KARACHI: The Sindh Assembly on Monday passed a resolution against the federal government’s plans to prefer the Karachi-Peshawar railway track (ML-1 project) over the revival of the Karachi Circular Railway, demanding Prime Minister Imran Khan make the KCR his top priority during his visit to China.
After the chair suspended the day’s business, Pakistan Peoples Party’s Ghanwer Isran moved the resolution stating that the federal government’s plans to prefer the ML-1 project at the cost of the KCR, which was already included in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor projects, was a grave injustice to the people of Karachi.
“The house resolves and recommends to the government to approach the federal government to accord the highest priority to the KCR. The KCR project was included in CPEC on the request of the government of Sindh in 2016 and since then, the project has been diligently followed by the provincial government. [Since then] so far several letters have been written by the chief minister to the federal government in three years, the most recent of which was written in August 2019,” said the resolution.
It added: “The Sindh government has participated in all the relevant technical forums relating to CPEC projects including the Joint Working Group and 6th, 7th, and 8th Joint Coordination Committee meetings in Islamabad and in China held from 2017 to 2018. The Government of China’s representatives acknowledged the feasibility of KCR and agreed to include the same in its portfolio.
Major opposition parties object to the PPP resolution; Firdous Naqvi ‘smells rebellion’ in CM’s speech
“It is the Sindh government which is taking full responsibility for the loan and its repayment while the federal government is to only provide sovereign guarantees,” it added.
The resolution referred to the reports that the PM on his visit to China would be engaging to secure financing for ML-1 project and not the KCR.
“Hence, again, Karachi and the national development, which is to be realised by investing in mass transport will be ignored. KCR project by all means is a project of national importance and not only the people of Karachi but the entire country will benefit from the KCR project.”
“The house resolves that the first Right of Way on the 18kms, from Drigh Road to City Station and Karachi Port, should be accorded to the KCR in the best interest of the people of Karachi. Moreover, an alternate route, preferably elevated track, may be established by the federal government for the purposes of ML-1,” it said.
“This house further implores and demands that the Prime Minister should make all endeavours to make the KCR project a top priority in his forthcoming trip to China,” concluded the resolution.
Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah said the prime minister should make an effort to get the KCR included as an integral part of the CPEC projects at the JCC in China. Besides, PM Khan should also direct for ensuring sovereign guarantee for the project.
He said JICA had withdrawn from the KCR in 2012 after which the provincial government took up the project with the Chinese.
He said he had written at least four letters to the prime minister and present federal government. He added Islamabad wanted to shift the KCR project elsewhere from the present route to benefit the ML-1, which “we’ll never allow at any cost”.
“I make it clear here that KCR’s corridor will not be permitted to be used for ML-1. The ML-1 is not acceptable at the cost of KCR and the Sindh government will not allow this at any cost,” said Mr Shah in a defiant tone.
Opposition Leader Firdous Naqvi said the chief minister’s speech was merely for point scoring.
“This is just point scoring. And, we smell rebellion in your words. You should have written more letters to the federal government. The project is extremely important, but the way your government is taking it up is not correct,” said Mr Naqvi.
Mr Shah said he would continue to talk like that even if the opposition parties in Sindh who ruled Islamabad smelled rebellion in it.
He said he had got no reply to several of his letters from Islamabad. Besides, he had not been informed officially about the PM’s visit to China and he got information about it from TV reports.
“This practice is totally against the accepted norms. All chief ministers would be informed by the federal government before such visits of the PM, but no one from Islamabad has contacted me on this.”
He demanded that the KCR project be designed like Lahore’s Orange Line project.
He requested the opposition to support the resolution.
The chair put the resolution before the house and got it passed with a majority vote. The major opposition parties opposed it.
No downsizing in KMC
Responding to a question of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s Khurrum Sher Zaman during Question Hour, Local Government Minister Nasir Shah said there was no plan for downsizing of staff in the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation.
He said the Sindh government sanctioned funds for KMC but it should increase its sources of revenue.
He added that the KMC should itself pay the pensions to its retired employees.
Grand Democratic Alliance’s Nand Kumar asked whether the authorities had found criminal records of around 10,000 KMC employees according to certain reports.
“Biometrics was used to authenticate thousands of KMC employees and a number of them have been found with criminal records,” the minister said, adding that appropriate actions had been taken against those errant employees and in some cases FIRs had also been lodged while those involved in criminal offences had been arrested.
Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan’s Jawed Hanif said paying salaries to the KMC employees was Sindh government’s responsibility. He demanded formation of the provincial finance commission.
To another question, the minister said illegal quarrying activities at Manghopir were posing a serious threat to water installations located there.
Later, the house unanimously passed the Coastal Development Authority (Amendment) Bill after it was duly examined by the standing committee on law and parliamentary affairs.
Published in Dawn, October 8th, 2019