KARACHI - The Sindh cabinet meeting, which continued here on Saturday for over eight and a half hours, took important decisions.

The cabinet approved expansion of coal mining, extension of over 100-year-old property lease in old areas of Karachi, school education roadmap and extension in deadline for computerisation of arms licenses up to December 31, 2019.

The chief minister presided over the meeting, which was conducted by the chief secretary and attended by all provincial ministers, advisers and concerned officers. Some 38 items were placed on the agenda of the meeting and most of them were discussed and decided, except few which were different because the labour minister was on medical leave.

EXPANSION OF COAL MINING: The Energy Department presented expansion of coal mining as Phase-II project. In the first phase 3.8 MTPA coal was being produced and it was sufficient to produce 660MW electricity in Thar.

Energy Minister Imtiaz Shaikh said that the provincial government, being the major shareholder with 54.7 percent shares, made the equity of $110.4 million. The SECM has embarked upon a plan to launch phase-II of the project where mining capacity would be doubled to 7.6 MTPA. The cost of phase-II has been estimated at $215.9 million, where the equity component is $67 million.

1,055,476 arms licences being issued manually every year

The SECM has approached the provincial government to undertake the same shares ratio of 54.7 percent so that project could be launched. The cabinet was also told that the cost of the production of the coal and electricity would come down with the launch of phase-II mining project under which two 330 coal-fired power plants would be established.

Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah said that establishment of coal-fired power plant and mining project were historic achievements of the provincial government, therefore the cabinet has accorded approval for launching of phase-II for which SECM was allowed to sign financial close which was waiting for approval of the cabinet.

There are 1168 employees working in Thar Coal Mining, of them 905 are Pakistanis, including 674 Thari.

FREE ELECTRICITY: The cabinet also approved passing on the power generation from Thar coal to the residents of Islamkot Taluka. The minister for energy said that some 2700 families in Islamkot were using 100 units of electricity, therefore as per directives of the Chairman PPP they would be the major beneficiaries of using free of cost electricity. This benefit would be enjoyed by total 4500 households of Thar. Those who were consuming more than 100 units would have to pay the bill of remaining units because 100 units were free.

The chief minister directed minister energy to conduct another survey of the residents of Islamkot who have no power connection. “I would give free of cost power connection to those who were in close reach and solar panels to those who were out of grid reach,” he decided.

EXPIRED LEASES: The cabinet was told that the old leases granted by the defunct collector Karachi during 18th century for building purpose in the Old City of Karachi has been expired in 1962 and onward. The renewal of the said leases was made under Bombay Revenue Code 1879at a certain rate.

These buildings are located at 23 different locations of the city where thousands of people are settled. The chief minister said that every year their leases were being renewed which was unnecessary botheration for the owners, therefore he constituted a committee under Minister Revenue Makhdoom Mahboob with Minister Local Government Saeed Ghani, Advisor Law Murtaza Wahab and Advocate General Sindh as members to review the existing law propose the other new clauses so that their lease could be renewed once for all for a certain period. 

COMPUTERIsATION OF ARMS LICENCES: Home Secretary Kazi Kabir told the cabinet that there were 1,055,476 arms licences manually issued in the province. Despite extending dates for computerization for five times only 535,843 licensees have approached and got their licenses computerized. At this the chief minister said that for the sixth time date for computerization of the licenses may be extended up to December 31, 2019, after that licenses un-computerized would be declared as illegal and arms would be confiscated. The cabinet approved the proposal.

School Education Strategic Plan: Minister Education Syed Sardar Shah said that there were 49,103 schools, of them 44,317 were primary, 2,693 elementary, 1776 high schools and 317 higher secondary schools. He admitted that there were 11,308 schools or 20 percent schools have all facilities such as toilet, boundary wall, electricity, drinking water etc. he added that 11 percent schools or 5922 have no facility while 37,705 or 69 percent schools were facing missing facilities.

He also said that there were 7611 shelter-less schools, 10,516 single room schools, 18,507 two-room school. He added that there 18,660 such schools which were being run by a single teacher and 12,136 schools have no teacher and 11,441 schools have no enrolment – means they were non-viable. Around 4.2 million children were out of school.

Secretary Education Qazi Shahid Parvez said that 90 percent teachers of government schools were of arts subjects, and 10 percent of science teachers. He said that efforts were being made to recruit science, maths and English language teachers.

The cabinet was told that 40,000 teachers have been imparted training but still they have not shown any visible change in their teaching methods. The curriculum books content was too old indeed to be changed on war footings.

REFORMS: Disclosing his reform agenda, the minister education said that he has taken two actions, civil society dialogue at Hyderabad and Karachi and school profiling. He said that one or two room primary schools located in close vicinity were being merged. His other reforms include decentralization of primary school management through clustering with one hub school having grade BS-17 headmaster, eligible primary schools to be upgraded to elementary schools and middle schools to be clubbed with adjacent primary schools to make one elementary school.

The chief minister directed the education department to establish 300 model schools having the facility of early childhood classes, transpiration facility for girl students and lady teachers. The cabinet decided to run these schools through outsourcing model.

The chief minister said that he has released Rs8 billion for furniture, therefore local vendors must be engaged, otherwise these funds would remain unutilized. He also ordered provision of budget for teaching material, sports and co-curriculum activities.

Exams: The cabinet decided to conduct examination in open areas where CCTV cameras would be installed to monitor activities of candidates. The assessment of the copies would also be done under one roof and under surveillance cameras.

MVR Smart Card:  Minister Excise & Taxation Mukesh Chawla presented an item under which he proposed amendment in Sindh Motor Vehicle Rules 1969 for security featured MVR Smart card.

At present the Excise & Taxation Department issues MVR registration book against a fee of Rs1000 and renewal fee of Rs2000. Now these registration books would be replaced with Smart Crad in which all security features have been incorporated. The fee of the card would be Rs750.

THE RULE OF LAW ROADMAP: In order to strengthen the institutions concerned with Criminal Justice System (CJS) in the province, the Rule of Law Roadmap was developed through consultative process.

The chief minister said the objective of the roadmap was to ensure more effective oversight through strengthened internal and external accountability of CJS institutions.   He added that it includes improvement in investigation and prosecution service, to reduce judicial caseloads by ensuring faster case disposal courts, to reduce pre and post trial incarceration, to ensure closer coordination and integration of sectoral functions, to strengthen institutional capacities for more effective response to terrorism. To ensure more citizens are able to avail their fundamental rights as enshrined in the constitution and to increase opportunities for citizens to meaningfully influence the policies.

Former IG Police Niaz Siddiqui briefed the cabinet about the features of the roadmap. The chief minister constituted a committee under Home Secretary to review all the proposed amendment in the law where necessary so that it could be implemented in true letter and spirit. A sperate unit of the roadmap has also been approved to be set up in Home department. 

Ombudsman: The cabinet decided that in Punjab and KPK the provincial Ombudsman was bing appointed by the Chief minister but in Sindh the governor has the powers to appoint Ombudsman. Therefore, the cabinet approved amendment in The Establishment of the Office of Ombudsman for The province of Sindh Act, 1991 (Act No.1 of 1992) by replacing the word Governor with the Chief Minister.  

Withdrawal of Levy: The Information Advisor, Murtaza Wahab told the cabinet that the newspaper industry was passing through a very critical phase. Therefore, he proposed to withdraw levy of Sindh Sales Tax on certain advertisements published in newspapers and periodicals. The cabinet approved withdrawn of 3 percent Sindh Sales Tax levied on advertisements being published in newspapers.

Amenity Plot: The cabinet approved conversion of an amenity plot at Surjani Town for establishment of Depot for Green Line BRTS. The title of the plot would be changed and a notification for the purpose would be issued by the, local Government Department.

Cancellation of NGOs registration: The cabinet was told that there were 10,592 NGOs/NPOs registered by Social Welfare department in Sindh. Despite issuing public notices and warning only 7414 NGOs/NPOs have responded and 4693 have ignored the government notice. Therefore, the cabinet approved cancellation of their registration. The cabinet also directed Industries department to work out details of the NGOs/NPOs it has registered so that inactive bodies could be cancelled.

Withdrawal of powers: The Fisheries & Livestock department said that it had given powers to the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA) to control illegal fishing in territorial waters for certain reasons. They are the American government had imposed the condition of installation of Turtle Excluded Devices (TEDs) on the fishing boats/Trawlers to allow export of fishing and its products to US unhindered. The deep sea trawlers licensed by the federal government engaged in fishing on industrial scale often intrude into territorial waters f Sindh, with 12 nautical miles of coastal belt,  for illegal fishing extremely detrimental to the interests of the local fishermen in Sindh.

The Sindh government gave powers of Inspector of Fisheries Inspector but even then required results could not be achieved.

The cabinet approved withdrawal of powers of Inspector of Fisheries to PMSA and directed Fisheries department to perform controlling duty on its own.

The cabinet approved the resignation of Prosecutor general of Sindh Mr Tunio and appointed Advocate Fayaz Shah as new Prosecutor general of Sindh.

The Sindh Cabinet also discussed and approved draft Sindh Financial Rules, 2019 (Volume-I & II). Under these rules pensions would be transferred on line and ghost pensioners would be ward off. The rules also make the entire system of transfer of funds and utilization transparent through e-services.