THE decision of the Zardari-Faryal combine to change the captain of its team in Sindh and pass it off as one taken in consultation with Bilawal seems more like a cosmetic move to side-step the worst baggage ever gathered by the provincial PPP and give the appearance of being a party sincerely responsive to the wishes of its voters with whose support it hopes to return to power in Sindh after the 2018 elections that are only about 20 months away.
The former chief minister of Sindh, Qaim Ali Shah is not known to have indulged in any sort of corruption during his eight-year stint. But he cannot be absolved of the blame to have looked the other way while many among his cabinet and most of the civil servants responsible for administrating the province allegedly wallowed into corruption left, right and centre.
There is not a single sign on ground to show where all the billions that had accrued to the province over the last eight years by way of its share in 7th National Finance Commission Award as well as the resources generated by the province on its own.
Two of his ministers, Sharjeel Memon and Awais Muzzafar Tapi have allegedly absconded and a number of the party’s favourite civil servants too are cooling their heels in foreign lands along with their loot allegedly to escape of the long arm of law.
Qaim Ali Shah never felt the need to take action against these alleged absconders. In fact not only Sharjeel’s and Tapi’s memberships in the provincial assembly are still intact but no allegedly absconding civil servant has been issued even a show cause notice. Not only that. When the federal law enforcement agencies tried to proceed against these alleged culprits Qaim’s government was seen resisting these moves on the morally untenable but legally tenable ground that these agencies were transgressing their constitutional mandate.
While Karachi and Hyderabad had become the killing fields of Pakistan until about the time the Supreme Court forced the provincial government to call in the Rangers to assist it in restoring law and order in the city as the provincial capital’s police had completely degenerated into a politicized faction, part of it siding with the MQM and the other part going with the PPP, the interior of Sindh had become totally derelict and decrepit, broken down, falling to pieces.
That Qaim alone was not responsible for this mess was evident from the fact that both PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur were openly calling the shots in the province. But what was the worst fault of Qaim was his unquestioned submission to these high handed intrusions by the Zardari-Faryal combine in his domain. He seemed to be driven by just one single desire—to occupy the seat of the CM forever no matter at what cost.
One is not sure what the new captain of the team would accomplish with the Zardari-Faryal combine continuing to ‘guide’ the provincial cabinet and its administration.
The change in the Sindh government is being touted by the PPP as being needed in the prevailing situation. “General elections are approaching, and the party leadership believes there is a need for a young, energetic chief minister to look after the affairs of the province,” the Party spokesman Maula Bux Chandio explained.
Talking to media separately, Murad Ali Shah, the incoming Chief Minister also confirmed the development saying he would take oath on Friday. He added that the law and order, health and education would be his priorities. Indeed, it is these three sectors—the law and order, health and education—that had been so neglected during the last eight years of Qaim government that today Sindh is perhaps one province where the state of law and order, health and education are only slightly better than that in Balochistan where insurgency is in full swing.
Most of the Sindh province’s budget allocations for these three sectors have been allegedly siphoned off by the ruling party members and favourite civil servants allegedly sharing part of the loot with the Zardari-Faryal combine.
New CM’s profile: Syed Murad Ali Shah, the successor to Qaim Ali Shah, belongs to a family of politicians. He is serving as the Sindh finance minister.
His father Syed Abdullah Shah also had the additional portfolio of finance when he served as chief minister of Sindh during Benazir Bhutto’s second government.
Murad, 54, is a graduate of the Stanford University from where he received MSc degrees in economic systems and civil structure engineering. In 1986, he gained a BE Civil Engineering degree from the NED University.
He hails from Jamshoro. His family belongs to Lakyari Syed, the descendent of Shah Sadaruddin Lakyari (Lakhi Shah Sadar) near Sehwan Sharif. From 1986 till 1990 he served as an engineer at Wapda, Port Qasim Authority and the Hyderabad Development Authority before joining the City Bank.
Shah was elected to the Sindh Assembly in the 2002 elections. He was again elected to the provincial assembly in the 2008 election, and assigned the portfolio of finance in the cabinet of Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah.
He was barred from contesting the 2013 elections because of his Canadian citizenship. However, he gave up his second nationality to run in the election. He was elected to the Sindh Assembly for a third consecutive time. He was subsequently assigned the finance ministry in the provincial cabinet.
There is a perception that Shah looks more a bureaucrat than a politician and is not social. However, people in his constituency think otherwise. “Like his father he knows most of the voters in his constituency,” social activist Mustafa Meerani, who lives in Shah’s constituency, said, adding Shah has established schools, dispensaries, constructed roads and provided jobs to poor people on merit.
All said and done, there is nothing in Murad Ali Shah’s profile or in his not-so-long a political career to indicate that he would be any less ‘yes-man’ than his predecessor. Come to think of it, he has been one of the staunchest defender of the corruption-ridden government of Qaim.
And that perhaps has qualified him to succeed him. And that perhaps is why he was chosen by the Zardari-Faryal combine to be its next ‘yes man’ at the head of Sindh provincial cabinet.