LAHORE - Over the two-year rule, the PML-N government in Punjab excelled all other provinces in terms of development projects, law and order and public welfare schemes.
The Punjab government, under Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, announced to achieve eight percent growth rate within three years and pursued such policies and projects as helped to achieve the target. The second year of the government was particularly important for added focus and concerted efforts to deal with serious issues like energy shortage, terrorism and incentives to attract foreign investment as economic growth moves around them.
The government took up long-term and short-term projects to narrow the gap between the living standard of the people through balanced development in rural and urban areas. The slogan of balanced development, however, could not be fully realised as one part of the province enjoyed luxuries like signal-free corridors and metro bus services while the others continued to go even without clean water and proper facilities at schools and hospitals. Despite the best efforts, the electricity shortfall and the resultant long hours’ loadshedding continued to be the feature of the public and commercial life.
With successful Zarb-e-Azb operation in the background, the Punjab government sufficiently curtailed the incidents of terrorism in the province though terror incidents happened at Wagha border, Police Lines Qilla Gujjar Singh, at a Youhanabad Church and a Rawalpindi Imambargah. Though amid very tight security, restoration of international cricket in Pakistan after six years with the visit of Zimbabwean team to Lahore has been appreciated for highlighting peaceful image of Punjab at the global level. This is also a credit to the Punjab government. Special anti-terrorism force was introduced, but thana culture remained the same over the last two years though more than 50 model police stations, equipped with modern system of investigation and information technology, were set up. The CM claimed thana culture would be changed, but the situation has become worse. With a view to eliminating corruption, efforts continued to bring improvement in the public departments.
Floods hit Punjab in 2014 while political turmoil, created by PTI and PAT sit-ins, hampered the development activity of the Punjab government in the second year of the rule. Despite protest, the government completed metro bus in Islamabad-Rawalpindi.
A strong check and control on the spread of dengue was maintained while timely measures were taken to measles in 2015. The Punjab CM played a vital role in fetching $46 billion Chinese investment to the country. After Sindh, chunk of investment was allocated for Punjab for electricity projects (total 10400MW) and one to ply Orange Line Metro Train to provide a state-of-the-art transport facility to Lahorites.
Last year the government fixed record Rs 348 billion for development programme of which the historic share of 119 billion was earmarked for South Punjab. But the total funds could not be spent.
Billions of rupees were allocated for health and education projects at provincial and district level. On the education side, five new universities, IT Centre, lab computerisation, distribution of laptops, setting up of Daanish schools, new schools and colleges were prominent. On the health side spending was made on new hospitals, mobile health units, facilities to BHUs and DHQ hospitals, health insurance and recruitments.
A 500-bed Tayyip Erdogan Trust Hospital was opened in Muzaffargarh while 100MW Quaid-e-Azam Solar Energy Park was launched in Bahawalpur while work was underway to produce 900MW solar energy from the park by next year with the cooperation of a Chinese company. A kidney transplant and research centre was started with the acquisition of land for this project worth billions of rupees. Khadim-e-Punjab Rural Roads Programme was initiated with the cost of Rs 150 billion which aimed at improving roads and infrastructure in rural areas within three years.
Skill Development, Daanish schools, Rural Roads Programme, Saaf Pani and other projects were initiated to bring a positive change in the rural life. Starting with Sheikhupura, modern cattle markets were set for the benefit of livestock farmers. The government is trying to achieve the target to impart technical training to 500,000 youth every year.
NBP and HBL pledged to provide Rs 84 billion loans to Punjab for 1,200MW gas-based energy projects. The Punjab government started a project to produce energy from LNG with its own resources. It targeted both formal and informal means to produce electricity and gain surplus energy by 2018. After some initial problems, the Nandipur Power Plant is preparing to produce energy to its capacity of 425MW by the end of this month.
Pakistan’s biggest “Apna Rozgar Scheme” for providing respectable jobs to youth was started with the distribution of 50,000 vehicles on soft terms. The programme is worth Rs 31 billion wherein the government shared Rs 40,000 and every young had to pay Rs 90,000 less than the market price of a vehicle.
The government proposed to provide solar home solution to low-income families at concessional rate besides constructing labour colonies.
Like other provinces, the Punjab also failed to meet the universal basic education target set by the Unesco though it went ahead with the school reforms programme to achieve 100 percent enrolment in school besides recruiting new teachers and starting programmes for their capacity building.
Basic work on the Lahore Knowledge Park was stated. Spreading over 852 acres of land, the park was unique for synthesising academia and corporate through various prestigious institutions of international ranking. Rs 6.2 billion were provided to meet missing facilities in 50,000 schools of Punjab, but hundreds of schools in rural areas remained in dilapidated condition and without proper staff.
The government announced to construct three new children hospitals at Rawalpindi, Gujranwala and Bahawalpur with the cost of about Rs 2850 million.
The pace of work on Quaid-e-Azam Apparel Park near Motorway Lahore, which will provide modern facilities to textile and garments sector, remained slow. The land record computerisation project, aimed at ending the patwari culture, continued but its completion is still not in the sight. Its completion date was set at May 30, 2015.
Braving many challenges, the Punjab government is making its way ahead with development programmes and for that reason, Pildat and other survey reports have held its performance higher than the other provinces.