Entirely a Karachi Show- News Comment by G.N. Mughul
Courtesy: The Frontier Post
A high level meeting, held here in urgency on Monday under the chairmanship of President Asif Zardari to consider and approve development projects of Sindh, is being called by circles attached with Sindh Government as an “entirely a Karachi show” arranged to appease MQM – a coalition partner of PPP at Centre as well as Sindh Government. On interviewing some important “characters” attached with the said episode” some very interesting aspects have come to light, like: (a) even Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah had no prior knowledge as to what issues were to be discussed at the said meeting, (b) a trio comprising Salman Farooqui, Secretary General to President, Chief Secretary Sindh and Karachi City Nazim Syed Mustafa Kamal, was the real motivating force behind the said meeting and was silently making necessary preparations for the said meeting, and
(c) the holding of the said meeting and decisions taken at the said meeting are being called by legal and technical experts as in gross violation of the rules of the business of Sindh as well as Pakistan. It has been learnt that a day before i.e. on Sunday Syed Qaim Ali Shah had no information about the issues to be discussed at the said meeting to be presided over by the President on Monday. In the evening on Sunday somehow information was leaked to Sindh Chief Minister that a high level meeting was scheduled to be held in Karachi on Monday under the chairmanship of President and in this regard some preparations were going on in the office of Sindh Chief Secretary. On getting this information, Sindh Chief Minister is reported to have called Chief Secretary and asked him about the meeting and the issues likely to be discussed. In response, the Chief Secretary reportedly informed him that presentation to President was to be given on the issues of Sindh, including Karachi. Afterwards, the Sindh Chief Minister issued directives to high officials of Sindh Government of concerned departments to prepare a presentation on the issues of Sindh including those of Karachi. As the follow up of these directives the offices of the departments concerned were opened by midnight and presentation was prepared and presented to Sindh Chief Minister before the dawn of the next day. However, some other reports indicated that a separate presentation was being prepared in the office of City Nazim, Karachi. While, according to these reports Salman Farooqui, Secretary General to President was also presiding a meeting at State Guest House the same night and making preparations for the next day high level meeting. According to the experts, the approval of the projects at the said meting was in violation of the rules of business of Sindh as well as Pakistan. According to this opinion, all these projects were required to be processed and mooted out by Sindh Government. Besides, for the approval, these projects were also required to have been examined by Planning Commission and discussed at the relevant forums. As against that from Sindh only City Nazim and Chief Secretary were on board and as for Federal Government/ Planning Commission, only Secretary General to the President and Deputy Chairman Planning Commission, Sardar Asef Ahmad Ali were said to be on board as the latter was called from Islamabad for this purpose and he was also present in Monday meeting. The experts are of the view that the meetings of the forums like ECNEC or Cabinet needed to be presided over by Prime Minister but nor the President. These circles have drawn attention that actually a precedent to this effect was set by former military dictator Gen. Pervez Musharraf who used to preside special meetings to approve development projects as was done particularly in water sector. According to details of the proceedings of the high level meeting, it continued for three hours out of which 2 hours and 45 minutes were consumed on discussing the issues of Karachi and on taking decisions about the said issues while the issues of rest of Sindh were discussed and disposed off during the rest about 15 minutes. During post meeting press conference, Sindh Information Minister Mrs. Shazia Marri giving details about the decisions taken at the said meeting, announced that as many as six new huge development projects of Karachi requiring billions of rupees, were approved by the meeting. The details of these projects are: (i) Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Transit CNG Bus project for Karachi under which 500 environment-friendly CNG buses would be introduced. The scheme would be launched by City Nazim who would oversee the implementation, (ii) Karachi Mass Transit: GOP will provide sovereign guarantee for this project which would be built as a BOO scheme and international competitive bids would be invited soon, (iii) Karachi Circular Railway: This project is being revived with a cost of Rs. 1.6 billion with international assistance, (iv) Lyari Express Way: This project was approved and it was decided that the Planning Commission would finance this project, (v) Bus Rapid Transit System: This project was also approved and it was decided that this project would be implemented by City Nazim Karachi. And (vi) Karachi Sewerage Scheme was also approved. As for other projects particularly concerning interior Sindh, President directed that construction of Karachi-Hyderabad Motorway be in conformity with international standard. It was decided that work on Larkana-Khairpur bridge be accelerated, instructions were issued to NHA to complete work on priority basis on Sukkur-Shikarpur-Jacobabad express way and Rato Dero-Sehwan additional carriageway, instructions about LBOD and RBOD faulty projects were also issued. As for vital Thar Coal project, President desired to expedite the work on this project. The vital Ketty Bunder project was not discussed at all. According to reports leaked out from the meeting, it is said that on about two occasions when Sindh Chief Minister objected on making City Nazim responsible for the project on the ground that there was Provincial Government it has its Transport and other departments, but he over ruled when Salman Farooqui intervened and gave new direction to the discussion and decisions were taken without considering the stand taken by Provincial Chief Executive.
APRIL 22, 2009