LAHORE - On the completion of one year, the performance of Shahbaz Sharif-led PML-N government in the Punjab remained better than the other provinces in terms of development plans, but it failed to provide necessary relief to the masses.
The performance of the Punjab government has been very convincing on signing agreements as well as initiating mega projects on transport and energy side, but the plight of the common man went worse from bad due to high prices of daily-use items in the market, less job opportunities and inefficiency of the public-serving departments.
The government set ambitious targets of curtailing loadshedding, bettering police system, computerisation of land record, 100 percent enrolment of kids in schools to fulfil the condition of the Millennium target set for the year 2015 and provision of missing facilities in high schools, but a slow progress was recorded in these areas. The government also failed to utilise total Rs 250 billion of annual development funds. Holding of local government elections remained low in the government priority and the LHC decision on fresh delimitation of the constituencies through the Election Commission provided a good excuse to Punjab to defer the LG polls for an indefinite period.
The Shahbaz Sharif government was, in a way, continuation of its previous five-year term. The government as such tried to pick up the threads of development schemes and projects from the point it had left when the provincial assembly was dissolved before the elections. Unlike the previous term, there was no confrontation between the Punjab and the Zardari-led federal government on energy projects, release of funds etc. But the masses did not get what they expected from the PML-N which is ruling the Punjab and the country. A number of projects were announced, but years were needed for their completion. However, it was heartening that the Punjab government entered into agreements with Chinese, Turkish, Middle Eastern and European companies for investment in energy, textile, livestock, water management, transport, communication and other development projects. It offered attractive incentives to the foreign companies and individual investors, particularly for generating electricity through hydel, solar, coal, wind, biomass and solid waste.
By virtue of the chief minister’s personal efforts and credibility, the Chinese government and the companies pledged a whopping investment of $35 billion over the next five years for generating 20,000MW of electricity and development in other sectors. But it could not be ascertained whether new ventures or the already announced ones would get this investment. The government also deserves credit for completing and putting into operation first turbine of Nandipur Power Plant within record time of seven months. It formally inaugurated Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park in Cholistan which aimed at producing 100MW energy. The foundation-stones of two coal energy projects were laid in Sahiwal to get 1,320MW electricity by the end of next year. It was also a laudable feature of the government that a check was maintained on terrorism in the province as it was witnessed during the last tenure of his government. However, the performance of the police department remained poor despite the fact that billions of rupees were pumped into it. Police torture, fake encounters, political interference in their affairs and negligence could not be effectively controlled. Crime rate remained unabated.
The CM was not satisfied with the efficiency of the public departments, so he sought a strong accountability system therein. He announced establishment of Dolphin police on the pattern of Turkey to control the street crime after a police contingent was sent for training to that country. The dream of setting up 100 model police stations could not be materialised. The government got record 31 bills passed through the parliament although no headway was made to complete the new building of the assembly. The government was blamed by the opponents for spending bulk of the development funds on Lahore where a mega Azadi Chowk Project was initiated while an ambitious train project costing $1.6 billion, establishment of knowledge city, a state-of-the-art cancer hospital and research centre were announced. Metro bus project was started in Islamabad-Rawalpindi while similar projects were announced for Faislabad and Multan. Construction of a modern hospital and an IT university was started in Muzaffargarh with the cooperation of Turkey.
The government allocated Rs 12 billion under Saaf Pani Project as the first phase of the four-year programme to ensure supply of potable water throughout the province. Work on huge Quaid-e-Azam Apparel Park in Sheikhpura was started, which is expected to bring forex worth billions of dollars to the country through the export of the textile goods under GPS+. China agreed to invest over $two billion in the park.
Rs12 billion were allocated for Punjab Endowment Fund to help brilliant students get education at the government expense while distribution of 100,000 more laptops was announced in the third phase of this programme. Lady health workers servicing on contract were regularised.
Under the Punjab Youth Festival, 33 world records were set while the government provided huge financial assistance to the Balochistan quake-hit people and the Thar people affected by draught. Dengue was effectively controlled throughout the province while complaints of lack of medical service and absence of staff were reported in the hospitals of South Punjab.
The government also provided Rs 5.5 billion easy loans to the youth while establishment of Rozgar Bank for unemployed people remained in the pipeline. Labour colony was also announced, but no actual work was started on the same.