Centre, Sindh spar over contribution to Karachi package

Updated 07 Sep 2020

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Asad Umar said it was not possible to stay silent when ‘others’ attempted to manipulate facts just for political point-scoring. — Reuters/File
Asad Umar said it was not possible to stay silent when ‘others’ attempted to manipulate facts just for political point-scoring. — Reuters/File

• Asad insists on 62pc share of Centre in Rs1.1tr package, Sindh claims Rs750bn is provincial govt’s responsibility
• Federal minister calls 18th Amendment a hurdle to city’s uplift
• Maritime minister asks Sindh to appoint grade-21 officers as administrators of all districts
• MQM-P leader wants Sindh to change local govt legislation

KARACHI: The consensus showed by city’s stakeholders on the ambitious Rs1.1 trillion Karachi Transformation Plan is eroding much faster than feared, as the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf-led federal government on Sunday took strong exception to Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s remarks that the Sindh government would bear the major cost of the package.

Just a day earlier, Prime Minister Imran Khan in the presence of Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah had unveiled the Rs1.1tr package at Governor House to resolve Karachi’s lingering and chronic issues including provision of clean drinking water, cleaning of drains and sewage and solid waste disposal within three years.

The PM had said the federal and provincial governments would contribute to the Karachi package and formed a provincial coordination and implementation committee with all the stakeholders — mainly PPP, PTI and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan — on board to promptly and swiftly resolve the issues of Karachi.

The PPP chairman was then reported to have stated during a programme later in the evening that the Sindh government would contribute Rs800bn to the Rs1.1tr package for Karachi. He said: “We welcome the Rs300 billion funding from the federal government for Karachi’s infrastructure development. The Sindh government will contribute Rs800 billion to this development package.”

On Sunday, however, federal Minister for Planning and Special Initiatives Asad Umar of the PTI along with federal IT and Telecom Minister Aminul Haque of his party’s coalition partner MQM-Pakistan and Maritime Affairs Minister Ali Zaidi held a press conference at Governor House where no PPP representative was present.

Mr Umar said he got messages from different people soon after the unveiling of Karachi package that PPP had claimed that the Sindh government would bear the lion’s share. He said: “Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah had in a meeting agreed not to reveal the share of both the governments [federal and provincial]. Unfortunately, a video clip of PPP chairman [Bhutto-Zardari] was doing the rounds in which he was claiming that the Sindh was giving Rs800bn and the federation was sharing Rs300bn.”

The federal minister said: “It is necessary to set the record straight. The federal government will bear 62 per cent of the total amount of Rs1,100 billion announced by Prime Minister Imran Khan for KTP [Karachi Transformation Plan], while the remaining 38pc will be spent by the provincial government. Karachi package is the right of the people of this city. There should be no politics. For God’s sake serve this city...we will take two steps towards you if you take one step towards us.”

Asad Umar said it was not possible to stay silent when ‘others’ attempted to manipulate facts just for political point-scoring.

However, Sindh government spokesperson Murtaza Wahab while talking to a private news channel on Sunday evening made it clear that Mr Bhutto-Zardari was quite right that the major share of the package would be borne by the provincial government. “In the Rs1,100bn package, an amount of Rs750bn is the responsibility of the Sindh government and the federal government is taking responsibility of Rs362bn. I believe the percentage Asad Umar claimed, 62pc of the total package, in his press conference is wrong,” he said.

Package details

About the Karachi Transformation Plan, Mr Umar said that all storm-water drains of the city would be desilted in the first phase after removing all encroachments. This would take 15 months and the rehabilitation of affected people would be the responsibility of the provincial government, he added.

In response to a question about Karachi’s Master Plan, the PTI leader said that Sindh government was taking steps in this regard.

About three federal-funded projects in the country’s financial capital, Mr Umar said Green Line Bus Rapid Transport System would complete in June 2021, work on K-IV water supply project would be complete by the end of 2022 while the Karachi Circular Railway would complete by the end of 2023.

When asked if the 18th Constitutional Amendment was a hurdle between the Centre and Sindh as far as development works were concerned, the federal minister replied in the affirmative. He said it was correct that the federal government could not function, as it did before the passage of the 18th Amendment. The absence of a total authority was the major hurdle in city’s development, he said while expressing the hope that the PPP leadership would allow the chief minister to work jointly with the federal government for Karachi’s betterment. He then asked all stakeholders to keep their political differences aside and work jointly for the success of Karachi transformation plan.

Federal minister Aminul Haque, representing the MQM-P, said the KTP was not a favour to Karachi but it was the right of this city. “The more government will spend on Karachi, the more it will earn as revenue from the city,” he said.

The MQM-P leader said: “We have to ensure transparency in spending of funds keeping in view the past mistakes.”

He also highlighted the need for replacing the Sindh Local Government Act 2013, which he said had failed completely, with new legislation.

Mr Amin said the Karachi package would prove to be different from all the previous ones, as “all stakeholders are on the same page”.

Also belonging to the PTI, federal minister Ali Zaidi demanded that the Sindh government appoint officers of grade-21 as administrators of each district of Sindh as it appointed a grade-21 officer as Karachi administrator.

He said the chief minister had informed the PM that rain caused widespread devastation in other cities where around 2.3 million people had been displaced. He asked the media to also focus other parts of Sindh like it had been covering Karachi.

The Karachi package includes Rs92bn water supply projects, Rs267bn solid waste management, storm water drains clearance and resettlement projects, Rs141bn sewage treatment plan, Rs41bn road projects and Rs572bn mass transit, rail and road transport projects.

Published in Dawn, September 7th, 2020