LAHORE – Chief Minister Punjab Najam Sethi has said caretakers are here to do neither accountability nor policy-making but to hold fair elections.

“We have the mandate only to hold free, fair and transparent elections besides running day-to-day business of the government”, he said while talking to the owners of newspapers and TV channels, editors, anchors and senior journalists at Chief Minister’s Secretariat late Thursday.

Majid Nizami, Rameeza Majid Nizami, Jugnoo Mohsin, Mujeebur Rehman Shami, Zia Shahid, Salim Bokhari, Ch Abdur Rehman, Attaur Rehman, Bedar Bakht and Khalid Farooqui were prominent among others.

Sethi said a clean and impartial administration was essential for the conduct of transparent elections.

He said it was not for the caretaker government to change policies. He said accountability of politicians was not the job of caretaker setup but of the masses. He said the ongoing projects will be continued and there is no shortage of funds.

The chief minister said that holding of elections was top priority of the caretaker government and completely neutral and nonpartisan persons had been inducted into the cabinet.

About terrorist threats, the chief minister said it was an uphill task to provide security to the politicians, candidates and the polling staff. He said police had not been trained to counter acts of terrorism. “We also lack anti-terror equipment, like jammers and other things to thwart terrorist activities”, he added.  He, however, said that security cover will be given to rallies and public meetings during the general elections and the caretaker government was taking steps after keeping in view all aspects.

He also said that a number of steps had been taken for improvement of law and order and ensuring foolproof security. He said that police patrolling during the night hours will be intensified for checking crimes. He said protection of life and property of the people is the responsibility of police.

He said that he believed that government affairs could be managed with eight ministers, as four to five departments will be assigned to each minister.  Najam said that posting of new Chief Secretary and Inspector General Police had been made in Punjab while the process of reshuffling of bureaucracy will soon be completed. He said that completely impartial officers will be posted and in accordance with the procedure evolved by the Election Commission, changes will be made from SHO to senior officer level.

Sethi said that no decision had yet been taken to celebrate Basant. But at the same time, Sethi said it was the right of the people to take part in recreational activities. He assured that no decision will be made against the public interest.

He also wondered why the festivals like Horse and Cattle Show had been abandoned. He was of the view that cultural events were highly essential for the mental health of culturally-starved people of Punjab.

During the meeting, majority of journalists, while expressing their views on Basant, said that it was a cultural event and had nothing to do with religion.  It should, therefore, be treated as a festival, they said.

They, however, stressed on the point that if government wanted to celebrate Basant it should adopt all protective measures and provide safety wires to motorcyclists to avoid accidents.  He said that no one had raised any objection or expressed reservations about new Chief Secretary or IG Punjab.

He said that measures are being taken for providing maximum health facilities to the patients in hospitals.

He said that ministers had been directed to make every effort for the benefit of the masses. He said that arrangements had been finalized to check possible outbreak of dengue virus and the action plan of anti-dengue campaign is being fully implemented.

In reply to a question, Najam Sethi said that he will talk to the federal government for controlling unscheduled load-shedding in Punjab.

He said that caretaker government does not want to involve itself in any controversial issue and it will take no irresponsible decision. He said that he does not want to take such a person in the provincial cabinet whose any relative is contesting general elections.

The CM said that he wanted to pay surprise visits to hospitals and institutions providing public service to gain firsthand knowledge about the factual position.

He said that process of preparation of the new budget is continuing and the future government will have to make only minor amendments.