Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, during a second visit to Karachi in as many weeks, met with senior leaders of the MQM-P’s Bahadurabad faction on Sunday and vowed to make the metropolis “the New York of South Asia” if his party was elected to power in the upcoming polls.
Addressing a joint press conference with MQM-P Convener Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui after a meeting with the party’s leadership ─ including Karachi Mayor Waseem Akhtar, Nasreen Jalil and Faisal Subzwari ─ Shahbaz claimed he had not come to Karachi with a political agenda. “I came here as a Pakistani,” he said.
“What happened with this city in the past is a tale of cruelty, but there is no use crying about it now. Yes, there must be accountability for it,” he said, asking where development funds released for Karachi over the years had disappeared.
He claimed that when Nawaz Sharif was given the mandate, he decided that if peace did not return to Karachi, there would be no peace in Pakistan. “He tasked the Rangers to bring peace to Karachi and gave them freedom of action. They did a good job and today peace has returned.”
“But peace and justice are joined together and peace cannot be sustainable if socioeconomic needs remain ignored,” he added.
Claiming he did not visit Karachi with the intention of “political point-scoring”, Shahbaz said he had requested the MQM-P to maintain peace, and to propagate a message of peace and brotherhood, friendship and keep progressing. “We are with them in this,” he said.
“Peace and justice are the needs of the hour,” he said.
The Punjab chief minister also touched upon the ongoing tussle between electricity provider K-Electric and the Sui Southern Gas Company, which has led to an increase in loadshedding for residents of the city.
“There is no doubt that the KE is mostly to blame,” he claimed. “Whatever liability is there, it is their responsibility. Ramazan is coming and KE has to resolve their self-made issues,” he said. “Without delay, the entire city must get around-the-clock electricity in Ramazan.”
“If we speak the truth, then issues can be resolved. But if we twist them and talk around the issues, nothing will happen. That’s how 70 years have been wasted and no work has been done.”
“We have a good idea of our political strength in Karachi. All parties will try [to outperform each other in the upcoming election]. If we get the opportunity, we will turn the cities pain into happiness,” he promised.
“We will work together to provide water to each household, we will provide public transport ─ we will build a Blue Line, a Green Line, a Yellow Line, a network of streets and flyovers will be built, we will provide jobs to the youth of Karachi, and if we get an opportunity, we will big one of South Asia’s biggest technical universities here.”
“But these things will happen when we work together. No one can do it alone. If we do not band together… Our names will not be taken in history. The day is not far, given the potential of this city, that it will become South Asia’s New York, and the world will see it,” he claimed.
MQM-P’s Siddiqui, who also addressed the press conference, said party leaders had explained the city’s issues to Shahbaz.
“What Sindh’s provincial governments have done for the last 10-12 years with citizens is before everyone today,” he said.
He touched upon the MQM’s concerns regarding the census results and their impact on the delimitation of constituencies in the run-up to the General Election, claiming there is a quickening conspiracy afoot to limit the representation of Sindh’s citizens in the government.
He asked for greater powers to be given to the local government so it can function independently economically, administratively and politically.
“The packages you announced are being disbursed, but their disbursal is slower than the rate of growth of the city’s issues,” he told Shahbaz. “This process should be sped up so Sindh’s citizens don’t get the impression that they are second or third class citizens.”
Following the press conference with Siddiqui, Shahbaz also addressed gatherings in Lyari and Baldia Town, where he made similar promises to citizens: provision of clean drinking water, cheap and quality public transport, “not just one metro, but many metros”, including an Orange, Blue and Green Line, a network of roads and flyovers, job opportunities for the youth, technical training for the youth, interest free loans for small businesses.
Shahbaz in Lyari also lambasted the PPP and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf. “When I come to Karachi, the PPP gets angry. When I go to Peshawar, the PTI gets angry… When I show them the mirror, they get upset,” he said.
“The PTI and PPP are two sides of the same coin… Don’t fall into their trap,” he added.