• Centre assures Sindh of all possible help in post-flood situation
• Murad-led liaison committee to oversee projects
• PM holds meetings with MQM, PML-F leaders
• Bilawal says Sindh will provide Rs800bn
KARACHI: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday announced an ambitious Rs1,113 billion package for the development of the country’s financial capital and set up a coordination and implementation committee led by Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah to bring all “stakeholders and authorities” together to make key decisions, remove hurdles and ensure their implementation.
While Prime Minister Khan made it clear that the fund was set up with contribution from both the federal and provincial governments, it is not immediately clear what the exact share of each side is.
During his visit a week after the record monsoon rains wreaked havoc on Karachi’s infrastructure, the prime minister appeared to be politically accommodating. Unlike the past, Mr Khan not only gave credit to “everyone” in the fight against coronavirus but also made CM Shah head of the committee, which will oversee the Rs1,113bn package implementation, with representation from provincial and federal institutions.
The prime minister announced the “historic” package titled Karachi Transformation Plan comprising Rs92bn water supply projects, Rs267bn solid waste management, storm water drains clearance and resettlement projects, Rs141bn sewage treatment plan, Rs41bn road projects and the Rs572bn mass transit, rail and road transport project.
Mr Khan vowed to take up the challenge posed by the floods across the country, recalling that success against the coronavirus outbreak had been achieved due to “everyone’s efforts”. “There’s hardly any country in the world that has come out of the coronavirus crisis to such a level as we have,” said the prime minister at Governor House after chairing a meeting to review the Karachi situation after the rains and finalise plans for infrastructure development.
“And I repeat we emerged successful because of the coordinated efforts made by everyone. This flood situation not in Karachi or Sindh alone but across the country has given another test to us. I believe, Insha Allah, we would come out of this challenge too through the same coordinated efforts,” he announced.
“In this [development] package, the provincial government would pool its share and so will the federal government that would make the total around Rs1,100 billion,” he said.
Mr Khan said: “There’s no doubt that Karachi received unprecedented rains. The city was already facing many problems. So I see it as a blessing in disguise that these rains have brought things under the spotlight and now the pending issues of the city would also be resolved at the same time.”
He then mentioned the areas of development one by one that the government would address through the fund for which he announced short- and medium-term deadlines while emphasising that none of the schemes would take more than three years to complete.
The PM mentioned the three priority areas as cleaning of the nullahs, solid waste and sewerage management and water supply to citizens. He did not elaborate much on sharing of pool and responsibilities between the federal and provincial governments, but he discussed a brief strategy to deal with the challenge of people’s displacement after the massive operation against encroachment on nullahs. “We realise that when we would clean the nullahs and remove encroachments, the issue of people’s displacement would emerge. For that we have decided that on part of the federal government, the NDMA [National Disaster Management Authority] will clean nullahs and as it’s still doing while the Sindh government will take up the issue of resettlement of the displaced people.”
The crucial point came up at the briefing when the prime minister admitted that the “area of administration in Karachi is quite complex. There are different areas under different institutions. Somewhere we find [authority of] cantonment and somewhere federal government. Then comes the [authority of] Pakistan Railways and somewhere provincial government. That makes things difficult.”
Mr Khan announced that the Provincial Coordination and Implementation Committee, which would work under the chief minister of Sindh, would be “crucial and instrumental” in driving the Karachi’s development pace. It would bring all stakeholders together to make decisions, remove hurdles and above all make sure their implementation.”
According to a statement issued by the PM Office, the prime minister was briefed in detail about the Karachi Transformation Plan at the meeting that he chaired. Sindh Governor Imran Ismail, Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, federal ministers Senator Shibli Faraz, Asad Umar, Syed Ali Zaidi and Aminul Haq, Corps Commander Lt Gen Humayun Aziz, Inter-Services Intelligence Director General Lt Gen Faiz Hameed, provincial ministers Syed Ghani and Nasir Shah, and senior officials attended the meeting.
The PM assured the provincial government that the Centre would provide all possible help in compensating the recent losses caused by the unprecedented rainfall and flooding, the statement added.
It also quoted the premier as saying that Karachi was an important city of Pakistan and its economic hub. Its issues could be resolved through mutual coordination. “All the stakeholders, including the federal government, the Sindh government and Army are there to resolve the issues being faced by the people of Karachi,” Mr Khan said.
The prime minister also held meetings with leaders of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s allies in the federal government. A delegation of Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan (MQM-P) led by Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui and comprising federal minister Aminul Haq and Faisal Sabzwari discussed the development projects with the premier and also shared their proposals and suggestions with him.
The PM also held a brief meeting with Pir Sadaruddin Shah Rashdi, leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional leader and a key member of Sindh’s Grand Democratic Alliance. They discussed the post-flood situation and an upcoming plan of the federal government for the rural parts of Sindh.
While taking notice of malnutrition among children and lack of facilities for their treatment, the PM issued directives for due care of 165 children whose parents met him at Governor House.
During the meeting, arranged by federal minister Faisal Vawda, the parents briefed the PM about their difficulties and appealed for his support.
Meanwhile, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari welcomed the Rs1,113 billion package announced by the PM but claimed that his party’s government in Sindh would actually be contributing Rs800bn against the centre’s share of Rs300bn.
“We welcome the Rs300 billion funding from the federal government for Karachi’s infrastructure development,” he said while addressing people during a visit to rain-hit areas of West district.
“The Sindh government would contribute Rs800 billion to this development package. The entire province has suffered huge losses due to recent record rains and we look towards the federal government for support and relief. There’s a strong need to devise a rehabilitation and relief policy at the national level,” he said.
Published in Dawn, September 6th, 2020