Difficult for PPP to remain part of the federal government: Bilawal Zardari

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KARACHI: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has said it will be too difficult for his party to remain part of the federal government if the centre does not fulfil its promises of giving relief to flood victims of Sindh.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari also objected to the manner the digital census exercise was being conducted, saying it was unacceptable that elections in one province take place based on a different census, and other provincial polls are held based on a ‘flawed’ digital census.

These reservations were expressed by the PPP chairman in his address after inaugurating ‘Subsidy Progra­mme: Reimbursement for Wheat Seed’ here on Sunday.

Under the programme, Mr Bhutto-Zardari, whose party rules in Sindh, transferred Rs8.39 billion from the provincial budget to the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) for disbursement of Rs5,000 per acre to each small grower holding up to 12 acres of agricultural land.

Since Rs13.5bn was needed to provide relief to the flood-hit farmers through the subsidy programme, it was decided that the federal government would give Rs4.7bn grant and the remaining Rs8.39bn would be provided by the Sindh government, he said, reminding the PDM-led government in the centre of its promise.

“We [will] take up this issue in the National Assembly,” he said, adding that he would also speak to the premier to fulfil the promises made to the flood victims, otherwise it would be very difficult for the PPP to be part of the federal government.

Expressing reservations over the ongoing seventh national and first-ever digital census, the PPP chairman said census was being conducted at a time when general elections were being anticipated. “How it is justified that election to one provincial assembly is held on the basis of 2018 census, while the other on the digital census,” he wonde­red, referring to the ele­c­tions of Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtun­khwa assemblies.

“If the census is to be conducted in the same ‘fraudulent’ way, it is not acceptable to the PPP,” he categorically said, adding that the Sindh government would not support the ongoing census if the federal government did not address the objections.

The programme was organised by the agriculture department in collaboration with BISP here at CM House and was attended by Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, MPA Faryal Talpur, former chief minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah, Sindh chapter president of the party Nisar Khuhro, federal minister Shazia Mari and adviser to the CM Manzoor Wassan, provincial ministers, PPP MPAs and MNAs.

Earlier, the PPP chairman was briefed that farmers suffered Rs421bn losses as the monsoon floods destroyed 3.6m acres of kharif crops.

The chief minister said the disruption of the crop cycle threatened not only the livelihoods and economy but also food security. To revive the agriculture sector, the Sindh government planned to enhance support price of wheat and agriculture inputs, he said.

Mr Shah said that Rs13.5bn was required to finance the seed subsidy programme. He said due to funding deadlock with the federal government and lack of authentic data on farmers, the initial programme of providing free seed was revisited when the sowing season had commenced. He explained that the implementation strategy was changed from the provision of free seed to reimbursement of the cost of seed at Rs5,000 per acre.

As the PDM government backed out, the Sindh government was constrained to limit the subsidy to the farmers holding up to 12.5-acre land in the first phase and 25-acre land in the second phase, he said, adding that he was keen to reimburse the amount in lieu of seed to all the farmers, but the federal government did not fulfill its commitment.

After the disbursement of Rs4.227bn out of Rs8.39bn transferred by the Sindh government to the BISP, an amount of Rs4.17bn in balance with the BISP would also be disbursed among farmers in a second phase.

Adviser to the chief minister on agriculture Manzoor Wassan, talking about the challenges to implementing the subsidy programme, said there was no authentic data on farmers, while a massive number of people from across the province reached out for data collection.

He said the development of a mobile application and training of staff concerned on data collection and verification of the app was a big challenge. “The verification of land documents by farmers was another issue but all the problems and challenges were met and developed a data bank of the growers holding up to 12 acres and 25 acres,” he added.

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