KARACHI: Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah stated in the Sindh Assembly on Tuesday that the federal government was not implementing the Water Accord in its true spirit, which was evident from the fact that it was not appointing its member on the Indus River System Authority (Irsa) from Sindh.
“There are huge problems Sindh is facing because of water shortages,” said the chief minister while making his policy statement in the assembly with Speaker Siraj Durrani in the chair.
He read out an order by the federal government issued in 2000 in which it was confirmed that the individual who would represent the centre would be taken from Sindh.
“This order was issued in 2000, which has not yet been revoked,” said CM Shah, adding that despite the order the federal government had been avoiding to appoint its representative from Sindh for the past many years, which was set out to ensure the preferential right of water for the lower riparian.
He said since the order was issued, federal government’s member on Irsa had been from Sindh; however, his provincial government had written letters to the past two governments since 2017 in which “we expressed our concerns over delay in appointment of Irsa’s representative for the federal government from Sindh”.
A federal government order in 2000 confirmed that the individual to represent the centre would be taken from Sindh
The first such letter was written in 2017 during the PML-N government, and the latest letter was written in July this year mentioning the fact that no such appointment had been made thus far.
“To make it more convenient for the federal government, we sent names of three candidates. I wrote a letter to the prime minister in which those names were mentioned again, yet none of them has been considered.”
He said he had recently read a newspaper report in which an individual having no link with Sindh was mentioned as being appointed the federal representative for Irsa.
He said a committee headed by the minister for water resources, who too belonged to Sindh, had recommended an individual as Irsa member who did not belong to Sindh.
“Soon after reading that report I wrote a letter to the PM in which I told him that why the federal government was acting like that when its representatives for Irsa had been from Sindh in the past; even the prime minister contested election from Sindh and his minister for water resources is elected from Sindh. Then why they are doing injustice to Sindh?”
CM Shah said the Water Accord was being violated with impunity.
“I had raised this issue in a meeting of the Council of Common Interests in April last year on which the then PM had formed a high-level committee headed by the attorney general with law ministers and advocates general of the four provinces its members along with some federal ministers.”
“What is happening is utter injustice to Sindh; and no such thing happened even during dictatorships in the country.”
He said the Council of Common Interests (CCI) was empowered to tackle such matters and not the federal government.
He said he had received no reply from Islamabad to his correspondence. So, he had decided to inform the house about these matters every time he would take up such issues with the federal government.
He said similar injustices were being done with other provinces as well on a variety of issues, adding: “If other provinces are not raising their voice on those matters then what can I do except protest on injustices being directed at us”.
He said the resolution on the Karachi Circular Railway issue, which was passed a day earlier, had been sent to Islamabad.
He said ex-president Asif Zardari had initiated the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which was ably followed up by prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s previous government, however, at present CPEC was halted.
“Work on the CPEC projects is completely halted at present; and the situation is so critical that the federal minister [for] planning had to appear on TV to say that these projects have not been stopped for good.”
He said Pakistan was a federation with four federating units and it required tackling issues jointly; adding he had heard that the prime minister would discuss the coal issues during his China visit, but “it has not been discussed with us”.
He said he did not know about the composition of the CPEC Authority, which had been established through a presidential ordinance.
During the Question Hour session, Women Development Minister Shehla Raza responded to a question by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s Seema Zia, in which she said the website of the Sindh Commission on the Status of Women had not been updated since October last year.
Answering another question asked by Sidra Imran, the minister said the key area for the women development ministry was women economic empowerment for which annual development programme schemes had been implemented in the province, which directly and indirectly supported women’s economic emancipation.
She said the ministry in coordination with nongovernmental organisations and line departments helped engage skilled women to display their products in many exhibitions across the province.
She, however, said no trade exhibitions were organised by her ministry for skilled women entrepreneurs of Sindh as such exhibitions were the mandate of the industries ministry and the chambers of commerce and industry.
She said women cells had been established in Karachi South’s 34 police stations. Similar cells had been set up in Matiari and other districts.
She said the ministry’s efforts had led to stopping 58 marriages of children.
The Pakistan Peoples Party’s Nadir Magsi said the number of marriages of children aged less than 18 years was much more than the minister’s statement showed.
“Your department knows very little about this menace; which is universally being practised in our rural areas. You will have to evolve an effective mechanism to stop such marriages,” said Mr Magsi.
Khurrum Sher Zaman’s adjournment motion vis-à-vis hike in flour prices was opposed by the government, which declared it out of order.
Similarly, the house rejected the motion by Grand Democratic Alliance’s Nand Kumar, in which he wanted leave of the house to introduce a private bill, The Criminal Law (Protection of Minorities) Bill, 2019.
Local Government Minister Nasir Shah said the bill had earlier been passed by the house, but it was returned to the government after the governor raised certain objections to it. The bill was under the cabinet’s consideration.
The PTI’s Adeel Ahmed moved a resolution which recommended that the departments and individuals responsible for the ill planning and faulty execution of the bulk water supply project, K-IV, “must be identified and taken to task”.
“The house also resolves that the Sindh government must initiate an alternative water supply project for Karachi to save the city from water shortages.”
The PTI’s Haleem Adil Sheikh and Minister Nasir Shah spoke briefly on the resolution before it was adopted by the house unanimously.
Published in Dawn, October 9th, 2019