KARACHI: Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah on Friday hinted at certain drastic cuts as part of ‘stringent measures’ that could affect the Pakistan Peoples Party’s provincial government’s development programme in Sindh owing to ‘historically low’ fund transfers from Islamabad.

“We are seeing it is for the first time in the country’s history that a current year’s revenues for a specific period are lesser than the revenues generated during a previous financial year,” said Mr Shah while delivering his policy statement on the floor of the Sindh Assembly during its session presided over by Speaker Siraj Durrani.

He said he was displeased over the federal government’s indifference to Sindh’s gas woes despite the province being the largest contributor to the nationwide gas generation.

‘I demanded our share and received no good reply [at the recent NFC award meeting]

Mr Shah said Sindh should have been given Rs353 billion out of its annual share of Rs605bn in the national divisible pool in the seven months of the current fiscal, but Islamabad had given just Rs256bn — Rs97bn less — and even Rs10bn less than the money for the same period that the province had received last fiscal (Rs266bn).

He said such the situation was unprecedented in the world as no country elsewhere could have generated lesser income than a previous financial year.

“We have not seen this in the past history of Pakistan. This can happen only when a country suffers from a calamity, a disaster; we don’t know which disaster has just hit us,” he said.

CM Shah said during a recent meeting about the National Finance Commission Award in Islamabad he had agitated over the intolerably low fund transfers by Islamabad.

“I asked why those collections had decreased, at which they claimed the collections were 4.5 per cent more than the last year’s. Then I asked them where our funds were. I demanded our share and received no good reply.”

Mr Shah said his was a development-oriented government, which believed in offering better development in the province, which was not the case for the federal government.

“They simply tell us to stop development, which we cannot. This is the first time in the history and is like that someone’s monthly salary has been slashed.”

He asked the federal government that it should inform the people of Sindh that what disaster or calamity had hit the country.

In such a situation, Mr Shah said “we have taken certain stringent measures”, not elaborating further. Unlike the federal government, he added, Sindh’s collections had grown by 14pc, while it was in the negative in the other provinces.

He, however, said that development was an easy thing to get affected in such conditions, asking Islamabad to get its collection targets completed.

“In this situation, we are bound to face serious problems; and those problems would be caused by others and not the government or people of Sindh,” he remarked.

The chief minister demanded that the federal government hand sales tax on goods to provinces like sales tax on services, adding that Sindh had excelled in collecting sales tax on services and would improve the same on sales tax on goods if it was entrusted to provinces.

Gas shortages

Mr Shah was visibly upset over the gas crisis across Sindh with special reference to Karachi. He said people in Karachi in particular and elsewhere in Sindh in general were in grave distress.

He reminded the house that in light of a resolution the provincial legislature had passed on Jan 10, he had written a letter to the prime minister in which he had referred to Article 158 of the Constitution in according due share of gas to Sindh.

“I had requested the prime minister while giving the view of the Sindh Assembly to provide our due share in gas being the largest contributor to the national gas production; yet, despite the passage of more than 20 days to my letter, I have got no response from the PM office.”

Mr Shah said he had also discussed the issue with the managing director of the Sui Southern Gas Company; but “he helplessly told me what he can do when the federal government was not giving gas” to the province.

He lamented that the federal government had not responded to his first letter and he had written another letter to the prime minister requesting him that Sindh be given its share in the gas as enshrined in the Constitution.

Mr Shah said he got a single heartening gesture from the federal government during the recent NFC meeting, in which the federal finance minister categorically said that the latter had been a supporter of the 18th Constitutional Amendment and was still a staunch proponent of it.

Separately, while tabling an adjournment motion, PPP’s Zulfiqar Shah spoke on gas shortages in Mirpurkhas and criticised the federal government for throwing the people of Sindh in a lurch for committing no sin.

PTI backs demand

Leader of the Opposition Firdous Shamim Naqvi of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf said the interest of Sindh was beyond political affiliation, asking the federal government to look into the shortages of gas in the province.

Energy Minister Imtiaz Shaikh said the province was experiencing grave gas shortages, adding that it was incompetence on the part of the PTI’s federal government that Sindh was suffering badly.

Mr Shaikh said the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority and the Ministry of Petroleum had miserably failed in providing gas to the people here.

He said Islamabad was denying gas, water, and electricity to Sindh and was not handing Sindh’s share in the divisible pool.

“You [PTI government] have failed in delivering. If you want, the PPP is ready to teach you how better delivery could be achieved.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan’s Khwaja Izharul Hasan suggested that the PPP MNAs boycott parliament’s session to highlight Sindh’s woes.

Anti-encroachment drive

Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal’s Abdul Rasheed said during a debate on the anti-encroachment drive in the city that the court’s order was “misused” by certain authorities to wreak havoc in Karachi in the name of removing encroachments.

He said the campaign had made heart patients shopkeepers whose shops were destroyed and left hundreds of thousands of people jobless. He said the court’s judgement in 2011 in a petition filed by ex-mayor Niamatullah Khan was regarding removal of china-cutting etc, yet shops and markets were razed though “nowhere in the court verdict is written about that”.

MQM-P’s Muhammad Hussain and Jawed Hanif defended Mayor Wasim Akhtar, saying that he spearheaded the campaign as per orders of the court. They said the mayor risked his political career for the sake of complying with the apex court’s order.

Resolution on media issues

The Sindh Assembly passed a resolution in which the provincial and the federal governments had been asked to resolve the issue of outstanding payments they owed to newspapers and TV channels. However, it added that such payments should be linked to the condition that no media house would go for retrenchment or stop or cut salaries of journalists and other employees.

The resolution was moved by PPP’s Burhan Chandio, at which, CM Shah said he supported it and referred it to a recent visit of PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari to the Karachi Press Club.

Mr Shah said his government would link the payment to the salaries of employees and non-retrenchment of media workers.

Opposition leader Firdous Naqvi, Prison Minister Nasir Shah, Heer Ismail Soho, Nusrat Sehar Abbasi and Muhammad Hussain also supported the resolution, which was passed unanimously.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister assured the Grand Democratic Alliance’s Nand Kumar that the provincial government had taken punitive measures against those who had desecrated a Hindu temple in Khairpur’s Kumb city.

Another resolution by PPP’s Jam Khan Shoro, calling for reduction in a tax by the Federal Board of Revenue on immovable properties in 2016, was also passed unanimously.

Published in Dawn, February 9th, 2019