Centre-Sindh sparring

Published December 12, 2021

AFTER a considerable delay, the multibillion-rupee Green Line bus service was inaugurated in Karachi by the prime minister on Friday. The federally funded scheme, launched by the then PML-N-led federal government in 2016, has ended up costing over double its original estimate due to the frequent delays in execution. To the people of Karachi, deprived of a decent public transport system for decades, the Green Line may be too little too late, but it is hoped that the launch of this project helps usher in better commuting facilities for the country’s largest city.

However, whether it is public transport or other basic civic services, the fact is that the severe lack of service delivery has been exacerbated by the toxic centre-Sindh relationship, with both sides frequently launching critiques of the other’s initiatives. But on Friday, Prime Minister Imran Khan offered an olive branch to the Sindh government, asking the latter to work with the federal government for the betterment of Karachi.

Read: PML-N condemns 'torture' of party workers at symbolic inauguration of Karachi's Green Line project

The fact is that both sides need to rise above the blame game and make efforts for Karachi’s uplift. Certainly, cooperation between the centre and Sindh in public transport projects, water schemes, the health card initiative etc. is required to improve basic service delivery in Sindh. Efforts at cooperation have been thwarted by unnecessary criticism of the Sindh government and perceived interference in provincial affairs by federal ministers. But PPP officials and ministers in Sindh have also used the centre as a punching bag whenever there has been criticism of administration in the province, and cannot claim the moral high ground where good governance is concerned — for instance, food prices in Karachi are higher than in many other cities, without any justification.

Yet it is also a fact that PTI MNAs — the party received a heavy mandate from the metropolis in the last general elections — have failed to deliver. Instead of spending time in their constituencies so they can understand the problems of their voters, most lawmakers appear to remain aloof and confine themselves to making statements critical of their political opponents.

Looking beyond petty politics, both sides should bury the hatchet and work for the betterment of Karachi and the rest of Sindh. The PPP should respond positively to the prime minister’s offer of expanding the health card scheme to Sindh and not resist it simply on political grounds, as the healthcare situation in the province is appalling.

Moreover, the bus rapid transit schemes in Karachi are another area where both the centre and Sindh can cooperate where finances, logistics and expertise are concerned. On its part, the centre would do well to respect the principle of provincial autonomy and offer Sindh full support. Both must remember that the common goal is the welfare of the people of Sindh — even if it means letting go of their respective egos for a while.

Published in Dawn, December 12th, 2021

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