SUKKUR: Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah has said that only representatives of federal and provincial governments, and not leaders of any political party, will be included in the facilitation committee to sort out the issues of Karachi. “This committee will work for the removal of all hurdles in the development works,” he said, and dispelled the impression that the committee would help bring consensus administrators once the term of local government was over.

Speaking to the media here on Tuesday after appearing before investigators of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to answer questions about alleged misappropriation of wheat stocks during his tenure as the provincial finance minister, Mr Shah said that “political administrators” could be brought in after municipalities completed their tenure in Sindh. However, he added, a decision in this regard would be taken in the meeting [of the facilitation committee] to be held in a couple of days.

The chief minister categorically stated that a final decision would be taken by the provincial government.

He said he appeared before NAB to answer the questionnaire it had sent to him a few days back. He said the NAB investigators wanted to know about his act of approving supply of wheat on credit in the year 2017 and 2018. He said he answered all the questions “within 15 minutes”.

Mr Shah said the NAB investigators also discussed with him powers of chief minister and asked questions about how he had processed the summary before giving his approval.

He said that everybody knew about the condition that had been prevailing in Karachi in the past and turning worse after rainfall. He said one might recall that as many as 200 persons had been killed in a day in the 2007 rainfall and around 50 in the 125mm rainfall in 2009. He also recalled that Sharea Faisal had remained closed for four days in the 2010 rainfall.

“During the recent rainfall, citizens faced difficulties in some areas, but the situation remained under control as we resolved issues,” he said.

Mr Shah said that after the rainfall, the prime minister deputed chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) in Karachi to cope with the situation. He said that it was decided that out of the 38 storm-water drains in Karachi, NDMA would clear three and the Sindh government would clear the remaining ones. He said the work was now under way.

In reply to a question, the chief minister said talks with the federal government on various issues had been held over the last 30-45 days.

Answering another question, he said recovery of the wheat stocks supplied on credit on his orders about two years ago was yet to be made.

Regarding the pandemic situation, he said coronavirus was still there as it had not been completely eliminated in Sindh. That’s why, he added, people must keep wearing masks. He said the pandemic spread was brought under control due to his government’s efforts.

Meanwhile, sources said that the CM was given a questionnaire comprising 10 points concerning alleged misappropriation of wheat stocks during his tenure.

They said the CM sat before the NAB team for about one hour to answer the questions.

According to the NAB sources, certain officials of the food department misappropriated wheat worth Rs15 billion over the last five years. A reference pertaining to the scam also nominated owners of several flour mills as the accused.

NAB sources claim to have recovered Rs12bn from some of the accused through plea bargain and the matter pertaining to the remaining Rs3bn worth of wheat was under process.

Published in Dawn, August 19th, 2020

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