Centre for third-party monitoring of Sindh funds

Published June 21, 2021
Federal Information and Broadcasting Minister Fawad Chaudhry addresses a press conference in Karachi. — DawnNewsTV
Federal Information and Broadcasting Minister Fawad Chaudhry addresses a press conference in Karachi. — DawnNewsTV

KARACHI: In a sign of intensification of a tussle between Centre and Sindh, federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry on Sunday accused the provincial rulers and top PPP leadership of misusing public funds to launder money abroad and stealing water of the poor farmers while blaming the federal government for water crisis.

Mr Chaudhry also advocated monitoring of use of public funds in Sindh given by the federal government through a ‘third party.’

Mr Chaudhry’s remarks during his visit to Karachi Press Club invited strong reaction from the provincial government which said the federal minister was suffering from “Sindh government phobia”.

Mr Chaudhry, in an apparent reference to the Sindh chief minister, said any ‘honourable’ person would have resigned after recent remarks of the chief justice of Pakistan against the provincial government. He said implementation of Article 140-A of the Constitution pertaining to the local government system in Sindh was imperative.

CM aide says Islamabad finds fault with province to hide its failure

He said Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and the PPP were against ‘democratic thinking’ and had imposed dictatorship in Sindh, therefore, the people were not getting their rights.

He said billions of rupees had been given for Karachi, Badin and Larkana and asked where those funds had gone. “Money belonging to the Sindh government is being retrieved from Dubai, Canada or Europe,” claimed the minister.

He said the federal government would give Rs700-750 billion to Sindh under budget 2021-2022, apart from grants or special funds.

He accused the PPP leaders, particularly Asif Ali Zardari, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Faryal Talpur, of stealing water and diverting water (share of other farmers) to their own lands.

“But their [the PPP’s] days are numbered ... and the PTI will win the next election in Sindh,” he said.

Talking about the need to monitor use of development funds in Sindh, the minister said in the first phase, use of funds for projects under the federal PSDP (Public Sector Development Programme) would be monitored and this would be a big step towards giving relief to the people of the province.

Electoral reforms

The minister said whatever happened during the budget session in the National Assembly was regrettable. However, he opined that sometimes when sentiments were high, such mistakes occurred. But now, things had returned to normalcy, he added.

“Our intent is to strengthen the parliament but Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif wants to resolve the electoral reforms issue outside the parliament partly because he has no control over his party as actual control lies with Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz,” he said.

It was Imran Khan who had introduced ‘independent umpires’ during his cricket career and now he wanted the same practice for general elections, Mr Chaudhry said. As every election remained controversial in the country, the government wanted such a system that polls were acceptable to every party, he said.

For this purpose, he said, the government had introduced a bill in the parliament in last October but unfortunately, the opposition instead of suggesting their amendments in the legislature wanted to hold a multi-party conference on the issue because it wanted to involve unelected leaders like Maulana Fazl Rehman whose interest was to derail the system and weaken the parliament.

PPP reaction

Barrister Murtaza Wahab, spokesperson for the Sindh government and adviser to the CM on law, said the “incompetent” PTI government had no tangible performance to show to the people and that was why it resorted to propaganda to make failed attempts to divert attention from public issues by leveling baseless allegations against the Sindh government. “We will continue to raise our voice against the injustices of the PTI government in Sindh,” Mr Wahab said while addressing a press conference.

He said Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah always annoyed Prime Minister Khan because he gave him hard time by talking about facts. “The PM likes silent people like Usman Buzdar who cannot answer him.”

Mr Wahab said: “We raise questions and federal ministers and prime minister hurl allegations against us.”

“The limit is that Fawad Chaudhry has announced audit of the money given (by federal government) to Sindh by a third party but the question is: Do you do favour by giving money? Is this your money?”

He said it was the responsibility of the federation to audit these funds. “The auditor-general is the representative of the federation who conducts the audit on an annual basis.”

About implementation of Article 140-A in Sindh, the spokesman said: “Is this article for Sindh only? Those who taunt us regarding the local government system are not able to run the local government system anywhere else, including Islamabad.

The adviser also criticised the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and the Grand Democratic Alliance over a host of issues.

He said on the census issue, the MQM and the GDA sided with Imran Khan instead of the Sindh people.

The controversial census approval committee included Ali Zaidi, Aminul Haq, and Fehmida Mirza, he said. “Later, they came here and shed crocodile tears”.

He said the MQM people always talked about Karachi’s huge contributed to national economy.

“The schemes of other provinces are visible in the federal PSDP but there is no scheme for Sindh which runs the economy of Pakistan.” He asked why the PTI allies were silent on this issue.

While discussing water crisis in Sindh, Mr Wahab said it could be measured at Guddu Barrage how much water was coming into Sindh. “It is the federal government that runs controversial canals.”

To a question, he said Sindh did not get Rs85 billion under the National Finance Commission award. “The provincial government has earmarked Rs108bn for development schemes in Karachi while KMC and DMCs get separate money.”

Separately, Sindh Information Minister Syed Nasir Husain Shah said that the federal government. through ‘unjust distribution of water’ had rendered Irsa ‘useless’.

Published in Dawn, June 21st, 2021

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