KARACHI: Amid scorching heat with temperature crossing 40-degree Celsius mark in most parts of the province, the Sindh Assembly on Monday reverberated with deepening power crisis in the province and “extremely poor performance” of power utilities.

The house echoed with the issue when a member of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) asked the government to take over the control of all three leading power utilities — Hyderabad Electric Supply Company (HESCO), Sukkur Electric Supply Company (SEPCO) and K-Electric.

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) while debating over provincial budget 2024-25 in Sindh Assembly questioned the government for its “ill-intentions” to ignore Karachi development allocations despite collection of Rs400billionout of its total Rs475bn revenue from the city while the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) hoped that with so much reservations over the next fiscal’s estimates, the opposition members would not seek “MPAs funds” during the upcoming financial year.

The tit-for-tat points from both treasury and opposition benches continued, with few from any of the two sides coming up with arguments to prove their point. Amid praises from the ruling PPP members for the budget 2024-25 estimates, it was MQM-P MPA Engineer Syed Muhammad Usman who referred to the “official numbers” and questioned the parameters of allocations for the next fiscal.

MQM-P criticises ruling party for ignoring Karachi in provincial budget

“The system we are living in is a system of injustice. The Sindh government collected [during last fiscal] total Rs475 revenue under heads of different taxes. It’s for no one’s surprise that out of this total Rs475bn, Rs400bn was paid by the people of Karachi,” he said.

“Now we have set the [revenue] target of Rs600bn. We have seen in the document that for CM House alone, Rs42bn has been set aside but for the people of this city, who have contributed almost 85 percent of total collected revenue, nothing has been allocated,” he added.

While responding to the opposition’s criticism, PPP MPA Marvi Rashdi appeared concerned about the power supply crisis across Sindh. She questioned the performance of the power supply companies and suggested her government to move fast before it’s too late.

“The power crisis all over Sindh is turning from worse to worst,” she said. “The people are angry and furious and they have reasons for that. The power supply companies have made the lives of Sindh’s people miserable. The Sindh government should take over the HESCO, SEPCO and KE to give some relief to the people of Sindh. These companies have failed to deliver and the people are paying the price,” she said.

Ms Rasdhi also sought detailed briefing to the House from the irrigation minister about the collapse of one gate of Sukkur Barrage and heavy damage to the other one last week. She was also concerned about the feared losses to local people and agriculture due to serious damage to over 100-years-old structure.

Apparently in a jibe over criticism on budget by the MQM-P members, the PPP MPA on reserved seat of women, came up with a suggestion for the opposition benches to register their “protest more effectively.”

“I hope the way MQM members have raised objections on Sindh budget and rejected all the estimates for the next fiscal, they would not seek any MPA funds which have been set aside for the next financial year,” she said.

Shaheena Sher Ali, the minister of women development department, focused on her department’s performance and future plans. She informed the house about the performance of 24 safe houses and shelter homes for women across the province which were serving to homeless women and those facing different “issues of social and economic injustices.”

“We are going to build such facilities spending part of our total Rs800 million budget for the next fiscal,” she said. “We are already offering different courses to women and girls at our different Dar ul Amans. Now from this year, we are adding two more skills for our girls and women. We would equip them with bike riding skills and teach them cell phone repairing courses. These two courses which meet challenges of the hour would help them become empowered and independent,” she said.

While appreciating the budget allocations for the next fiscal, PPP MPA from Khairpur Naeem Ahmed Kharal shared some “bitter facts” that questioned the performance of the government. He regretted that the government schools in his constituency didn’t have teachers as “majority of them have got themselves transferred” to the urban areas and there’s no check from the authorities concerned on this “grave injustice.”

“And let me share this with the house another serious issue,” he said while referring to challenges being faced in the agriculture sector.

“I am an MPA with social and political connections. Even I am unable to get Bardana (gunny bags), you can imagine how a small or poor farmer can do that? Similarly, no one is willing to buy wheat, even at Rs2,500 per 40-kilogram while the government has set a target of 0.9 million tonnes to be purchased from farmers at a support price of Rs4,000 per 40kg this season,” he said.

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2024

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