Centre-Sindh tension

Published June 16, 2021

FEDERAL Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry launched a blistering attack on the Sindh government during his recent visit to Karachi and accused it of incompetence and embezzlement. He also asked the Supreme Court to ensure implementation of Article 140-A of the Constitution which pertains to local governments. He accused the PPP government of financial impropriety and called Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah a ‘puppet’.

The spokesmen of the Sindh government responded by hurling accusations against the information minister and the PTI government at the centre. This mutual acrimony has once again vitiated the atmosphere between the federal and Sindh governments and will lead to further tension and lack of cooperation at a time when both sides need a better working relationship. This tension is not new. It had surfaced with vigour during the early days of the Covid-19 outbreak when the Sindh government under Murad Ali Shah had reacted proactively while the federal government dithered and vacillated. Chief Minister Shah had moved swiftly towards lockdown and strict policies in order to slow the spread of the pandemic. These different approaches between Islamabad and Karachi had triggered a war of words that needlessly politicised the handling of the pandemic.

It is obvious there is no love lost between the two parties. Prime Minister Imran Khan has been a vocal critic of former president Asif Ali Zardari as well as Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, while the PPP leadership has been raking the PTI over the coals ever since it formed the government in 2018. In fact, it was Mr Bhutto-Zardari who first coined the term ‘selected’ for the prime minister. The political rivalry therefore runs deep and the last few years have done nothing to dilute it. The two parties cooperated briefly while constituting the Karachi development package but this process also fell victim to mutual distrust and blame. This state of affairs has now reached a point where the citizens have to suffer because the two governments cannot bring themselves to coordinate their policies.

Read: Murad accuses centre of anti-Sindh bias in allocation of funds

Against this backdrop, it is rather perplexing why the information minister decided to launch an unprovoked attack on the Sindh government. If he was trying to fire up his party’s voter base in Sindh, he may want to first consider how his party — which has a significant presence in Karachi in terms of public representatives — has paid so little attention to it. However, such an adversarial state of affairs is not sustainable without damaging the working of the federation. The leadership of both parties need to cast aside their personal likes and dislikes and build a relationship that can enable them to be civil to each other and keep the centre-province system running smoothly. In order to do this, the information minister and his party colleagues should resist the urge to unleash torrents of criticism on the Sindh government and the PPP should reciprocate.

Published in Dawn, June 16th, 2021

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