LAHORE - Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Monday showed a strong indignation towards the officials concerned for not taking measures against smog, which has become a serious health hazard in the province.

Presiding over a high level meeting here, the chief minister reviewed various measures to deal with the environmental issue of smog. On learning about inadequate measures, poor precautionary steps and failure to launch an awareness drive about smog, the chief minister castigated the concerned officials. He wanted to know from the relevant quarters as to what steps had been taken to deal with this issue by the Environment Department and other concerned agencies, when a year has passed since directions were passed in this regard but he did not get a satisfactory reply.

“The hammer on the head has awakened them now but is this way to perform official duties?” he asked. The concerned departments should have adopted necessary steps well in advance to deal with the situation. He said that a comprehensive campaign should have been launched to educate the people about the precautionary measures before the advent of smog. He expressed displeasure over the publication of smog policy in English language by the Environment Department and inquired that how would the common man study it in English? The layman should be taught about this issue in an ordinary manner in Urdu language, he added. It is pity that the concerned officials have failed to fulfill their duty in this regard, he said. Before implementation of relevant laws in the industrial sector, he said, the concerned chamber of commerce should be taken into confidence. “Now, they are showing performance when put in hot water after wasting one year, but it will not be helpful now. The departments should have performed their duties diligently and if they have had heeded to their obligations, the situation would not have been that critical. Before the start of smog season, the concerned departments should have sprung into action with a comprehensive strategy,” he said.

The chief minister said that every possible effort should be made to deal with smog and line departments should work in an organized manner as there was no room for any leniency.

He said that smog situation be monitored continuously and a comprehensive action plan be devised and implemented in consultation with experts and chambers of commerce and industry.

Provincial ministers Begum Zakiya Shahnawaz, Khawaja Imran Nazir, spokesman for the Punjab government Malik Muhammad Ahmad Khan, chief secretary, additional chief secretary (home), secretaries, LCCI president and senior officials attended the meeting.

Separately, Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif presided over a high level meeting here on Monday and said the government was giving priority to development work in areas, which were still underdeveloped. Addressing the meeting, the chief minister said that various programmes had been initiated at the cost of billions of rupees to improve the quality of life of the people. “The development of underdeveloped areas is our priority and that is why prosperity of such areas is being given special importance,” he said. He made it clear that no compromise would be made on the quality of work at development schemes and added that work quality and prompt utilisation of resources was hallmark of the Punjab government.

He said the Punjab government had introduced third-party audit system of development projects and the right use of resources along with qualitative construction work had been ensured through this audit. He said that more resources would be provided for development and prosperity of underdeveloped areas.

Provincial ministers Mansha Ullah Butt, Malik Nadeem Kamran, MNA Hamza Shehbaz Sharif, Mehar Ishtiaq Ahmad and concerned officials attended the meeting.

Also, former US ambassador to Pakistan Robin Lynn Raphel called on Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif here yesterday and discussed various matters of mutual interest, including promotion of Pakistan-US relations.

On the occasion, the chief minister strongly condemned the incident of firing in a Church in Texas State and expressed a deep sense of sorrow over the loss of precious human lives. He prayed for early recovery of the injured. He said that Pakistan-US relations spanned many decades and Pakistan was keen to expand these relations. He observed that different nations should adopt collective measures to maintain peace in the world. He said that Pakistan had tremendously progressed during the present tenure and the challenges faced by the country in 2013 had been overcome to a large extent. Similarly, he said, tremendous successes had been achieved with regard to elimination of terrorism and energy crisis. The former US ambassador said that her country gives special importance to relations with Pakistan. Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif expressed a deep sense of sorrow and grief over the death of Saudi Prince Mansour bin Muqrin who died in a helicopter incident. He extended sympathies to the bereaved family and said that he had been deeply saddened by the death of Deputy Governor of Asir province.

Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif also expressed sorrow over the death of other people in the incident. Also, Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif strongly condemned the incident of firing in a Church in the Texas State of the USA. He expressed a deep sense of sorrow over the loss of precious human lives and extended sympathies to the bereaved families.

 He prayed for early recovery of the injured. “We stand by the people of USA and fully share the grief of the bereaved families and all our sympathies are with them,” he concluded.