The Punjab Chief Minister, Usman Buzadar, seems intent on fulfilling his promise of connecting to the neglected people in his province. The CM held his Cabinet meeting in the South Punjab city of Bahawalpur, instead of the usual location of the provincial capital Lahore, in a symbolic gesture which empowers the population of South Punjab.

The provincial cabinet deliberated upon various matters pertaining to problems being faced by the people in Multan and Bahawalpur divisions. The chief minister said all such issues concerning creation of a South Punjab province would be discussed with Bahawalpur division’s political representatives in separate development and law and order meetings-adding that decisions would be taken with consensus and not unilaterally. In its three hour meeting, the cabinet discussed and approved several provincial and federal matters such as a new labour policy towards foreign investors, pay packages for teachers and doctors, and approved funds for various projects for construction, forestry, and waste management in Rawalpindi.

The symbolism of reaching out to a people who feel deprived from mainstream politics was important and must be commended. Bringing the areas in south to the forefront of mainstream government policies was a campaign promise of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and CM Buzdar’s initiative of holding cabinet meetings in Bahawalpur is a powerful gesture towards showing South Punjab that its priorities too are centred in provincial politics and policy decisions. CM Buzdar has said that many more cabinets meetings will further be held in South Punjab, and we are hopeful that those steps will lead to better representation and consideration in the provincial government’s policy decisions.

Yet going beyond the symbolism and inculcating actual change is the difficult part here. The change in location of the meetings is a good step, yet we hope that the initiative to act upon promises made in the meetings will also see an improvement. There were a wide range of difficult decisions taken in the meeting- such as an approval an unsolicited proposal by the DHA Rawalpindi for grant of concession for the construction operation and maintenance of Dadhocha Dam in Rawalpindi, but these decisions are not as simple as a mere approval- implementation and allocation of funds is a cumbersome process which requires pressure and diligence by the government.

Thus, while we give CM Buzdar full marks for his symbolic gesture to South Punjab, the Punjab cabinet needs to be more realistic on the other promises made during the meeting.