

Also, the Punjab finance ministry has assured the Sindh authorities of its support to their demand for the provincial government’s right to collect sales tax on goods and then deposit the same with the federal government for onward distribution among the provinces according to their agreed share.

The assurance was given by Finance Minister of Punjab Dr Ayesha Ghous who called on Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah on Wednesday at CM House where issues related to the NFC came under discussion.

‘Sixty-seven acres of the 360-acre land required for the KCR illegally occupied’

Drawing her attention towards the federal government’s proposal, the chief minister said the divisible pool was meant only for the distribution of collected funds among the provinces. He said it would be unreasonable and against the Constitution if the federal government allocated three per cent fund from the divisible pool for CPEC security and another four per cent for development of Fata, GB and Azad Kashmir. He said the federal government had already allocated one per cent fund from the divisible pool for maintenance of law and order in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

All the provinces should oppose this ‘unconstitutional’ proposal, he said. “I would request the Punjab government, KP and Balochistan to develop consensus and oppose the proposal,” he added.

Besides, he said, the provincial governments should have the right to collect sales tax on goods and then deposit the same with the federal government for onward distribution among the provinces according to their agreed share. Unilateral deduction of wealth tax at source from provincial government’s share was another ‘illegal’ act, he added.

Dr Ayesha Ghous said the reservations and grievances of the Sindh government were genuine and assured the chief minister of her government’s support on both points.

Circular railway

Meanwhile, the chief minister approved Rs45 million for the feasibility study of Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) and ordered Commissioner Aijaz Khan to work out a plan in consultation with all deputy commissioners for the removal of encroachments from its route and submit its report within seven days.

While presiding over a meeting on KCR, the chief minister asked the finance secretary to release Rs45m for conducting KCR feasibility, which would have to be submitted before the JCC for the project’s inclusion in CPEC projects.

He also told the additional chief secretary for development to coordinate with the federal government for sovereign guarantee.

Sindh Transport Minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah earlier informed the chief minister that the total length of KCR project was 43 kilometres including 13.43km of main railway line.

DS Railways Nisar Memon said the total land required for the KCR project was 360 acres, of which 260-acre land belonged to Pakistan Railways and 100 acres were on main line, while 67 acres had been encroached upon. A total of 4,653 houses and 2,997 other establishments had been built on the 67 acres, he said.

Published in Dawn, January 12th, 2017