Defiant Murad says Sindh won’t compromise on its rights

Updated January 23, 2019

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"It will be the Sindh government which will force the federation to do its work."
"It will be the Sindh government which will force the federation to do its work."

KARACHI: In an assertive policy statement made during the Sindh Assembly’s session on Tuesday, Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah counterattacked his detractors in the house and their leadership ruling Islamabad by saying that Sindh would resist attempts by the federal government to “usurp” its rights.

He said his name was put on the Exit Control List (ECL) as a “punishment” after his arrival from Beijing, where he had gone to attend a CPEC-related meeting along with a federal minister and had taken up the case for some vital development projects in Sindh.

Mr Shah said the way the country was being steered by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf-led government would economically ruin it.

‘It will be the Sindh government which will force the federation to do its work’

“Our government will get Sindh’s due rights from the federal government; it will be the Sindh government which will force the federation to do its work,” said Mr Shah in a rare defiant tone in his speech while giving his observations over a debate on the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR), which was held in the provincial legislature a day earlier.

“I am seeing our country being drowned economically by your [PTI’s] government and by your prime minister,” said Mr Shah.

Hanging over corruption

Referring to certain speeches made on Monday by some opposition members in which demands were made to hang those who were involved in corruption, Mr Shah said everyone who had a desire for development was being wrongly accused of involvement in corruption by the PTI leaders.

“How many people you want to hang,” he said, referring to the Pakistan Peoples Party’s founding chairman Zulfikar Ali Bhutto: “You hanged one person and made him immortal. Now, hang others and grant them immortality as well.”

Communication with federal govt

He said the opposition leader in the Sindh Assembly had waved a letter written to ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif in December 2016 regarding the KCR and Keti Bandar projects and made certain accusations, “which had no relevance to reality”.

However, he said, he had written many letters to the present PTI’s government as well and made requests on various fronts involving Sindh’s issues and development, but received no response from Islamabad.

“I had met then prime minister Nawaz Sharif and had requested him to grant [funds] for a project similar to Lahore’s Orange Train for Karachi, which never materialised. I wrote letters to him about the Keti Bandar and KCR projects which included sovereign guarantee, approval from Ecnec [Executive Committee of National Economic Council] and Right of Way for the KCR. The prime minister granted the rest, but for KCR’s Right of Way, he told us to discuss it with the railway authorities.”

Mr Shah said despite such an encouraging response, nothing materialised and “it was a U-turn offered by the PML-N government”.

He said except for Punjab’s chief minister, the other three went to Beijing with the federal authorities in December 2016 to attend the Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects.

KCR and Keti Bandar projects

He alleged that the PML-N government did not help the provinces and even opposed their projects. However, Mr Shah said he had already discussed the KCR and Keti Bandar projects with senior Chinese diplomats earlier and succeeded to get those projects approved by the JCC. It also benefited Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan to get projects for their capitals as well.

CM Shah said the Sindh government prepared the PC-I on time in March 2017 and wrote the KCR’s feasibility report and sent it to the Central Development Working Party. For sovereign guarantee, he added, the finance minister during another meeting in China promised to issue it in two to three days, but that never happened.

He said it took many months for Ecnec to approve the projects in October 2017. During this time, Mr Shah also met the Railways authorities and relevant bank of China who demanded sovereign guarantee.

After arrival of Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as prime minister in Aug 2017, Mr Shah said he spoke with the new PM on the same issue on several occasions and had written four letters to him till Jan 12 last year.

“We got at last a response on Jan 18 from the communication ministry and remarkably it offered nothing,” Mr Shah said.

He said that after forming a new government in Sindh last year, he discussed the KCR issue with the prime minister in the presence of the finance minister, and wrote a letter to PM Imran Khan on Oct 3, 2018.

He said last time when he visited China “when I had not yet been put on the ECL”, he shockingly received a suggestion from the federal government that the projects, which were already in an advanced stage with the JCC, should be demoted to be part of the Joint Working Group (JWG).

“This means, we compromise on our projects’ advancement and lower them a level down.”

He said he had written a letter on the matter, and was still waiting for a response from Islamabad.

He said last time he was the only CM who had joined a federal minister to attend the JCC meeting. However, he lamented the lack of interest was visible on the part of the federal government when the minister and other officials skipped a meeting, which was held traditionally a day before the JCC meeting.

“I spoke over the projects of Dhabeji Industrial Zone, Keti Bandar and KCR. I recalled our friendship with our Chinese hosts while taking up the case of Sindh’s projects,” Mr Shah said.

He said the KCR’s cost was $2 billion and the Sindh government, as it was earlier accepted and understood, was ready to contribute its 15 per cent share.

“Our Chinese friends are very eager [to invest and launch] this project. The issue rests with the federal government, which should come forward and act.”

Mr Shah said the federal government had refused to hand over the Green Line project, neither had he received any response to the recent letter he had sent to Islamabad about gas shortages in Sindh.

“They [federal government] are not ready to respond to anything.”

After Mr Shah’s speech, many PTI members, including Opposition Leader Firdous Shamim Naqvi, stood up to speak at which Speaker Durrani told them that no one could speak after the leader of the house furnished a policy statement as per assembly’s rules.

The house rejected a resolution moved by PTI’s Sidra Imran in which she said the conditions of the Civil Hospital Tando Allahyar were pathetic. Energy Minister Imtiaz Shaikh said the government had built a new building for the hospital and was making efforts to equip all hospitals in Sindh on modern lines.

Another resolution by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan’s Khwaja Izhar was unanimously adopted in which the federal government was called for early payment of dues to the retired employees of Pakistan Steel Mills.

Published in Dawn, January 23rd, 2019