LAHORE - Punjab finance minister Friday announced record funding under the head of “law and order and justice” but with no new schemes as the government has failed to complete on-time several previous projects.

In her budget speech, Dr Ayesha Pasha told the provincial assembly that at least Rs 198 billion would be spent on law and order and justice during the next fiscal year. Out of this total allocation, the provincial police department will get at least Rs 95.597 billion during the fiscal year 2017-18.

Last year, the government had allocated Rs145 billion under the head of law and order. This year, the government did not announce any new scheme since the authorities failed to complete several previous projects including the Punjab police integrated command, control, and communication center, and the establishment Front Desks at police stations.

“Under the Punjab safe city authority, the work on the PPIC3 project is underway. This project will be completed by early next fiscal year with an estimated cost of Rs 13.71 billion,” the minister said Friday.

Last year in her budget speech, the same minister Dr Ayesha Pasha had claimed that the project of comprehensive surveillance system would be completed in Lahore by June 2017 and other five big cities of the province by December 2017. “A high-tech surveillance system with an estimated cost of Rs 13 billion has been launched in Lahore in the first phase,” claimed Dr Pasha last year, adding that it would be completed by June 2017. “This project will be completed in other five big cities By December 2017,” she stated in her annual budget speech in 2016. The finance minister last year claimed that at least 374 police stations had been linked up with the online system throughout the province so far.

On the other hand, the government has failed to complete this project so far in Lahore since most of the work on this scheme of surveillance is pending due to one or another reason.

The minister on Friday further claimed that the work on the safe city project was launched in Rawalpindi, Gujranwala, Multan, Sargodha, Bahawalpur, and Faisalabad. “And this will also be completed during the next fiscal year,” she said on the floor of house. She also said that at least Rs 45 billion would be allocated for this project in the next financial year’s budget. “Punjab government intends to extend the scope of this project to all over the province.”

Last year, the minister had claimed that the much-hyped project - Punjab Safe City Authority - will get Rs44 billion during the next financial year (2016-17). She also stated that at least six big cities of the province including Lahore, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi, Gujranwala, Multan, and Bahawalpur would be part of the project.

The minister during Friday’s speech also claimed that the front desks had been introduced in all the 716 police stations of the province to facilitate the visitors and the victims of the violence. She said that the government was working to promote “friendly policing culture” in the province by employing civilian staff at the front desks of the police stations.

However, the ground reality is altogether different. Most of the police station still lack front desks and only a few hundred police stations are equipped with the latest technology. Extra judicial killings are on the rise and there is not even a single police station in the province where bribe is not extorted or accepted by policemen.

Security experts say the government is pumping billions of rupees into the police pocket in a desperate move to overhaul the corruption-riddled criminal justice system in the province. They say that many financial scandals would hit the Punjab police department if international firms are engaged to carry out police audit. The government must ensure independent audit of the police funds earmarked during the fiscal year 2016-17 before allocating more funds to the corruption-riddled department.

As per the budget estimates for the fiscal year 2017-18, the Punjab government has announced an allocation of Rs 95.597 billion for police department. At least Rs 80.654 billion will be spent on salaries while the remaining amount of Rs 14.942 billion has been reserved for non-salary expenditures.

The government has also proposed an amount of Rs 201.561 million for Border Military Police, DG Khan whereas Baloch Levy, DG Khan, will receive Rs 156.739 million. An amount of Rs 69.261 billion has been allocated for district police whereas special branch will receive Rs 3.674 billion while the Punjab Constabulary will get Rs 4.659 billion.

Also, an amount of Rs 365.039 million has been proposed for Qaumi Razakar Organization while the Police Training Institute will get Rs 2.294 billion and the Counter-Terrorism Department will receive Rs 4.675 billion. The Elite Police Force will receive Rs 5.110 billion and Border Military Police Rajanpur will get Rs 110.699 million.

This record allocation suggests that law and order is one of the top priorities of the provincial government. Last year, the government had proposed Rs145 billion for fiscal year under the head of law and order. The planned spending had been jacked up from Rs94 billion allocated in fiscal year 2014-15.

In 2014, the government had allocated Rs81.68 billion for the country’s largest law enforcement agency. Similarly, only Rs 62 billion had been allocated for the police department in 2012-13.

Under the Safe City Project, the government is planning strict surveillance of miscreants and offenders by using modern tools including CCTV cameras. As part of the initiative, Punjab’s big cities will be monitored through modern control rooms and latest security cameras. The scheme will help eliminate street crimes from the society, police officials believe.