LAHORE    -   The period from August 2018 to August 2019 has been a challenging time for the first PTI government in the biggest province.

Starting its journey under the psychological burden of showing a degree of performance in the first hundred days, the progress in general has been steady during the first year.

It was not an easy task to achieve in presence of a highly politicised bureaucracy and a chief minister with no previous experience of running a huge administrative setup.

It took the infant government almost six months to put in place a team of experienced officers disposed to implement agenda of change. The government now seems to have recovered from the initial hiccups and has something tangible to show to the public.

Under the dynamic leadership of Sardar Usman Ahmad Buzdar, the Punjab government has introduced a set of reforms in various departments which set the direction for the next four years. However, the much-awaited reforms in police department have been placed on the back burner, for the time being at least.

Steps for establishment of administrative secretariat in Janoobi Punjab

To undo the regional disparity of past and move towards regional equalization, the government has been working on identifying steps for establishment of south Punjab secretariat in Punjab. Apart from making an administrative structure setup, several other steps in the ADP are being taken for removing disparities in south Punjab.

Though the government has not been able to make it functional by July 1, 2019, a dedicated team of senior officers is working on the project. The government has earmarked Rs 2 billion for the new setup in the southern Punjab.

Apart from this, the government has made 35 per cent allocation for development of southern Punjab in the current ADP and there can be no re-allocation of funds to any other area or project.

Ease of doing business in Punjab Government has embarked upon the  agenda of implementing business reforms to improve sub national ranking of key business indicators that fall under the provincial domain to improve overall business environment of the province. In this regard, the government in collaboration with the World Bank and multiple implementing agencies is implementing targeted interventions envisaged under “Ease of Doing Business Reform Agenda”. It is being implemented in different sprints, each having duration of 100 days approximately with a targeted set of interventions.

New education policy 

School Education Department has launched its first policy document, “The New Deal 2023” which takes a 360-degree approach to reform efforts. Rooted in three key interconnected areas of the education sector, this plan aspires to formulate a new school education policy.

The present government is considering to make amendments in the Punjab Free and Compulsory Education Act 2014 to bring as many as 10.5 million out of school children (age 5- 16) into the schools. The new amendments primarily deal with parent obligations to enroll their children into school.

E-Transfer:

School Education Department has launched E-Transfer scheme for public school teachers to make transfer process transparent and merit- oriented. The government believes this step would also minimize favouritism and tackle corruption, besides avoiding hassle of frequent transfers all year round.

Mainstreaming of Madaris

Under National Action Plan and guideline provided by Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in Punjab, 200 Madaris and schools belonging to banned organisations have been handed over to School Education Department. The department has set a target of June 2020 to settle all issues relating to their mainstreaming. Also, the cabinet has approved a dedicated wing in School Education Department and amendment in the Punjab Government Rules of Business 2011 regarding inclusion of function of registration of Madaris under School Education Department instead of Industry Department.

Development of 100 model schools

School Education Department is going to establish 100 model schools in 10 selected districts i.e. Rawalpindi, Mianwali, Sialkot, Lahore, Gujranwala, Faisalabad, Sahiwal, Multan, DG Khan and Rahim Yar Khan (10 schools in each district) with gender parity.

INSAF Afternoon School Programme

In order to provide free education to children between the ages 5-16 years, Punjab government is undertaking multiple initiatives to impart quality education to children at their door step.

In this regard, an initiative with the name of INSAF Afternoon School Programme has been launched in 719 selected schools in 22 districts especially in those union councils where no high school or middle school is available. The teachers hired for afternoon schools shall be paid honorarium through councils from the funds provided for this purpose. As per government’s claim, as many as 13,036 students have been enrolled in public schools under this programme.

Progress made in health sector

Primary & Secondary Healthcare Department is undertaking wide‐ranging reforms to improve healthcare service delivery in Punjab. At Secondary Healthcare (DHQ and THQ) level, the priorities include improving doctors’ presence, medicine availability, equipment maintenance, infrastructure repairs and effective monitoring & governance, while for Primary Healthcare (BHU and RHC) the priorities include full coverage of vaccination, skilled birth attendance, Neonatal Care and family planning.

Low cost housing schemes

Punjab cabinet has approved construction of low cost houses at Lodhran, Chistian and RenalaKhurd under Naya Pakistan Housing Programme. The government has approved Rs5 billion for affordable housing schemes. It also intends to amend the rules governing the private housing schemes.

Establishment of Punjab Aab-e-Pak Authority

The government has established Aab-e-Pak Authority to provide clean drinking water to the people. Apart from this, the government has initiated 49 new drinking water supply schemes costing Rs656 million in deprived areas of DG Khan. It is also working on rehabilitation of 656 dysfunctional water supply schemes (91 in Phase-1) with an allocation of Rs333 million.

Launch of Punjab Growth Strategy 2023

The government has formulated a growth strategy to ensure regionally equitable growth in the province. Designed by the research team at the Punjab Economic Research Institute under the supervision of Dr Hafeez Pasha, the strategy has identified five main pillars of growth in Punjab. Firstly, the strategy requires increased focus on agriculture and the SME sectors. Secondly, it emphasizes private sector development as main engine of growth and provides a detailed road map for horizontal and vertical interventions to address key constraints. Thirdly, formation of human capital takes the place of central pillar in strategy due to its significant direct and indirect impact on growth. Fourthly, the strategy using the growth model has presented the most optimal allocation of public investment (ADP) for the province in terms of growth outcomes.

Steps for timely dispensation of justice

Punjab Public Prosecution Department, in collaboration with Lahore High Court, has framed the Case Management Rules to ensure timely dispensation of justice to the public. The matter is currently pending before Lahore High Court, Lahore. It will enable expeditious disposal of the cases.

The Punjab Witness Protection Act, 2018 has been enacted to provide protection to witnesses during investigation, prosecution and trial relating to anti-terrorism, sexual and serious offences. The Home Department is also in process of establishing witness protection units for this purpose. Also, Witness Protection Rules under section 17 of the act have been framed to carry out the purpose of this act. The Punjab Legal Aid Act, 2018 deals with provision of free legal aid to women in family cases. The enactment of Punjab Alternative Dispute Resolution Law 2019 is yet another step in this direction.

Water Policy

Punjab Cabinet has approved a water policy for improving water governance and sustainable management of surface and ground water use in the province, a key to improving comprehensive water management. A comprehensive Water Act for management of water resources in Punjab has also been approved by the provincial cabinet which will soon be enacted after its approval from the provincial assembly.

Small Dams

Ghabir Dam Project has been launched costing Rs5,655 million for tapping water in barani areas. It will help irrigate 15,000 acres of fertile land and provide drinking water in Chakwal district. Construction of Dadhocha Dam has also been planned to supply 35 MGD drinking water to residents of Rawalpindi. The dam shall be completed in 3 years.

Law and order

While the police reforms have been placed on the back burner, the government has taken a number of initiatives to improve law and order situation. The procedures of digitisation/ computerisation of arms licenses for individuals, institutions and security companies have been simplified. The process for revamping of Border Military Police, Dera Ghazi Khan, Rajanpur and Baloch Levy, D.G Khan, has been initiated.

Evacuation of land

Punjab government claims to have evacuated over one million acre land from land grabbers in the last one year.

177 official guest houses open for public

In a revolutionary step, the government has opened 177 official guest houses for public. Any citizen can stay in these houses on payment of nominal rent.