Lahore - The members of Punjab cabinet are reluctant to vacate the Old Ministers’ Block in the Civil Secretariat due to security concerns, following the suicide attack on former interior minister Shuja Khanzada last month.

“If the home minister, the head of security agencies and law enforcing agencies including police, could be killed in suicide attack, what to say about the security of other cabinet members,” a provincial parliamentary secretary said while conditioning anonymity.

He told The Nation that the parliamentarians and politicians fear for their lives, let alone the ministers sitting in offices where security arrangements were too fragile.

The Punjab government plans to shift the offices of cabinet members to the new Ministers’ Block, opposite the Civil Secretariat, which was completed in the rule of former chief minister Pervaiz Elahi at the cost of Rs730 million.

Since 2008 when Shahbaz Sharif became the chief minister, the PML-N government had been completely ignoring the building and did not furnish a bit of it. For some time, the government even planned to sell it out.

“By this time Rs 380 million has been spent on the main structure of the complex. The total cost on the construction, finishing and purchase of furniture will be more than Rs 1.23 billion,” an S&GAD officer estimated. However, the finishing work worth Rs 350 million, purchase of furniture, freezers, microwave ovens, crockery and other relevant preparations has been made, he added.

According to the new plan, the government will allot the offices to the provincial ministers and some of the advisers and parliamentary secretaries who are having their offices in different departments and Old Ministers’ Block or other areas like Board of Revenue, C&W complex, the officer affirmed.

At present, there are two ministers, 38 parliamentary secretaries and two special assistants to the CM. The Punjab government wants to demolish the age old ministers’ block and construct a new building there. The plan will be executed after the block emptied by the cabinet members, sources said.

Although the Punjab government had finalised security arrangements for the cabinet members, some of them usually don’t attend the offices owning to threats or terror created after the assassination of Shuja Khanzada.

A senior officer in S&GAD said the accumulation of all the ministers in one building would facilitate security arrangements that earlier were difficult for the government to hold.

Shunning the point of security concern in the new Ministers’ Block, the officer said, it was hard to provide fool proof security to all the cabinet members having offices situated at different places. He said it would be easy for the police as well as other security agencies to protect the place meant for the ministers.

Last year, the Planning and Development (P&D) Board, at its 29th meeting of the Provincial Development Working Party (PDWP), had sanctioned Rs 851.189 million for the finishing work of the purpose-built complex.

Moreover, the government had earmarked Rs 15 million for the same purpose in the fiscal year 2015-16. The P&D approved the amount on the proposal of S&GAD that had also opposed the move to sell this building having 48 office suites for the ministers.