• Says issue to be taken up with CCI to complete count in 18 months
• Criticises Sindh govt over delay in holding of LG polls
• Says 40 buses to reach Karachi next week; K-IV project to be ready by August 2023
KARACHI: Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar has said that “the general elections of 2023 will be held as per new census”, claiming that the government is consulting all stakeholders on the issue.
While addressing a press conference at KPT Port House along with Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Haider Zaidi on Saturday, the planning minister said the era of Pervez Musharraf was far better than the PML-N and PPP rule in terms of efforts towards betterment of Karachi, but the then army chief could not help in holding a census in the city.
A countrywide census was finally held in 2017 after a gap of 19 years but it became controversial as some political parties had reservations over the exercise and its findings, the minister said.
After consultation with all the stakeholders, the federal cabinet would send recommendations to the Council of Common Interest (CCI) so that the process of census could be completed in the next 18 months, he said. The exercise would be followed by delimitation, he said, declaring that the next general elections would be held as per new census.
He was of the opinion that new census would be held with the help of digital technology and geo-tagging, besides taking onboard government institutions, to make the census more transparent.
The federal minister, however, criticised the Sindh government for dragging its feet over the conduct of local bodies election on the ground of unresolved census issue. “The delaying tactics of the provincial government will only help PTI to gain more votes,” he believed.
Talking about Karachi’s development, the federal minister blamed the PPP government for depriving the residents of their basic rights with water shortage and the collapse of public transport infrastructure as well as sewerage, drainage and garbage disposal system.
The PPP in its 13-year rule in Sindh had not completed any mega projects for Karachi, he said.
The federal minister said the port city’s betterment did not fall in the ambit of the federal government, yet Prime Minister Imran Khan gave special attention to Karachi. He said Rs21 billion had been allocated under Public Sector Development Project (PSDP) this year for small development schemes in Karachi.
One of the main projects of the federal government is to lift 1.1 million tonnes of garbage in Karachi, followed by construction of footpaths on nullahs (drain), underpasses and overhead bridges. He said roads along nullahs were already under construction.
He said cleaning of nullahs showed sincere efforts of the federal government, with the result that the recent rains did not cause any serious problem for citizens.
Mr Umer claimed that despite strong reservation from Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, Rs7 billion had been provided to the people of Karachi and Rs65bn had been disbursed in the entire province under the federal government’s Ehsaas Programme.
The planning minister, who also heads the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) on Covid-19, said that vaccines worth over Rs10 billion had been administered to the people of Karachi. “Sindh has not spent any amount on the vaccination drive and not even on a single dose,” but large photos of provincial ministers could be seen at vaccination centres, he regretted.
About Sindh government’s proposal for including KMC tax in the electricity bill, Mr Umer said he had discussed the issue with federal Minister for Energy Hammad Azhar and declared that the federal government “will not let this happen and will not allow K-Electric to collect the tax”.
The federal minister agreed that prices of commodities had surged, but asserted that the country had not faced any shortage of essential items this year.
He then lambasted the Sindh government for failing to curb wheat flour price. In Punjab, a 20-kg wheat flour bag, which was available at Rs860, was being sold at Rs1,150 in Karachi and Rs1,200 in Sukkur despite the fact that Sindh’s wheat production was more than its consumption.
On the Green Line project, the federal minister said various phases of the project had been completed. Around 80 buses were being brought, and 40 of them would reach Karachi next week so that the Green Line project could be made operational by October, he added.
Private sector to run KCR
Regarding the 43km-long circular railway, Mr Umer said the Karachi to Pipri project would have over 20 stations and would cost around Rs70bn.
The project would be run by the private sector. To formally inaugurate infrastructure of the project, Prime Minister Imran Khan is expected to visit Karachi in the last week of September.
Talking about water crisis, the planning minister expressed the hope that the K-1V project would be completed by August 14, 2023. The project had been facing delay for at least one decade, he said, adding that work on K-IV would restart after four to five months.
However, he asserted, Sindh government was responsible to ensure water availability in Karachi.
Published in Dawn, September 12th, 2021