Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday said that the federal government has no disagreements with provinces over the 18th Amendment — it only seeks to remove specific “anomalies”.
The premier’s remarks came during a meeting in Karachi with senior journalists belonging to regional newspapers and news channels.
“Some federal subjects were wrongly devolved to the provinces under the amendment, which would be returned back to the federation and for that, all the provincial governments would be consulted,” he said.
Speaking of the coronavirus outbreak, the premier said that the National Coordination Committee (NCC) was meeting regularly and it was taking decisions about measures to contain the contagion in consensus with all the provinces.
Reiterating his stance that a strict lockdown is not implementable in the country owing to the associated economic fallout, the prime minister said that he was worried about the labour class, particularly the daily wagers.
He said that government’s decision of a “smart lockdown” had proved fruitful as not only had it “slowed down the transmission of the deadly virus” due to the cordoning off of hotspots, but also helped save the economy from a major crisis.
PM Imran said the government will now strictly see to the enforcement of standard operating procedures.
He regretted that some elements were politicking over the virus. “The federal government has not done any kind of discrimination with any province,” he said.
The prime minister said the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf was the only party which believed in the devolution of powers to the local level and the party’s provincial government practically executed the same in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 2013. He said the local government system was instrumental for the resolution of people’s problems at the local level.
Under a new system being announced by the incumbent government, city mayors would be elected directly by the citizens and that would help address the issues being faced by Karachi, he said.
To a question regarding the locust attacks — a threat which continues to loom large on the country’s food security — the prime minister said an emergency had been declared in the country since January 31 and the federal government was making the best possible efforts to eliminate the locust swarms.
The government is constantly in contact with neighbouring countries, including Iran and India, and it had taken the provinces on board to devise a strategy for combating the locusts, he added.
Sindh Governor Imran Ismail, Opposition Leader in Sindh Assembly Firdous Shamim Naqvi and PTI MPA Haleem Adil Sheikh were also present during the meeting.
Later in the day, the premier visited an Ehsaas Emergency Cash distribution centre in Larkana, where he was accompanied by Governor Ismail and his aide on social protection and poverty alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar.
Dr Nishtar said a major chunk of the Rs60 billion earmarked for Sindh under the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme had been distributed among the needy families.
Some five million deserving families of Sindh would benefit from the cash assistance programme, she said.
In Larkana alone, 185,000 families will benefit from a distribution of Rs2.2 billion. For the purpose, 36 distribution centres have been established.
“It was decided to distribute cash on the basis of the 2013 census data, according to which the share of Sindh was 22%. The ratio was then raised to 31% on the prime minister’s direction,” she said. For the purpose, the difference would be borrowed from the prime minister’s COVID-19 Fund.
During his visit, PM Imran interacted with daily wagers such as labourers and traders who sell their wares on carts. The cart owners told the premier they are not allowed to park their carts to sell their wares which has resulted in tremendous hardships for their families.
Upon hearing the obstacles encountered by the small traders, the prime minister expressed great displeasure and instructed that no hindrances be caused for them so they can provide for their families.
Special focus on Sindh’s poverty stricken areas
A day prior, during a meeting at the Governor House with members of the core committee of PTI’s Sindh chapter, the prime minister said that special focus will be given to the poverty-stricken and backward areas of the province.
During their interaction with the prime minister, the members of the core committee of the PTI Sindh informed him about the ongoing development projects in the province, issues related to the Sindh government, and affairs of the party.
PM Imran said that the federal government had been trying its best to provide relief to people across the country during the current testing times. He said that his government realised and knew about the problems of the people and that the coronavirus epidemic and poverty were twin challenges being tackled in tandem by the government.
He directed the PTI legislators to address the problems of their constituents as a top priority.
Those who attended the meeting included Governor Ismail, Federal Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Zaidi, MNA Aftab Siddiqui, MPAs Firdous Shamim Naqvi, Haleem Adil Shaikh, and PTI leader Ashraf Qureshi.
Earlier, in a meeting with Governor Ismail, he discussed issues related to the availability of medical care facilities in the provinces to tackle the coronavirus crisis, ongoing federally funded development projects, and political situation of the province.
While stating that the federally funded development projects in Karachi and the rest of Sindh should be completed at the earliest, the prime minister maintained that the development of Karachi meant the development of the entire country.
He further said that Karachi was the hub of the economic activities in the country and full-fledged efforts were being made to develop Sindh including and the port city. He said that the development of Karachi would translate into the creation of massive job opportunities for the countrymen.
Federal Maritime Affairs Minister Ali Zaidi, who was also present in the meeting, informed PM Imran about his interaction with different stakeholders on the issues of Karachi for adopting a joint strategy to resolve them.
Centre allocates billions for Karachi projects
The federal government has allocated billions in the FY2020-21 budget for multiple projects in Karachi, budget documents showed.
It has allocated Rs7.95 billion for the intelligent transport system — part of the Green Line Rapid transit line under construction in Karachi.
A sum of Rs3 billion has been allocated for the Green Line bus project and over Rs2.357 billion earmarked for the Greater Karachi water supply scheme.
The budget documents show that Rs650 million and Rs350 million were allocated, respectively, for the construction of the Mangophir-Banaras and Nishtar-Mangohpir roads.
In addition, a sum of Rs384 million was allocated for reinstating the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) firefighting system and Rs500 million for the construction on interchange on the Malir Link Road.
The federal government also earmarked Rs440 million for the road construction on the Malir Dam.
The documents indicated that Rs217.9 million were allotted to the construction of water and drainage line and roads in Karachi’s East district, whereas Rs623 million and Rs120.74 million was allocated for the same project in the Korangi and Central districts, respectively.
The documents also showed that sums worth Rs1.32 billion, Rs986.6 million, Rs606.3 million, Rs155.9 million, Rs145.1 million, and Rs95.4 million were allocated for the water, drainage, and roads in various union councils (UCs) of the Central district, KMC and the South and West districts, East district, West district, Korangi-Malir district, and the South district, respectively.