CHUNIAN    -   Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar inaugurated a plantation campaign at the Changa Manga Forest by planting a tree here on Thursday.

The visit was kept secret by the district administration after it was delayed twice this month. As per the plan, more than 300 students of government schools were called to welcome the chief minister. These students were given the task to hold PTI flags instead of Pakistan flags that they continued waving for three hours under the shining sun. Two of them fainted and were removed from the scene right before arrival of the chief minister at the Changa Manga Lake.

People protested against the policy of brining schoolchildren to political events and demanded an inquiry into the matter. Initially, it was planned that the chief minister would visit the deep Changa Manga Forest, the successful new plantation, new log huts and improved civic facilities for tourists, but he skipped all this and preferred to take a briefing. After a briefing by the forests department and its sericulture wing, he lauded efforts of the department and said that excellent revival of this forest had given him the hope that such efforts could be done for other deforested areas of the province as well. He showed a keen interest in using sericulture (silkworm rearing) for poverty alleviation.

The forests department and the public were expecting announcement of a grant for better wildlife facilities, field levelling, plant care, renovation of PTDC rest house, tram route and farm vehicles, but the chief minister concluded his visit in less than 30 minutes and flew away.

Local PTI representatives and workers were present on the occasion. Many of them gave him applications for job in the forests department and he promised to consider these applications. More than 2,000 police personnel were present on the occasion and excellent security arrangements were made for the visit.

Earlier the forests protection committee of Changa Manga boycotted this event because the chief minister had cut short his visit and skipped visit to the forest. Talking to the media here, he said he would not spare any corrupt person in the forests department and the fight against corruption would go on. On this, forests department officials, who were expecting a “well done” comment from him, were seen disturbed and disappointed. He said, “We are planting 800,000 new saplings in the province today and in this season this number shall surpass the target of 15 million saplings. We have evacuated more than 200 acres of land of the Changa Manga Forest from the mafias and are planting trees on this land as well. The Changa Manga forest has been made a cattle-free forest for the first time in the history and we have pushed these animals out of the forest to save the new plants. Country’s economic condition is not well and we cannot raise salaries of MPs until we can afford that.”

Provincial Minister for Environment Malik Yasin Aslam, Minister for Population Welfare Hashim Dogar, MNA Sardar Talib Nakai, MPA Sardar Asif Nakai and PTI leader Azeemud Din Lakhvi were present on the occasion.