Sindh Governor Muhammad Zubair’s press conference during which he identified a number of mega projects for Karachi must be fully supported as by far the largest city of the country population-wise has one of the poorest social and physical infrastructures not only when compared globally but also when compared with other cities within the country. The list of proposed development projects to be funded by the federal government announced by Governor Sindh was exhaustive which, as per the Governor, is not the responsibility of the federal but of the provincial government. This statement repeated a number of times by the Governor does raise the political aspect of the development package for Karachi by the Centre. The total envisaged amount for development projects to be released by the federal government is to be around 75 billion rupees. The project list is indicative of the paucity of infrastructure in the port city, and, equally relevant was the fact that financial support by the federal government for three mega projects was announced in 2014 by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and included: (i) K4 water project, with scheduled completion in three years, at an estimated cost of 25.5 billion rupees to be shared equally by Sindh and federal governments, was to enable Karachi to receive 260 million gallons of water every day from the River Indus to meet its severe long-term water shortage problems; it was inaugurated in June 2015 by the then Chief Minister Sindh Qaim Ali Shah after a reported nine-year delay in project implementation. The Governor did not mention the status of the project though he did add that other water development schemes would also be initiated in Karachi; (ii) Green Line Bus Rapid Transit System with a committed injection of 25 billion rupees from the centre and to-date construction has yet to begin though bid evaluations by Karachi Development Infrastructure Company Limited have indeed taken place and M/s Greaves’ ranking was the highest; and (iii) Lyari Expressway project is a 32km long expressway and its 2013-14 revised cost estimates were 1.2 billion rupees with 80 percent of this project already completed. Be that as it may, this particular project too suffered from a delay of 15 years due to the failure of successive Sindh governments to allocate appropriate amounts for its implementation.
The Governor added that a project management unit (PMU) would be established at the Governor House to complete federally-funded development projects in a transparent manner and the Governor’s House would monitor the implementation of new development projects in Karachi – new projects estimated to cost 25 billion rupees – the amount that cynics maintain was agreed with MQM-P for their support for Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s candidacy as prime minister. The Sindh governor added that the new projects would include investment in Karachi’s fire brigade service, a state-of-the-art public sector general hospital, improvement and restoration of infrastructure of industrial zones as well as a medical college and a hospital at the University of Karachi.
There is little doubt that the provincial government would dismiss this entire package as well as the Governor’s press conference as a reflection of PML-N jump-starting its 2018 election campaign in Sindh where it performed extremely poorly in the 2013 elections. At the same time, it would express serious concerns over the establishment of the PMU in the Governor’s House as that responsibility must rest with the provincial government which has the appropriate manpower. While not diminishing the right of a provincial government to undertake projects it nonetheless is evident that mega projects in Sindh suffered from inordinate delays as well as charges of maladministration when compared with similar projects launched by other provincial governments. In this context, one would hope that the people of Karachi not be subjected to further delays and consequent suffering and if the federal government can complete these projects by election day then so much the better for Karachi and indeed the country too.