Friday July 19, 2024

Shahbaz’ rule marks revolutionary policies, innovation

By Moayyed Jafri & Khalid Khattak
February 26, 2018

LAHORE: Shahbaz Sharif, as the Punjab chief minister, introduced revolutionary policies and adopted procedural innovations in almost every sector, contrary to the propaganda that he focuses only on transport infrastructure.

While his critics blamed him for ignoring the health sector, Shahbaz has more to his credit than any other provincial head in the health, education, agriculture, law and order, social welfare and woman sectors, communication infrastructure and last but not the least the power generation division.

Shahbaz introduced a new culture of hands-on approach regarding governance. His ability to work round-the-clock on diverse projects, all whilst not losing track or focus on any single one of them created a sense of urgency both amongst his ministers and the civil servants.

Known and, at times, mocked by his rivals, for his unplanned personal surprise visits, he managed to keep the entire governance machinery on its toes and thus got the results his counterparts in other provinces failed to achieve.

In the health sector, the unprecedented control and prevention of the dengue breakout in the province was perhaps the most acclaimed achievement recognised nationally and internationally. His policy interventions and capacity-building in both resource and infrastructure set the sector on a futuristic road. He increased the budget for health by 500 per cent during his tenure as the chief minister.

Keeping in view the large number of poor patients of hepatic and renal diseases, Pakistan Kidney and Liver Institute and Research Centre (PKLI) was another intervention, visualised and implemented in record time period, with its inauguration in Dec 2017.

Shahbaz set up medical collages in smaller cities -- Gujranwala, Sialkot, Sahiwal and DG Khan -- and others and constructed teaching hospitals, attached with medical collages. Also, cardiology centres were established in Faisalabad and Bahawalpur.

Implementing the PML-N’s manifesto model of public-private partnerships in national institutions, Shahbaz outsourced departments, especially dealing with expensive diagnostic services which proved to be a great success.

Capacity-building of doctors and paramedic staff through intensive training from foreign success stories was a much-needed measure, which was taken during his tenure.

In his era as the CM, 125 district and 40 divisional headquarters hospitals were renovated and equipped with state-of-the-art equipment, such as CT scan machines. These machines were to be installed in 25 districts, and five of them had already been installed.

The Safe Mother Ambulance service was introduced specially to transfer pregnant women to hospitals at the time of labour.

The Mobile Health Units project was introduced for 20 districts while they are already operational in six districts. Unprecedented measures and processes were introduced for the first time to block fake and substandard medicines. Effective policymaking in the form of amendments to the Drug Regulatory Authority Act were done while drug testing laboratories were established in Lahore, Multan, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi and Bahawalpur, and digital mapping of medical stores was initiated. District Health Authority and Health Councils were formed.

Hepatitis Ordinance 2017 was implemented and Hepatitis clinics were established in 100 district hospitals. The Health Information & Service Delivery Unit was established and a performance appreciation system was launched along with the Sehat Khidmat Award.

Massive power production projects launched by Shahbaz Sharif in Punjab were even acknowledged as unprecedented by development giants like China and Turkey.

Back in 2013, Pakistan was facing sever energy crisis and Punjab, with the highest population, was the worst-hit region. In a short span of four years, the Punjab government has been able to add about 3,200-MW to the national grid.

The Energy Department was established on July 5, 2011 on the orders of CM Shahbaz Sharif, in response to the energy crisis and to spearhead Punjab government's efforts to exploit its energy resources and initiate power projects in the public and private sector. The purview of the department is constantly expanding, with more responsibilities and powers being devolved to provinces in the wake of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution.

Projects like 1180-MW Bhikki Power Plant, 1320-MW Sahiwal Coal Power Plant, 1242-MW Punjab Thermal Power Plant, 135-MW Tunsa Hydro Power Plant were taken up as a challenge. While some of these projects are in the final stages of completion, the ones completed have set the world record. Haveli Lakha project has been acknowledged as the fastest built project of its capacity all over the world.

Shahbaz also claims saving hundreds of billions of national wealth on these projects.

Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park established a 900-MW project under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The first 300-MW has already been connected to the grid in June 2016 and remaining 600-MW is under completion.

Under the Khadim-e-Punjab Ujala Program (KPUP), he planned solarising 20,000 public school in Punjab, out of which process for 10,861 schools in south Punjab was under way.

In the agricultural sector, policy reforms like the Reform Agriculture Marketing Legislation through introducing Agriculture Marketing Bill, 2011 and Establishment of Agriculture Marketing Information System (AMIS) to create awareness about what is happening across the border were introduced. The government policies allow private sector to establish agriculture produce markets to attract investment in this sector. This encouraged establishment of cool chain and modern storage facilities coupled with the steps taken to introduce the concept of commodity future markets in agriculture.

His special focus on Farm-to-Market roads in the province played a major role in facilitating economical and speedy access which reduced wastage of perishable agri products.

The ‘Star Farms’ project was aimed at the capacity building in the agricultural sector. The Star Farm Consulting Company (SFC) started its business in China in 2007. It focused on the training and capacity building of the suppliers/ processors and logistics regarding IFS and farm based GlobalGAP.

Under this program, six Pakistani agronomists received six-month training from SFC in China to later work as master trainers in their program for Pakistan. The SFC training mainly focuses on quality assurance system, international standard traceability system & quality management system.

The progress made under Shahbaz in the affairs of Social Welfare and Women was a tough task as it challenged age-old traditional stereotypes. The introduction of legislation like Punjab Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Bill, The Punjab Protection of Women Against Violence Act 2016 was passed after a rigorous debate in and outside the assembly and provided the much needed policy to provide the much needed security to women in the province. Violence Against Women Centre (VAWC) was a unique project of Punjab government in the wake of passing Women Protection Bill.

The Punjab government established ‘Gehwara’, a centre for newborn babies, in Multan where children will be nourished till the age of seven. Shahbaz established 420 vocational training institutes where people will acquire valuable skills enabling them to earn a living. at the same time, it launched a microcredit scheme for women to heighten economic activity in rural areas.

The Punjab Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW) was created by the Punjab Assembly through the Punjab Commission on the Status of Women Act, 2014 as an oversight body to ensure that laws, policies and programs of the Government of Punjab promote women’s empowerment. The body promoted women’s empowerment and gender equality in Punjab through research; reviewed and revision of laws, policies, programs, rules and regulations; monitoring implementation of instruments and obligations affecting women and girls; and collaborating with government agencies, civil society and the private sector.

Shahbaz made groundbreaking steps for improving Law and Order in the Province at a time when terrorism was at its worse. The all important Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) was established in 2009 to combat terrorism under his leadership. This department is the backbone of antiterrorism apparatus in the province. In addition to this thirty eight Acts were passed by the Punjab Assembly on his watch list regarding law and order in the province. Quick Response Force was created with the assistance of the Pakistan Army to counter terrorism.

He envisioned and implemented the mega project of Safe-City in the provincial capital while introducing the Dolphin Force that has kept street crime under s stringent check. Riverine Force was created to combat crimes in slum dwellings (Katcha areas) and to make travelling more secure on the Indus Highway. 49 Riverine posts have been established for this purpose. He also took the all important initiative to double the salaries of police personnel to provide better security and curb corruption.

Even his most fierce rivals talk about his achievements in infrastructural development. From establishing thorough policymaking bodies like Punjab Mass Transit Authority, which even his rival Imran Khan had to seek guidance from, to on-ground mega projects like the Lahore and Multan Metro Bus are among some of his achievements. From providing affordable housing to the middle class through Launch of Ashiana Housing Scheme to Construction of Model Villages for flood affectees has been an important yet little known project.

Despite rigorous obstructionism from his political opponents, he is currently on his way to accomplishing another virtual impossibility of completing the Orange Line Metro Train project before the Election 2018. Many of the initiatives by the Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif in the education sector of Punjab are not just unique in approach but have potential of far-reaching impact on the students in particular and education sector in general. Following are some of his initiatives which have been transforming the educational landscape of the country.

Punjab Educational Endowment Fund:

During his second tenure as CM, Shahbaz established Punjab Educational Endowment Fund (PEEF) which is one of its kinds and the largest public sector education endowment fund in Pakistan offering scholarships to needy but talented students not just from Punjab but from other federating units including AJK, FATA, Gilgit-Baltistan and Islamabad Capital Territory. Started with initial seed money of Rs 2 billion, the PEEF endowment has now been raised to a whopping Rs. 17.10 billion.

So far the PEEF has offered 235,000 scholarships to needy but talented students of Punjab and other areas. It has a special quote for orphans, children of government servants in BPS 1-4 (children of both serving and retired govt. servants), special children, children from minorities and children of civilians martyred in terrorist attacks.

The PEEF also offers some fully funded merit based foreign scholarships to Pakistan students for PhD level studies in top 50 universities of the world (QS rankings).

Provision of Missing Facilities:

Public schools across Pakistan are marred with missing facilities such as drinking water, toilets, boundary walls and electricity. In his second tenure as the CM Shahbaz Sharif took up this challenge and started allocating separate budgets for the provision of missing facilities in public schools of the province. Today, Punjab’s indicators vis-à-vis provision of missing facilities in public schools are far better than rest of the provinces. And this fact is acknowledged in the annual reports “Pakistan Education Statistics” prepared by Academy Educational Planning & Management (AEPAM).

According to the latest District Education Rankings 2017 by Alif Ailaan, Punjab’s score is highest among all the four provinces vis-à-vis provision of drinking water (97.47), toilets (97.26) and electricity (89.94). Alif Ailaan has measured the scores on a scale of 100 points under its Primary School Infrastructure score.

Acknowledging High Achievers:

Shahbaz Sharif as the CM also launched a unique initiative of acknowledging the high achievers of different examinations. This included financial awards to the best performing students and provision of international exposure to these talented students. Under this foreign study tour program, students from Punjab and other provinces are being sent to European countries on study tours on annual basis. Shahbaz Sharif’s move of including students from Balochistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh and other federating units in scholarships and foreign study tours and award of laptops to them is being seen as efforts to promote inter-provincial harmony and the spirit of nationalism among the youth of the country.

Daanish Schools:

Daanish Schools—a brainchild of the chief minister Shahbaz Sharif—have been providing quality education to the children of underprivileged families in under-developed and to some extend ignored areas of Punjab. Presently, Daanish Schools, one each for boys and girls, are operational in Rahim Yar Khan, Hasilpur (Bahawalpur), Chishtian (Bahawalnagar), Harnoli (Mianwali), Jand (Attock), Dera Ghazi Khan and Fazilpur (Rajanpur).

It is pertinent to mention here that among all the government schools, the results of students from Daanish School are better in Secondary School Certificate (Matriculation) Examinations 2017 conducted by the examination boards in the province.

New Universities:

The higher education sector equally remained under the focus of Shahbaz Sharif with upgradation of colleges and establishment of new universities particularly for female students. One of his initiatives also includes the establishment of first IT and research focused university—the Information Technology University (ITU).

Similarly, the establishment of Women University Multan, and upgradation of Government Sadiq College Women Bahawalpur and Government College Women Faisalabad as universities and establishment of Ghazi University, Dera Ghazi Khan are seen as steps in the right direction to provide higher education opportunities to the youth of these areas.

The legislation regarding establishment of University of Jhang, University of Sahiwal, University of Okara and University of Home Economics Lahore has been completed and the government is in the process of searching Vice Chancellors (VCs) of these universities for required development.

Punjab Higher Education Commission:

The establishment of Punjab Higher Education Commission (PHEC) is also seen as a positive initiative by the chief minister Shahbaz Sharif as many of the initiatives taken by the PHEC in Punjab were not taken in the past. These include establishment of Community Colleges and Faculty Development Academy aimed at providing training to college teachers across the province. While there was a separate organization for the training of schoolteachers in Punjab—Quaid-e-Azam Academy for Educational Development (QAED)—formerly Directorate of Staff Development (DSD) there was none for the college teachers.

e-Learn Punjab and Open Data initiatives:

Another visible advantage the Punjab province has over other provinces is the growing data regime in the province. The e-Learn Punjab project has been facilitating and encouraging the use of technologies by providing digitized content, relevant supplementary resources, and online assessment tools for students and teachers.

Similarly, real-time and open data of public schools across Punjab is a unique initiative offering real-time school monitoring data to anyone, anytime from any part of the world. Another initiative is the making of schools data public in the form of school censuses. The online registration of matriculation and intermediate students by all the examination boards and online college admission facility across Punjab is another tech-related initiative facilitating and empowering students.