Devolution dilemma: Centre holds on to lucrative projects, Sindh will complain

Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah asks chief secretary to meet with secretaries from other provinces to raises issues concerning devolution. PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: 

Devolution plans are in their last stages yet it seems as if the federal government is holding on to all those institutions and projects where big money is involved.


Unhappy with the state of affairs, Sindh has decided to take up the issue at the next Council of Common Interests (CCI) meeting, which will be held under the prime minister’s supervision. This decision was made on Wednesday during a special cabinet meeting, presided over by Sindh Chief Minister (CM) Qaim Ali Shah at CM House.


The cabinet members were told that the federal government was unwilling to hand over all lucrative institutions and autonomous bodies. Only projects that are running in deficit are being transferred to the provinces, sources told The Express Tribune. “It is a violation of the 18th Amendment (to the Constitution) and the practice should be discouraged,” a cabinet member said.


After the meeting, Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Inam Memon said that the meeting was called to discuss the problems with devolution. A total of 19 departments have been handed over to the provinces in three phases, but a few institutions, such as the Employees Old-Age Benefits Institution and Workers Welfare Fund, have yet to be transferred, he said.


According to Memon, the Sindh government has some confusion over the devolution process so Shah directed the chief secretary to meet the secretaries of all the devolved departments and prepare a report. The secretary will submit the report to the CM, who will then take it up to the prime minister at the CCI meeting.


The federal government would bear the expenses of these departments till June 30, he added. Devolution is a big achievement and “we now have complete provincial autonomy”, said Memon. He said that the chief minister will announce a date when this achievement will be celebrated.


Explaining the process, the information minister said that during the first phase, the ministries of special initiatives, zakat and ushr, population welfare, youth affairs, and local government and rural development were devolved. In the second phase, the education, social welfare and special education, culture, tourism and livestock and dairy development ministries were devolved.


Recently, in the third and final phase, seven more ministries, including women development, minorities’ affairs, sports, environment, health, food and agriculture, and labour and manpower were handed over.


The provincial department takes the reins after June 30 so that is when the actual work starts.


No comments on MQM


Several reporters asked Memon about the recent row between the Pakistan Peoples Party and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) but his response was “no comment”. “This has not been discussed at the meeting and I cannot talk about it.”


Sources said that Shah quoted President Asif Ali Zardari’s message and said that, “no member will talk on this issue. Let the president come and decide”.


Are there any chances of the MQM rejoining the coalition? Memon replied that anything was possible in politics.


“We don’t want to create misunderstandings, but we want to resolve the issue for the sake of democracy, the law and order situation and the reconciliation policy started by our leader,” he said.


He added that they have not closed the doors and they believe in dialogue.


Dismissing rumours of former home minister Zulfiqar Mirza replacing the CM, he said that, “this is just a rumour”. “We have full confidence in the leadership of Qaim Ali Shah. Mirza has also refuted such reports.”


He said that there was no rigging in the Azad Jammu and Kashmir elections and if that was the case, the Nawaz League would not have won nine seats.


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