Believing in the pledges made in the Lahore Resolution of March 1940, Sindh took the lead to pass a resolution in 1943 extending whole hearted support to the creation of Pakistan; embraced a massive number of Muslims displaced from their ancestral homes in India in 1947; hosted the federal government and constructed sprawling colonies in its capital city to provide accommodation to homeless refugees; accepted the infamous Evacuee Property Scheme acquiescing in the occupation or allotment of the properties left behind by Hindus and Sikhs on soft terms. Notwithstanding all these sacrifices or compromises, Sindh was never treated fairly by the federal regimes.
The arbitrary interventions in the political administration of the province never witnessed a relent; elected provincial governments were dismissed at will and unrepresentative administrations imposed, administrative machinery was always manipulated through Chief Secretaries and Inspectors General of Police and erstwhile Civil Service of Pakistan officers, the prerogative of whose appointment remains with the Federation to this day; drastic cuts in the allocations of the province from the central pool of resources were applied and leaders intimidated by frequent use of EBDO or the Accountability Courts. The provincial autonomy continued to be a distant dream for small federal units including Sindh until it was adequately addressed by the 18th Constitutional Amendment in 2010.
Notwithstanding all these setbacks, Sindh has always bounced back and played a lead role in the consolidation of the nation, and the political and constitutional development of the country leaving behind the past grievances. The Constitutional Amendment of April 2010, while making the undemocratic and arbitrary interventions of the Federal authority in the political administration and administrative machinery of provinces ineffectual, has rendered an elected provincial government master of the destiny of the people it represents. Now the provincial leaders have no excuse to shift the buck to the federal authority or hide their incompetence. All the power to marshal their resources and put in place a competent and clean administrative apparatus to deliver rests with them.
Though the Pakistan People’s Party is through the half of its third term in Sindh, the problems confronting the province have been on the rise instead of showing any decrease. The quantum of provincial autonomy acquired in the wake of the Constitutional Amendments has not helped the Government of Sindh to assert the legal, constitutional and institutional rights of this land as contrasted with the provincial administrations of Balochistan, KPK and Punjab. No rocket science is needed to fathom the reasons for this failure. Misrule mired in loot and plunder and the politicization of the administrative machinery is the root cause of this sad situation.
Having the native sons of the land at the helm of the civil bureaucracy and police and at the steering in the Secretariat, divisions and districts has proved a bitter and despairing experiment. The corruption, incompetence and callousness overwhelming the provincial administrative machinery since the past decade appear unprecedented in the annals of Sindh. We used to blame ‘aliens’ for our woes. Whom should we now blame?
We witnessed the 12-year performance of the local governments. The elected Mayors, Chairmen, Municipal and Town officers were lorded over by the Cabinet Ministers, the party MNAs and MPAs and local leadership. These institutions remained over staffed and short of powers and funds to carry out their public mandates. The funds were embezzled freely and heavy kickbacks taken on contracts for the meager development works. Because of financial mismanagement and leakage, almost all the local governments, from time to time, were unable to disburse salaries and pensions to their employees appointed en mass for political considerations during this period.
The PPP administration took more than one decade but could not address this issue of over employment in the local bodies. It also failed to work out Provincial Finance Commission as required under the 18th Amendment and devolve powers to local governments giving them leeway to discharge their public mandate without political and financial interference. The cities and towns of the province reflect a dismal picture of neglect, inefficiency and callousness with overflowing drains, broken streets and roads, stinking pools of sewerage water and unhygienic water supply injurious to public health. We may recall the Water Commission formed by the Supreme Court of Pakistan to survey the water supply to the cities and towns in Sindh. The Commission’s damning report explained in detail the supply of highly contaminated water and the likely risks to public health.
The divisional and district administrations throughout the province have been turned into a dysfunctional pool of corrupt and inefficient functionaries. Had the government followed the directives of the Sindh High Court and Supreme Court, the situation would not have been so dismal. The superior courts in different cases have issued loud and clear directives against the appointment to senior positions of officers in personal pay and grade; those who failed to clear the mandatory Revenue examination; or the officers guilty of plea bargain with the NAB or voluntary return of the corruption money, and the employment of retired officers to lucrative posts beyond the approved age limit.
Regretfully, during the PPP’s decade-long rule, most of the districts and local government institutions of the province were manned by such officers. With their obvious vulnerability, these officers were more pliable to the manipulation by their political bosses. Recently, the provincial Chief Secretary presented the list of such officers in the Sindh High Court containing over 500 names of those who had plea bargained with the NAB or voluntarily returned the corruption money, and were re-employed to lucrative posts. The superior courts intervene as a last resort when the administration deviates from legal norms and ignores the counsels of discretion. We have no hope that the provincial administration would ever follow the superior courts to rid this land of corrupt and inept officers.
The scourge of corruption has spread its tentacles from top to the bottom in almost all the departments. It seems the revenue record of private and state lands is not safe from tampering and bogus mutation; recruitments in various categories and fake domiciles for admissions in medical universities and employment are open to financial bidders, embezzlement of funds for development works, and pensions and salaries is galore. The arrest of a horde of Revenue officers for the fraudulent mutation of the record of lands in Karachi, the stunning revelations of the Shahid Parvez Qazi Committee on fake domiciles and the recent hair-splitting scandal of the embezzlement of billions in pension funds involving the officials from the education and finance departments are talk of the day.
The Shahid Committee had detected over 100 fake domiciles issued from Larkana only. The Committee was supposed to carry out inspection of the record in all the districts of the province. After Larkana, the Committee discontinued its working tours and went out of sight. The inspection of records in all the districts of Sindh would have revealed the enormity of the loss of the people of Sindh as a result of the treacherous night ambush on their rights by the corrupt officials. The provincial administration is hesitant to bring to book these anti-people and anti-Sindh officials because of political pulls and pushes.
This serious issue, while reflecting on the depth of the greed our officials have sunk in, has been playing havoc with the future prospects of the young generation. We cannot think of obtaining a bogus domicile from any other province where the officers are so overprotective of the rights of their people. What a shame should it be for our native Officers! They plunder their land and play with the future of their young generation without the slightest twitch of conscience. This sensitive issue cannot be pushed under the carpet, and would explode into the face of the ruling clique sooner or later.
Sindh is the only province where wheat worth billions is eaten by rodents. When corrupt officials and flour mill owners are taken into custody by the National Accountability Bureau, they cough up billions in plea bargains. This was tauntingly mentioned by the Chairman of the National Accountability in his address to the businessmen, the other day. A fairly good number of officials from the Food Department have been arrested by the Bureau. When the provincial government is generous enough to re-appoint these officers to lucrative positions after plea bargain or voluntary return of their loot, what fear of the accountability process would remain there to deter recrudescence of corruption or the broad daylight loot and plunder.
Interestingly, the provincial administration has been complaining of shortage of wheat flour in the lower districts of the province. As reported by the local press, the Commissioner Sukkur Division, after a thorough enquiry, has come out with a disturbing report about the smuggling of wheat to other provinces with the blatant connivance of the officials of concerned departments – Food, Revenue, Police etc. The entire yield of wheat crop is purchased by the government and there is a ban on its interprovincial movement. How dare these officials blatantly indulge in such a heinous crime and escape the wrath of the government. No follow up on this damning report is in sight. The report might have been already dumped in a cubicle of a lower official.