KARACHI: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday blamed corruption by the past rulers for economic woes of the country and assured leaders and legislators of his Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and coalition partners Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan and Grand Democratic Alliance that his government would extend support to resolve the issues of Karachi and other parts of Sindh.
The prime minister spent a busy few hours in Karachi, where he held back-to-back meetings with the leaders of his party and allies, including those of the GDA that had defeated the Pakistan Peoples Party in the recent Larkana by-poll, but avoided to see Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah even in official meetings related to development projects in Karachi while blaming “corruption” as the key reason that had deprived the people of the basic facilities of life.
Mr Khan landed at the old terminal of the Quaid-i-Azam International Airport in the afternoon and wrapped up his visit within a few hours before flying to Hub to address the inauguration ceremony of 1,320-megawatt China-Hub Power Generation Plant, the first power project under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and a joint venture between China Power and Hub Power Company.
Meets leaders of his party, MQM-P and GDA; no PM-Sindh CM meeting held
During the meetings and addresses on different occasions in Karachi and Hub, the PM was focused on his stance against corruption.
Reasons for the PM-CM distance were later gauged through official statements issued regarding Mr Khan’s engagements in Karachi that quoted his strong position against corruption in Sindh while meetings with leaders of his party and those in coalition with his government at Centre.
Amid growing tension between the PTI-led federal government and the PPP-led provincial government it came with little surprise for many that the chief minister of Sindh remained absent from the scene during Mr Khan’s engagements in the provincial capital in which he not only held political discussions but also chaired a meeting related to development projects.
Talking to the PTI legislators elected from Karachi, Mr Khan said the federal government was cognisant of the civic problems particularly relating to transport and waste management and was ready to play its role as per available resources. During the discussion, he pleaded the case of corruption and regretted Karachi’s deteriorating situation.
“Unfortunately due to corruption, the people of Sindh province are deprived of the basic facilities of life, including safe drinking water, health and education,” the statement quoted Mr Khan as saying while chairing a meeting on projects of the Sindh Infrastructure Development Company Limited.
He said: “The federal government has taken the responsibility of those works, which have been the obligation of the provincial government to undertake. The federal government is making all-out efforts to resolve the issues faced by the people in Karachi.”
The official statement further quoted the prime minister as saying that the previous “governments had ignored the problems of the metropolitan and its people.
“Our government inherited the heaviest burden of fiscal debt, for which steps are being taken to improve the financial situation. Corruption is the major reason behind the poor situation of administration in Karachi.”
The PM’s visit came as an opportunity for political pundits to peep in the PTI’s future strategy in Sindh when Mr Khan assured support to the anti-PPP alliance, the GDA, and promised to extend the federal government-launched social welfare programme to rural areas of Sindh.
“Prime Minister Imran Khan said that the federal government would extend the coverage of Ehsaas and Sehat Insaf programmes up to interior Sindh. The prime minister gave this assurance to a GDA delegation that called on him here and apprised him of the problems faced by the people of their constituencies,” said the statement.
Promises and assurances were also extended to the MQM-P leaders when PM Khan said the federal government was conscious of the basic challenges being faced by Karachi residents.
“The federal government is fully committed to address them on a long-term basis,” he said while talking to the MQM-P delegation led by federal Minister Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui and comprising Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhter, Nasreen Jalil, Aminul Haq, Faisal Sabzwari and others.
Mr Khan said a pragmatic approach was needed to resolve the mega city’s problems.
“The prime minister was of the view that the country’s commercial hub could not be ignored and the federal government would ensure that its potential was fully explored. The PTI government stood by its commitment and would help resolve the issues of water scarcity, inadequate waste management, poor transportation and others for good. The quality life, security and proper means of livelihood are the basic rights of every citizen that could be materialised through meaningful efforts along with coordination among all the stakeholders.”
Later during his address at the ceremony in Hub, the prime minister said that foreign investment could not be attracted until the country was purged of corruption and his government was making sure that every single process of doing business in the country could be made easy and smooth without facing red tape.
“Allah has gifted us everything but we are under debts, because we couldn’t establish the system of governance that could have delivered,” Mr Khan said while addressing the ceremony in Hub and referred to Reko Diq saga to establish his argument.
“Look at the Reko Diq case. We could have earned billions but we were fined six billion dollars in that project, because the people at the helm of affairs only to fill their pockets deprived the country of billions of foreign investment. Recently, I met chief of the company, which is in process for contract in Reko Diq, and he told me that his company is showing interest because they have come to know that your [PM Imran Khan] government is clean.”
Published in Dawn, October 22nd, 2019