Provincial Autonomy Day: Devolution of 19 depts termed big victory
By Habib Khan Ghori
KARACHI: The Sindh cabinet has asked the chief secretary to call a meeting of the secretaries of all departments and prepare a report about the problems being faced in the transfer of departments and their assets so that the matters are placed before a ministerial committee and subsequently taken up at the meeting of the Council of Common Interests.
This was stated by Sindh Information Minister Sherjeel Memon while speaking at a press conference after a special meeting of the provincial cabinet on Wednesday.
The cabinet meeting, presided over by Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah, was held at the CM’s House to consider the post-devolution scenario when 19 departments with their employees and assets would stand transferred to the provinces under the 18th constitutional amendment.
Provincial ministers and advisers belonging to the Pakistan People’s Party, Awami National Party, Pakistan Muslim League (Functional) and National People’s Party attended the meeting.
“The devolution of 19 departments to the provincial governments, which would complete by June 30, was a major victory of the democracy towards the fulfilment of the long cherished demand of provincial autonomy,” said the information minister.
Extending greetings to the people, he said all parties in parliament that voted for the 18th amendment also deserved congratulations.
He said the chief minister informed the cabinet that July 1 would be observed as ‘provincial autonomy day’ across Sindh with enthusiasm.
He said the cabinet directed the chief secretary to call a meeting of the department secretaries and prepare a report about the issues they faced such as that of the Employees’ Old-Age Benefits Institution (EOBI), which ought to be transferred to the provinces but due to some confusion the federal government had retained the responsibilities to collect dues till June 30.
This report, he said, would be placed before the ministerial committee, which would finalise recommendations for the chief minister so that Sindh’s case could be presented at the CCI meeting.
The minister recalled the three phases of the devolution which he said would help in providing maximum relief to the people. “This is a big achievement of the government and a leap forward towards real democracy, which would strengthen the federation,” he said.
At present, he said, three committees – headed by the finance minister, the provincial coordination minister and the chief secretary – were preparing recommendations on the devolution of departments to present the Sindh case at the CCI meeting.
Coalition partner asked if the government was holding talks to bring back its coalition partner, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, once again to its fold, the information minister said the PPP believed in dialogue and that’s why it had kept its doors open.
“Our Shaheed leader Benazir Bhutto had given the reconciliation policy, which was being implemented by the party’s co-chairman and President Asif Ali Zardari,” he said, adding that all parties in parliament were taken on board under the same policy.
When his attention was drawn towards a statement by the MQM against the PPP leadership, Mr Memon said he did not want to add to any confusion by responding to their political statements being reported in the media.
Asked if the government would launch an operation against the MQM and whether Dr Zulfiqar Mirza would resume his responsibility as home minister shortly, the minister’s initial response was “no comment”. However, he added that neither the matter of the MQM ministers’ resignation came under discussion at the cabinet meeting nor with reference to Dr Zulfiqar Mirza’s resuming responsibility as home minister.
In reply to yet another question, Mr Memon said Dr Mirza being the vice president of the Sindh PPP had asked party workers not to take out rallies and also reposed his confidence in the leadership of the chief minister.
About the claim of the chief of his own faction of the Pakistan Muslim League Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif about rigging in the Azad Jammu and Kashmir elections, the information minister said Mr Sharif ought to concede his defeat, which was the outcome of his policies.
Regarding the present situation of bunds and barrages, he said that Irrigation Minister Saifullah Dharejo had briefed the cabinet on the subject.
He said the government had strengthened the bridges and carried out repair works under the supervision of ministers to ensure quality work.
He added that federal ministers had inspected the bunds and found them in good condition.
The minister said the government had made all preparations and taken necessary measures to meet any flood situation. “If water flow in the Indus remains according to the capacity of bunds, nothing bad would happened,” he said.