LAHORE - Prime Minister Imran Khan has directed senior bureaucrats and police officers to focus on safeguarding the rights and interests of the masses.

Addressing a meeting here on Saturday, he directed the officers to do away with old mindset and system as it had no room in Naya Pakistan.

PM spent a busy day in Lahore and interacted with the members of the Punjab Assembly, bureaucrats and senior police officers. He also held a press conference to share government initiatives for addressing the issue of ever increasing pollution and the resultant smog.

Special assistants to the PM Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, Syed Zulfiqar Bukhari and Barrister Shahzad Akbar; Chief Minister of Punjab Sardar Usman Buzdar; Punjab Chief Secretary Azam Suleman; and Inspector General of Police Shoaib Dastgeer also attended the meeting relating to the governance issues.

Imran Khan urged officers to strictly follow merit and not succumb to any political pressure. He said government had made all the appointments in bureaucracy on merit and had freed the officers from all political pressures. He also assured the officers of security of their service tenure.

The prime minister said that competent bureaucracy was a key to economic development, and noted that Pakistan had a distinction in the governance, bureaucracy and public policy during 1960s.

“Pakistan is currently going through a critical stage which required economic stability. Economic team deserves applause for correcting direction and putting country on the path of stability,” he said.

Prime Minister Khan reemphasised on bureaucrats to improve the governance and law and order, and reminded them that public service was their foremost responsibility. He also stressed the need for focusing on curbing the menace of child abuse and protecting the powerless against the powerful.

“In the past, the police stations used to protect the influential ones, but now your duty is to protect the poor against the powerful,” he directed the top police officials.

Separately, addressing a ceremony of signing of agreement between Punjab Land Record Authority (PLRA) and private commercial banks, the prime minister said the provision of loan to small farmers, and small and medium industries was the government’s priority for both are a major source of employment and poverty alleviation.

He said easing out procedural difficulties in providing loans to growers was a revolution. He said around 95 percent of farmers owned less than 12 acres of land and most of them needed loans for meeting input costs. He said that small growers would get loan by getting land record verified without any hassle.

Under the agreement, a digital link would be established between the central database of land records and the banks which would verify the status of land of the farmers, reducing the loan processing time from 30 to three days and farmers would get loan in just three visits to the bank.

The small and medium enterprises were also facing hardships in getting credit and the issue will be addressed as well, the premier said.

He said the civilized societies always played role to take people out of poverty. It was also a characteristic of the State of Madinah, which had taken the responsibility of the poor, he added. He said China had also taken 700 million people out of poverty in just 30 years.

Imran Khan said that despite tough conditions, the government had earmarked Rs200 billion for different programs for marginalized segments of society - like loans for youth and cash grants for women through a database connecting all the public and private sector institutions.

He said the government could not concentrate on any other thing except the economy when it had to pay back $10 billion loan taken by previous government, control the devaluing currency and bridge the current account deficit.

The PM said that now rupee has gained stability, confidence of the businessmen and stock market had revived and the investors were looking towards Pakistan. He said it was pleasing to note that the farmers had been given record credit of Rs1 trillion in a year which also showed that the economy was picking up.

He appreciated various initiatives which could brighten the future of Punjab and called for publicity of those initiatives to boost public awareness and confidence.

Governor State Bank Raza Baqir said the national economy had gained stability with increasing reserves and stable exchange rate and the foreign institutions were acknowledging the government’s efforts. He said the economic stability always led to the creation of employment.

Baqir said no economy could sustain for long without sharing the benefits of prosperity among the people equitably. He said the initiative of loan to farmers and SMEs would help end disparity in the economy. He said the PLRA had the record of 55 million title holders but only 3.5 million of those were given credit.

The SBP governor said that electronic warehouses would be set up to allow the farmers preserve their yield there and get loans against it until they decide to sell it at an appropriate time to get a good price.

Minister for Revenue Malik Muhamamd Anwar said 30 major banks would extend credit facility to farmers through their 3,000 branches. He said the farmers would now have to go through just three steps to get his loan processed. He said 152 land record centres had been established and another 115 were in the process to be part of the project.

The minister said a World Bank team would visit Lahore within a couple of days to assist Punjab government in urban digitization.