Salahuddin Haider

Monday, November 09, 2015 – KNOWING well that I will be accused of bias, and could well be called prejudiced, but I will still insist that the ruling Peoples Party is itself responsible for damaging the cause of a province, which it legitimately claims as its power base. But can it deny that a party, ruling the southern territory for almost 8 long years, has been largely responsible for its under-development or lack of progress?

And if a phrase, that Sindh has been a victim of PPP’s sins, or more appropriately “ Sindh has been Sinned “, a phrase which Sir Charles Napier in Colonial days had coined—may sound harsh, but remains a brutal, naked and bitter fact. Napier’s remarks are registered in his book and could easily be verified.

This is not just my judgement. It is a judgement of history, and will be recorded as such in books, sooner or later. The provincial chief minister Qaim Ali Shah, in saddle since 2008, has failed to deliver. I am not saying it. Peoples Party leader, late Benazir Bhutto believed in that. She told me at private luncheon during exile in Dubai that she had to remove Qaim Ali from the party’s provincial leadership and, instead, appoint Nisar Khuhro as the Sindh PPP president. She unhesitatingly volunteered the reason for doing that. “Qaim Ali sits over decisions, Salahuddin” she blurted out during discussion at her Jhumera residence, where she spent her initial years in exile before moving on to a new house.

That Benazir liked me and frequently exchanged notes with me as opposition leader in Karachi, at Bilawal House, once in presence of eminent journalist and analyst Mazhar Abbas, at which Dr Asim Hussain had also joined later, in Dubai, sometime in presence of persons like her cousin Laila, loyalists likes Ghani Ansari, Sattar Kerio, Iqbal Memon, Azra Pechuho(Zardari’s younger sister) and a couple of others, can easily be proven. Even Pir Mazharul Haq, would certify how much did she acknowledge me as her friend, or perhaps her closest confidante Naheed Khan, was a witness to that, not once but on several occasions. She would invite me for lunch at Sindh Club, tea at the same place, in Café New York on Zamzama, and several other times. Naheed was present on all these occasions.

When the party head refuses to accept unsuitable for responsibilities, and expresses lack of confidence in a front-rank leader, how, then was he picked for coveted position after her death, is a question for Zardari or Faryal Talpur to answer. “Her complaint that Shah sat on judgement, and she had to face a flood of emails, complaints, phone calls from workers, it was much better to change the leadership to reduce burden on herself. Solid argument, logical reasoning. Except for Zardari or Faryal, who never were with me during meetings with Benazir, all others would easily testify my claim, if they are honest. Zardari then was in jail or later in America claiming to be sick and hospitalized, and Faryal was nowhere to be seen. Bilawal as a child used to be at Dubai with her sometime when I was there for luncheon etc.

The problem for Shah, first is his age, his psyche to command and assert himself and secondly, to allow himself to be dictated by Zardari family members, who have never enjoyed official authority, and yet remained de facto rulers of the province.

Instead of crying at the top of his voice against federal government’s “attacks” Sindh during anti-corruption drive in the province by NAB, or pointing fingers now, straight on the prime minister for refusing to help his administration fight terrorism, or denying the promised Rs 12 billion grant for targeted operation, Shah should do some soul searching as to how much he himself was effective in setting the house in order. He must draw lessons from the Punjab counterpart, Shahbaz Sharif, who since day one, has been engaged hectically in building his province. Shahbaz has constantly been on the move—visiting China and Turkey time and again to lure investors from there for development of the Punjab. Lahore has changed face completely. Whatever Mustafa Kamal had done to Karachi and earned fame and goodwill from Karachiites and the rest of the countrymen. Shahbaz has now done to Lahore. Even a day before this coloumn appears, Turkey and China signed agreements for development in the Punjab for fabulous amounts. Why has’nt the Sindh chief minister taken that initiative. He lacks vision and cohesion, perhaps feels fatigued to undertake long journeys to Beijing or Ankara, and tried to benefit from the improving security situation in Karachi. Governor Ishratul Ebad, when vested with authority, did lead delegations to UK to invite investors from there for Karachi and Sindh, but then his wings were clipped, and a person with initiative and drive was rendered toothless.

Yet another forceful argument in support of my contention was Bilawal’s indictment against Shah at his first hard-hitting speech in Karachi, where he almost disowned his own chief minister.

Sindh and Pakistan were unfortunate to have a political leadership for five years, where foreign powers showed distrust in us. The leadership’s tainted image within and outside the country, heaped miseries on a nation, known for its hard work and being energetic. Japan and China, committing a billion dollars each at newly formed Pakistan Friends Forum, went back on their commitment for fear of misuse of money. They were ready and keen to complete development projects for us, but reluctant to dole out cash. Even when Zardari, as president of the country, visited Saudi Arabia for two days and requested assistance from the then monarch, King Abdullah, the latter’s answer was something that must be brought on record now. The late monarch was unambiguous in his reply to Zardari.

He said that he and his government will “do anything for the people of Pakista, but not to the government of the day”.

This was clearly the Saudi position then and now when General Raheel Sharif visited the holy place and had audience with King Salman, the latter poured his heart out for the Pakistanis, promising complete defence and monetary help in time of need.

And now a new storm has begun to brew. MQM is sure to win majority seats in Karachi and Hyderabad in the second and third phases of local bodies elections. The party’s front rank leader Dr Farooq Sattar has already warned that if its Mayors and chairmen of union councils are denied funds or discriminated against at the time of allocations of money, which was their right, then Sindh may see ethnic riots. This is a powerful but dangerous warning. MQM seems to be running out of patience. Qaim Ali Shah’s phislophy to rely on blame game, has to cease now. Else, Sindh will continue to suffer for no rhyme or reason.

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