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Murad says corruption more rampant in other provinces than Sindh

KARACHI, June 25 (Dawn/WNP): Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah Tuesday told the house that despite the fact that the amount recovered by the National Accountability Bureau in its plea bargain and voluntary return schemes from other provinces was much greater than the money recovered from Sindh, yet, “deplorably, Sindh is being branded as the country’s most corrupt province”.

Winding up the debate on the provincial budget for the next fiscal in the Sindh Assembly that lasted for more than two hours, he said a perception had wrongly been attached to Sindh about being the province with the highest corruption volume while the facts told a tale exactly opposite to the perception.

He said he was the 121st member of the assembly who participated in the debate on the budget that lasted for 46 hours. He added that Pakistan Peoples Party’s 62 of the 99 members had spoken for around 20 hours. Almost all of the 30 members of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, 19 of the 23 members of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan, and 10 of the 14 members of the Grand Democratic Alliance took part in the debate.

Two of the three lawmakers of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan and the sole member of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal discussed the budget.

“All this shows the opposition has been given ample time to discuss the budget,” he said.

Mr Shah said the culture of debate was not as rich elsewhere as in Sindh, as just 40 per cent of members in the National Assembly, 26pc in the Punjab Assembly, and 30pc and 14pc members, respectively, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan assemblies were allowed to speak during the budget debates.

Centre’s unfulfilled promises

Mr Shah said the federal government had informed the Sindh government in the beginning of its tenure that Sindh would be given Rs665 billion. In June it said Sindh would be given Rs632bn.

“So far, we have been given Rs505bn, some Rs126bn short to the revised share and a shortfall of Rs173bn if the actual figures of Rs665bn are taken into account,” he said.

He prayed for the federal government to achieve its targets so that provinces could get their due shares.

Revenue collection

He said during fiscal 2017-18 the then federal government had collected Rs3.27 trillion while it collected Rs3.31tr this fiscal.

“This shows only a 1.2pc increase. Sindh has shown an increase of over six per cent in its revenue collection,” he said.

Murad Shah said Punjab had spent Rs126bn of its Rs238bn ADP while Sindh had utilised Rs110bn against the releases of Rs130bn.

“The size of the Annual Development Programme is Rs252bn in 2018-19 and the ADP for 2019-20 has been confined to Rs223bn given the financial issues in our midst.”

Mr Shah said he wanted to raise salaries of the government employees by 25pc but due to financial crunch could only offer a 15pc raise with financial implication of Rs26bn on the provincial exchequer.

Allocation for three big hospitals

About the issue involving takeover of three major hospitals in Karachi — the NICVD, NICH and JPMC — by Islamabad, the chief minister said the apex court in its decision had said the federal government would have to repay the Sindh government all expenditures the latter had made on those facilities since 2011, which were around Rs30bn.

“The federal government has not allocated even a single penny for these hospitals in its budget,” he said, adding that his government had allocated Rs15bn for those hospitals.

He said the inflation rate during the PTI government had risen to 9.7pc, the dollar had surpassed the Rs157 mark and the stock market had dropped from 42,000 points to 35,000.

“These indicators show your [federal government’s] inefficiency to handle the economy,” he said.

Mr Shah said the federal government scrapped 36 schemes of Sindh from its PSDP. “Last year three chief ministers had boycotted the meeting of the Council of Common Interests but this year the prime minister himself boycotted it,” he said.

K-IV project ignored

He said the federal government had allocated Rs12bn for the development of Karachi. He added that the K-IV project had been ignored by Islamabad in its next budget.

Mr Shah said the Sindh government had given the third party designing work of K-IV to Nespak, which is a federal government institution.

He asked the Centre to financially support the Sindh government to complete the K-IV project as well as initiate an inquiry against its mounting cost.

On Karachi Circular Railway, Mr Shah said he had written several times to Islamabad to resolve this issue, but none of the letters had been answered.

Mr Shah said the provincial government had allocated Rs61bn for the development schemes of Karachi, showing ownership the provincial government was giving to the city.

“We will establish Red Line with the assistance of the Asian Development Bank at a cost of $561 million.”

Comparing corruption in other provinces with Sindh, the chief minister said that in 2017 there were 114 cases of plea bargain in KP amounting to Rs1.27bn, 46 cases of Rs1.337bn in Balochistan, 170 cases of Rs1.59bn in Punjab and 69 cases of Rs1.53bn in Sindh which included a case of the Employees Old-Age Benefits Institution, a federal institution, amounting to Rs853 million.

“This shows a minimum plea bargain amount in Sindh.”

He said from Jan 1, 2006 to 2016, Rs1.28bn misappropriation was found in KP, Rs676m in Balochistan, Rs9.45bn in Punjab and Rs405m in Sindh.

He said that the voluntary return to NAB was reported at Rs440m in Balochistan, Rs1.8bn in KP, Rs3.1bn in Sindh and Rs26.1bn in Punjab.

“I am shocked that even then Sindh is being branded as the most corrupt province in the country,” he remarked.

Murad Shah said he, his leadership and workers were not afraid of “fake and fabricated” cases.

Mr Shah said he was personally monitoring progress of the ongoing development projects in Karachi but due to the financial crunch and shortfalls in federal transfers he could not release the maximum funds to complete them, but they would be completed shortly.

Opposition’s criticism

Earlier, Opposition Leader Firdous Naqvi said the Sindh government had kept the Public Accounts Committee in its own control to evade accountability, but opposition in the provincial legislature would not allow it to do as it pleased.

He said the provincial government was complaining against the federal government for not releasing provincial shares, but it was not ready to make itself accountable to the people.

He said the courts that handed certificate of honesty to PM Imran Khan had “termed you as corrupt”.

He said Kalabagh dam should not be built until complete consensus.

Faryal Talpur arrives in assembly

Earlier, Faryal Talpur, who was detained by NAB in Islamabad on graft charges, arrived in the assembly days after the speaker issued production orders for her.

Briefly speaking in the house amid thumping of desks by the treasury benches, she said politically motivated arrests were like ornaments for the PPP and referred to “sacrifices” by ex-premiers Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, and Benazir Bhutto and ex-president Asif Zardari.

“No arrest could stop us from our struggle for democracy,” she said. She added she had been mayor of Benazirabad twice and was innocent.

“All charges against me are false, yet, I am ready to face all these cases.”

Later, the house, barring MQM-P’s Mohammad Hussain, asked the chair to skip one-hour debate on charged expenditure for the supplementary budget for the current fiscal.

The house rejected all the 73 cut motions moved by the opposition members and approved 66 demands for grants for the supplementary budget.

The house, after protest by journalists in the galleries, unanimously passed a resolution condemning a local PTI leader, Masroor Siyal, for reportedly beating up Karachi Press Club’s president Imtiaz Khan Faran during a talk show on a TV channel.

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