KARACHI: Caught in a challenging position as its allies are becoming disgruntled, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government on Saturday tried to woo its partner — the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA), an umbrella organisation of several parties in Sindh — when federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar and Sindh Governor Imran Ismail called on Pakistan Muslim League-Functional (PML-F) president Syed Sibghatullah Shah Rashidi, better known as Pir Pagara, ahead of Monday’s crucial voting to pass the federal budget.
Though both sides came up with an impression that the meeting was a routine exercise and termed it a sitting to discuss matters of mutual interest, sources privy to the development said that the PTI side had in fact come to extend fresh assurances to the GDA leader to address his party’s concerns ahead of Monday’s session of the National Assembly where the GDA has three votes.
When asked about the motive and agenda of the visit of Mr Umar and the governor to Pir Pagara’s residence Kingri House, they both called it a goodwill gesture and expressed confidence about smooth passing of the budget on Monday.
“There is no reason for any disagreement [with the GDA],” Mr Umar said in reply to a question after the meeting. “You would see our partnership is going smooth with understanding. I don’t know that any of the GDA’s members are unhappy. We are not here to convince anyone. It’s not that we are facing any challenge regarding the budget. There would be voting [on the federal budget 2020-21] on Monday and you would see there would be no problem.”
PTI team assures GDA leader of addressing his concerns
Only on Thursday, Ayaz Latif Palijo, the president of Qaumi Awami Tehreek — a member of the GDA — publicly criticised Prime Minister Imran Khan and called him a “reserved” leader while comparing him with previous rulers of the country.
“Benazir, Musharraf and Zardari were always found attached with their allies,” Mr Palijo tweeted. “Though Nawaz Sharif always ignored Sindh, he was always loyal with his allies Fazlur Rehman, Achakzai and Bizenjo. Imran Khan always stays reserved with other parties and his allies. He has never met any promise, neither offered any authority. You all now are seeing the results.”
However, after Saturday’s meeting, Governor Ismail also insisted that they had good relations with the GDA and brushed aside the impression of any differences between the PTI government and its ally.
“There is no difference [between the government partners],” the governor said. “Pir Pagara always guides us and helps us to evolve our strategy and policy. We briefed him about ongoing and upcoming federal-funded projects in Karachi and other parts of Sindh. He has always been very kind and supportive. We believe that this partnership would go a long way.”
Syed Sadaruddin Shah Rashidi, a senior leader of the PML-F, also made a positive gesture and to a query about the promises made by the PTI government at the time of their alliance some two years ago, he blamed the 18th Amendment for being the “key bottleneck in several initiatives”.
“We are all aware of the system under which the governments are being run both at the Centre and in the province,” he said. “But let me tell you that under the 18th Amendment of the Constitution, the centre cannot show any effective performance [in a province] or prove its loyalty. Once the budget is passed, we have requested the federal government to look into this issue and demanded audit of funds spent by the provincial government during all these years in the name of devolution and development.”
Published in Dawn, June 28th, 2020