LAHORE - Criticising the previous PML-N government, Special Assistant to Punjab Chief Minister on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said yesterday that public money was mercilessly wasted on renovation of state rest houses just to entertain themselves and families.

She lamented that a hefty amount of Rs 680 million was spent for renovation of state rest house Murree where admission to the common visitor was banned by the then ruling elite.

Addressing a press conference along with Adviser to Chief Minister on Tourism Asif Mehmood, she said that the rest houses were used by the PML-N rulers and their families as their personal entity. She, however, said the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government envisioned by Prime Minister Imran Khan was proactively working for promotion of the tourism sector and to make it an industry for revenue generation, besides creating employment opportunities. 

Dr Firdous said a visible difference between the previous and the present government was that unlike past practices, the rest houses were now opened for the general public and it was a true depiction of ‘Naya Pakistan’ .

Commenting on indictment of PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif in corruption, money laundering and assets-beyond-means-cases, she said Shehbaz was used to say that not a single penny corruption was committed by him but he had been indicted in cases on the basis of evidence. 

She said that all rejected political parties had gathered at the Pakistan Democratic Movement to protect their personal interests as they were least interested to resolve problems of the people.

Dr Firdous Ashiq said the Punjab government under leadership of Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar was celebrating Rehmat-ul-lil-Alameen (PBUH) week with religious fervor and a series of events would be organized by various government institutions, departments and educational institutions to pay homage to Holy Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH).

Later, briefing the media, Advisor to CM Asif Mehmood said it was first government which had included tourism in its priorities as the prime minister and chief minister Punjab were paying attention to promote tourism and to boost economy through this potential sector.

First time a designated tourism department was established besides approving tourism policy in the province, he added. 

He said that along with government measures, private sector was also being invited to promote various tourism spots, recreational as well as heritage sites by investing in these areas.

Asif Mehmood said that a number of new tourist spots were discovered by the government departments and works were being carried out to develop these sites.

Shalamar Garden was a true depiction of art, culture and heritage but, unfortunately, this historically important site was not looked after by the previous regimes. He said the present government taking it seriously, had restored its dignity to some extent, however further work would be done. Development works at Jehangir Tomb, Hiran Minar and other archaeological sites were also being done on priority basis.

To make the country hub of tourism, he added that religious tourism was also being promoted by the government under the leadership of PM Imran Khan and many sites of religious minorities were being upgraded and road infrastructure was being developed to ensure access to the sites.