Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah on Monday strongly emphasised that "under no condition would Sindh share powers with anyone".
Addressing a press conference in Karachi, he said that although the Sindh government was willing to work with the Centre to resolve the city's issues, no power-sharing agreement had been reached.
His statement comes a day after Karachi's three political stakeholders — PPP, PTI and MQM-P — agreed to take joint measures for the betterment of the country’s commercial capital.
Sources told Dawn that a senior member of the security establishment flew to Karachi on Saturday to have all the three parties sit together so that they could mutually find a solution to Karachi’s problems that have been troubling the top military leadership for quite some time.
The sources said that Saturday’s meeting was the second of its kind as less than a week ago key representatives belonging to the provincial and city administration as well as political parties were called to Islamabad to discuss options on Karachi. Initially, they said, the PPP was reluctant to share power with other parties, but the establishment persuaded the ruling party in Sindh to agree to the arrangement.
“This is not an alliance, but it will end rumours being spread deliberately that the federal government was going to take over Karachi or impose a governor rule in the province. Also, we believe the PPP will share powers since the establishment as well as the Supreme Court are watching them,” a source in the federal government told Dawn.
However, in today's press conference, Shah clarified that "under no condition will the executive power of the Sindh province, Sindh government [and] the Sindh Assembly, given to it under the Constitution, be shared with anyone."
He said there had been a number of discussions over the last few days regarding the issue by people seeking to "harm the Constitution" or "cause harm to my dear country".
He noted that the Constitution has set out the powers for all of Pakistan's four provinces. "These talks [about taking away Sindh's powers] are not new ... enemies of the country have discussed this previously," Shah said.
"Sindh is our mother. Whoever talks about dividing it into pieces, we will all stand against them. When I did a speech in the [Sindh] Assembly and asked people supporting this to stand up, a few people kept sitting. These are the people whom I will not call enemies of Sindh but enemies of Pakistan."
He said anyone with any misconception needed to understand that Sindh's executive powers will not be shared with anyone under any condition.
The chief minister also requested the media to not propagate such ideas either because he said it "causes sadness to the people of Sindh".
He said this was not the first time such discussions were taking place and such things are brought up in order to "divert attention" from the prevailing issues.
Without naming the federal government, he continued: "Do we not know the issues right now? What India is doing to Kashmiris [and] the diplomatic mistakes you have made. Now you have to divert attention and you can't find anything other than the PPP, Sindh government and Karachi.
"Karachi is the biggest city, capital of Sindh and it runs the entire country, we know all this. You hide even your biggest disasters from the media while the smallest story about Sindh [is highlighted]."
Shah acknowledged that the "condition got bad" in Karachi during the recent rains after which the talk of usurping Sindh's powers started, but added that things were probably worse in other parts of the country where it also rained.
"The PPP invested in Karachi over the last 10 years which is why its condition was better," he said.
"All over the world, if the capacity of storm-water drains is less than the rainfall, then problems arise. We have additional problems [in Karachi], there is no disagreement on that. After these rains, when [the aftermath of the rains] was discussed, these things were taken to the Supreme Court and the chief justice issued some instructions."
He said after the first rain spell, Prime Minister Imran Khan realised there was a problem and asked the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) to visit Karachi. "The purpose of this was the realisation that it was actually a disaster because it rained more than in previous years," he added.
"There are 38 big nullahs in Karachi which the Sindh government was cleaning by itself for the first time. For the last four years, the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation has been cleaning these for which the provincial government gives it additional funds."
He said the Karachi mayor had agreed that the Sindh government carry out the task of cleaning the drains because his office was involved in a larger programme with the World Bank regarding managing the nullahs.
"The DMCs (district municipal corporations) were cleaning out some 200 small nullahs whereas the Sindh government started cleaning the 38 big nullahs from July 1 and it was not yet completed by July 26 when the first spell of rain occurred," he told the presser.
He said it was subsequently decided that since the Sindh government was already cleaning the drains, it would continue doing so while three big nullahs would be cleaned by the NDMA.
"The chief justice was here for four days and he said the NDMA should help with the cleaning. NDMA is a federal organisation and it cannot work until being granted permission by the federal government."
Referring to the "rumours", Shah said he later talked to some federal ministers regarding the cleaning task. "Executive work is the role of governments, not political parties."
"Some people thought we would assume an executive role through some back door. The Sindh government had a very clear stance based on the Constitution. We said we are ready to work with the federal government," he added.
Denying that any agreement had taken place in the meeting between the Sindh government, federal government and NDMA, he said only "open discussions" were held.
"The Sindh government has only one stance that it will work according to the Constitution and the law."
He said "certain people are immature and do not understand things" and they end up saying some things that are not according to the Constitution "but do understand when they are explained".
"More meetings will happen but I want to make it clear that there has been no agreement. We did talk about committees but no committee has been formed yet.
"If a committee is made, it will comprise the federal and Sindh governments," the chief minister said, stressing that committees of political parties are made for political purposes not to perform executive tasks.
He reiterated that the Sindh government was open to sitting with other parties to discuss the problems of Karachi.
He suggested that some people had shared decades-old photos from rains in Karachi during the recent spell of rain.
"We have not been able to carry out [development] plans because we have constraints of money. If the FBR has been at zero per cent growth for the last two years, then I cannot be blamed," Shah said.
"All the provinces are suffering, 66pc of what the FBR collects is our share. We were given Rs275 billion less [than the share] in one year. How can we overcome [the shortfall]?"
The chief minister then shared a presentation about the impact of rain in Karachi since before the PPP began its tenure in 2008. He shared news clippings of the dozens of deaths and urban floods caused by torrential rains in 2007 and 2009 and claimed that the losses had been minimised due to the PPP-led government's efforts over the past decade.
He said the Sindh government had started 38 developmental projects worth Rs27 billion between 2017 and 2020. He also shared images of the various underpasses constructed and renovations of roads and public spaces carried out in the last few years.
Talking about the coronavirus situation, Chief Minister Shah said other provinces "were not serious at first" about the virus threat but because of Sindh's initiatives, "Pakistan is one of the few countries where the spread of [Covid-19] has been reduced".
However, he said the health crisis has not ended, and requested the media and public to play a positive role. "Difficulties have come for sure but health is most important," Shah stressed.