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Sindh move to regain its land

June 17, 2006

KARACHI, June 16: The Sindh government has engaged prominent lawyer Abdul Hafeez Pirzada to move against the federal government in higher courts for restoration of ownership rights or financial compensation for the costly land in the province that has been taken over by various federal agencies, including defence. “We have already raised the issue with Islamabad for restoration of our ownership rights or compensation for our land,” Chief Minister’s Adviser on Finance M.A. Jalil informed journalists at a post-budget press conference on Friday. He was asked about the vast tracts of land that have been taken over by Port Qasim, Pakistan Steel Mills and other federal agencies and the position of the provincial government on the issue.

Answering a question about the NFC award, the adviser said: “Sindh has strong reservations on the amendment proposed in the National Finance Commission award by President Musharraf.”

Mr Jalil and Development Minister Shoaib Bokhari failed to project the socio-economic and political message of the budget or the priorities the ruling coalition had set for development of the province.

Mr Jalil mentioned huge public spending by the government over the past few years, but conceded it was not sufficient and that there was a need to increase development funds.

Mr Bokhari said the government had taken up preparations of master plans for some small cities in the province, adding that would go a long way towards changing the landscape.

According to documents distributed at the press conference, the Sindh government released almost Rs20.15 billion or 84 per cent of the Rs24 billion allocated for development in the current fiscal year against which Rs11.90 billion was utilised during the last 10 months.

An ‘Access to Justice Programme’ is being implemented in the province with the Asian Development Bank loan of $350 million. Reforms are being introduced to empower vulnerable segments of population and give them unhindered access to justice.

The next Annual Development Programme (ADP) outlay has been proposed at Rs32 billion, of which Rs24 billion will go to the provincial government while Rs8 billion is for districts. In addition, districts will receive Rs1,890 million under the Sindh Devolved Social Programme. Districts will be provided their share of Rs8 billion through a single line transfer.

“No amount from development budget should be transferred to non-development activities such as salary and non-salary component” is the advice to the district authorities. The districts have been further advised that 75 per cent of funds should be used on ongoing development schemes and 25 per cent on the new ones.