Govt questioned for creating company for Sindh development projects

Updated 29 Jul 2020

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A view of Diamer-Basha dam site. Construction work on the project has started recently after delays of decades.
A view of Diamer-Basha dam site. Construction work on the project has started recently after delays of decades.

ISLAMABAD: As the National Assembly Standing Committee on Planning sought a detailed report on alleged reduction in higher education budget, former planning minister Ahsan Iqbal on Tuesday criticised the government for creating a special purpose company for development projects in Sindh while such companies had been abolished by the Supreme Court in Punjab.

Mr Iqbal also asked the Water & Power Development Authority (Wapda) to provide the details of financial closure of Diamer-Basha dam as the committee would not like the mega project to become another Neelum-Jhelum project which was delayed inordinately with massive cost overruns.

The standing committee meeting was presided over by its chairman MNA Junaid Akbar. The committee expressed reservation over the reduction in Higher Education Commission (HEC) allocations and gave a written questionnaire to the government to explain why HEC’s budget has been frozen at Rs29 billion while it was Rs47bn in 2018.

NA body seeks detailed report on reduction in HEC allocations

Iqbal said that there was a case of Narowal Sports Stadium against him and he spent two months in prison. “I was questioned that how did I include a provincial project in the PSDP but now the projects of Union Council level have been added to the federal PSDP,” he added.

He noted that Dasu and Basha projects were as much important as a nuclear project and their documents (PC-I) were prepared during PML-N’s tenure. He claimed that the ministries do not have the capacity of making the PC-I of such projects.

Iqbal questioned how the Sindh Infrastructure Development Company (SIDC) was established as former chief justice had ordered the closure of all such companies in Punjab. He asked why there were two different laws were prevailing in the centre and provinces. “Why is a company halal in the federal government and becomes haram in Punjab?” he said while questioning if the federal government is violating the orders of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

Officials of the Cabinet Division explained that the SIDC was working under the division. The Green Line Bus System project will become operational next year in May or June and its operations had been handed over to SIDC as the Sindh government did not have the capability to operate the project. Eighty buses were being purchased for the project.

The committee decided to write a letter of displeasure to the NA speaker and planning minister that officials of the planning ministry were not seriously looking into the matters of the Standing Committee. This came about after members complained that they had not been provided with working papers for the meeting.

Mansehra airport funds

Deputy Commissioner Mansehra briefed the committee about proposed Mansehra airport and explained that the project had not yet been started even though funds had been approved by Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) through PSDP.

The committee questioned as to why the affected persons of the proposed airport had still not been compensated and funds granted by CAA had still been kept in the account of DC Mansehra.

The committee directed that these funds should be utilised in another project with the consultation of local MNAs. The committee suggested to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government to launch another project on the area acquired for the airport in Mansehra.

Published in Dawn, July 29th, 2020