Does the PML-N led Punjab government have the willingness or capacity to continue with the various development projects initiated by the PTI?
he Hamza Shahbaz-led Punjab government has put many development projects and schemes pushed by the previous (Buzdar) government on hold, especially those having to do with Lahore. A reason being cited is lack of funds.
Though a formal announcement on it is yet to be made in this regard, those privy to discussions in the government circles suggest that the provincial government is mulling ways to axe scores of development schemes initiated by the previous (PTI government) under the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP).
In particular, the chief minister is believed to have expressed his displeasure over the alleged corruption in the much-trumpeted Ravi Riverfront Urban Development Project.
It is pertinent to note that the project was conceived during Chaudhry Parvez Elahi’s tenure as chief minister. The Buzdar government took it from there. The idea was to develop a modern city on an area of more than 100,000 acres along the banks of the Ravi, with a view to overcome the growing problems of environment, drinking water, and traffic congestion in Lahore. Sardar Usman Buzdar breathed new life into the project by setting up the Ravi Urban Development Authority (RUDA). He also promulgated an ordinance for the establishment of the authority with the chief minister as its chairman. It was proposed that Rs 5 trillion would be raised by the private sector to develop the city.
The project included building a large lake and free barrages. However, it hit a snag at the very outset when, in a landmark decision, the Lahore High Court (LHC) nullified the project approval. It was already surrounded by controversy and rumours of inefficiency and financial mismanagement.
Sheraz Altaf, the chairman of Awami Falahi Party (AFP), says that continuity of policies is imperative for sustained economic growth. Therefore, he says public welfare schemes should not be shelved when a new government takes over.
“We set up shelter homes in Lahore and other divisions, initiated the Ehsaas programme for social safety and poverty alleviation, Humqadam for the differently abled, Baa Himmat Bazurg for the elderly, Sila-i-Fun for artists’ community and Masawaat for transgender community. There was massive tree plantation in the Punjab, particularly in Lahore under the Clean, Green Pakistan initiative.” — Senator Ejaz Chaudhry
He also says that policies do not succeed or fail on their own merits; those at the helm of affairs play a key role in their success or failure.
He also says that every new government should continue their predecessors’ positive initiatives. Sadly this isn’t the case as far as Pakistan is concerned. “Langar khanay/ panahgaahs (shelter homes) was a good initiative by the PTI to serve the homeless and the hungry. Of course, it would’ve been better if they had focused on creating job opportunities. This [project] was funded by Sailani Trust and not the government. Still, the PTI claimed credit for it, played publicity stunts and attracted media attention with its campaigns.”
Talking about mass transit projects like Orange Line that was launched by the PML-N government, Altaf says, “It was a great project but it suffered from some technical flaws. In the West, subways are mostly underground. They do not run on ground throughout the city.”
Senator Ejaz Chaudhry of the PTI denounces the new chief minister over reports that projects started by the PTI government which, he says, were “meant solely for the welfare of the public at large” were being shelved.
He says that the PTI launched projects like Sehat Insaf Card that benefitted more than 35 million people. “We set up shelter homes in Lahore and other divisions, initiated the Ehsaas programme for social safety and poverty alleviation, Humqadam for the differently abled, Baa Himmat Bazurg for the elderly, Sila-i- Fun for the artists’ community and Masawaat for the transgender community. There was massive tree plantation in the Punjab, particularly in Lahore under the Clean, Green Pakistan initiative.”
The senator says the new government has neither the capacity nor the will to continue with these projects.
The writer is a senior journalist and can be reached at ahsanzia155gmail.com