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A federal minister on Sunday elicited an angry response from the PPP led provincial government of Sindh after he urged the apex court to compel the provincial administration to implement Article 140-A of Constitution which calls for devolving power to local governments (LGs).
Addressing a press conference at the Sindh Governor House in Karachi, Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry fired a broadside at the provincial government for “completely failing to resolve the problems of the people of Sindh” and refusing to devolve powers.
He ruled out the possibility of the federal government resorting to any “undemocratic and unconstitutional” step like imposing the governor rule in Sindh but said the federal government is in favour of implementing Article 140-A of Constitution.
“Article 140-A requires the provinces to establish an LG system, and devolve political, administrative and financial powers to the LG elected representatives so that the basic issues of people could be resolved at their doorsteps,” the minister added.
Fawad said the Sindh government has neither convened a meeting of the Provincial Finance Commission nor put financial resources at the disposal of the LGs and devolved administrative powers to them.
“In a total contravention of the Constitution, all the decisions are being made at the Bilawal House [the headquarters of the PPP]. This undermines the authority of the provincial assembly and provincial cabinet. This is a constitutional crisis in itself.
“I, therefore, urge the Supreme Court to ensure implementation of the Constitution, particularly Article 140-A in Sindh as it is the only statutory procedure for granting basic rights to both urban and rural areas of the province,” he added.
He asked the Sindh government where it spent over Rs1,800 billion which it had received under the National Finance Commission (NFC) award “as nothing could be seen on ground”. An amount of over Rs700 billion has been earmarked for the province in next year's federal budget, he added.
He lamented that despite having a major chunk of national resources, the people of Sindh are suffering only because of the policies of the PPP government, “which completely fails to resolve their problems”.
“The health system in the province has deteriorated to the extent that the Supreme Court judges had to observe that the hospitals devolved to the province should be handed back to the federal government for improving their service delivery,” the minister remarked.
Similarly, he said, the deplorable condition of development projects, broken roads, and non-availability of drinkable water and other basic facilities speak volumes about the Sindh government's performance. The PPP government has failed to maintain law and order even in the provincial capital, he added.
To another query, he said the Sindh government has demanded more funds. The funds allocated by the Centre in the past for specific purposes were not utilized, rather the same were transferred to foreign bank accounts, he alleged. “We want to spend the funds for the betterment of the public,” he said.
Responding to the press conference, Sindh government spokesperson Murtaza Wahab said Fawad could not secure his job by criticizing the PPP leaders while Sindh Minister for Agriculture Ismail Rahoo reminded him that Article 140-A also applies to Punjab where the PTI’s provincial government sacked LG representatives before completion of their tenure.
“Fawad Chaudhry should teach the lesson of patriotism to someone else,” Wahab said. “He could not secure his job by talking nonsense against [PPP co-chairman] Asif Zardari and [chairman] Bilawal Bhutto.
“His incompetent government stands on lies and will soon face the wrath of the oppressed people.” Wahab said the federal government’s policy for Sindh is “hypocritical and unjust”.
“Whether it is the NFC award or the Indus River water issue, rights of Sindh have always been abused. Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah is fighting well for the people of Sindh. Our [PPP] workers know very well how to fight the case of Sindh,” he added.
Rahoo said Sindh is already implementing Article 140-A as it ensured that the LGs in the province complete their term. “It is the PTI whose provincial government in Punjab dissolved the LGs two years before completion of their term,” he said.
“Those who sent packing 56,000 LG representatives in Punjab are talking about the mayor of Karachi. You (Chaudhry) should ask the former Karachi mayor [who belonged to the MQM, an ally of the PTI in the Centre] where he spent Rs125 billion in the past five years,” the provincial minister said.
Sindh Minister for Education Saeed Ghani also defended the provincial government and said the Sindh government is the only provincial government that ensured that the LG institutions complete their tenures despite the fact that both the LGs in Karachi and Hyderabad were in the hands of the MQM.
He said Fawad Chaudhry had arrived in Karachi earlier to overthrow the Sindh government. Later, he talked about the governor’s rule, adding that he is doing this only to give hope to his allies.
“How does Chaudhry ask the apex court to impose the Constitution's Article 140-A as the Supreme Court has recently restored the LGs dissolved by the PTI in Punjab.
“The LG system has ended in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and they [PTI] do not talk about new elections. After completion of their term, they are not only going towards new elections but also not bringing improvement to the law,” he said.
He said if the PTI and Chaudhry want to implement Article A-140 of the Constitution then they should first ensure implementation of the SC’s recent judgment regarding restoration of the LGs in Punjab.
Fawad Chaudhry said the PTI government is committed to resolving the issues being faced by people of Sindh. “This commitment is evident from the growth oriented budget 2021-22, being hailed by every segment of society, including trade and industry.”
He said the next fiscal year would be the year of development of Pakistan and prosperity of its people as the government focuses on provision of relief to common men as well as agriculture, industry and business sectors in the budget.
“The Kamyab Jawan Programme, the PM’s housing projects and the Ehsaas Programme cover different segments of society,” he added.
Fawad said recently, when the national power transmission system was under severe pressure and the electric supply was disrupted in the country, Karachi suffered less than the previous years.
“The reason is that the federal government was providing 500MW additional electricity to K-Electric to provide relief to citizens of Karachi,” he added.
The minister said the federal government wants to constitute the Pakistan Media Development Authority to protect the rights of media professionals and resolve their problems.
He said the government has paid outstanding dues of Rs1.17 billion to the media houses so that they could pay salaries to the media workers and journalists.
“As the minimum wages in the budget have been set at Rs20,000, the media organizations should also raise the salaries of their workers accordingly,” he added.
With regard to the PML-N, Fawad said its leadership has realized that the party has no political future; therefore, they have resorted to antagonistic politics.
“They are opposing each and every step of the government without any sound reasoning. They have rejected the right of vote to overseas Pakistanis, the use of electronic voting machines and other people-friendly measures.”
He said the PML-N leaders have undermined the vital role of overseas Pakistanis in the country's development and financial stability. The expats are sending their hard earned money to their homeland while the PML-N leadership always launders money made through corruption abroad, he added.
As regards distribution of irrigation water, Fawad said the Indus River System Authority (Irsa) is releasing water to Sindh according to its share. Punjab is not taking water from Sindh’s share, rather it is the PPP leaders who are usurping and stealing the water of farmers and growers, he added.
He said the federation had suggested Sindh to appoint impartial observers at entry points but Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah did not accept the proposal as it would expose their water theft.
The minister said the Sindh government is not ready to provide health card facilities to people of the province. The health card is a comprehensive medical facility for the deserving population as it provides the coverage of Rs1 million for treatment of various diseases to each family.
To a question on the performance of state-owned entities, the minister said the PPP former governments destroyed the public institutions by large scale induction of employees and mismanagement, but the PTI government is now taking remedial measures to save them.
“The incumbent government has appointed heads of 60 entities purely on merit, whose performance is improving,” he added.
To a question, Fawad said the federal government is fully committed to carry forward Karachi’s Green Line Project, but the provincial departments are not cooperating.
“Sindh Governor Imran Ismail and Minister for Planning Asad Umar are fully focused to resolve the transport issues of the mega city, but the Sindh government's reluctance is a hurdle.”