ISLAMABAD: Focusing on his development agenda — ostensibly aimed at wooing voters for the 2018 elections — rather than getting mired in a confrontation with the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf over the Panama Papers leak, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif headed to Kotli Sattiyaan on Monday to unveil a number of mega projects.
In stark contrast to the criticism levelled against his family and government by PTI chief Imran Khan just a day earlier, the PM mainly talked about roads, bridges, hospitals and schools for the people of this tehsil in Rawalpindi district.
However, he couldn’t resist a veiled reference and towards the end of his speech quipped: “I don’t believe in politics through sit-ins, destabilisation and lies. All my efforts are for the prosperity of the common man.”
The PM’s remarks were also far removed from the subject matter he spoke to the nation about during his televised address last Friday, when he lambasted the PTI chief and the establishment that had earlier conspired to unseat him in 1999.
Mass contact campaign launched after opposition rallies
For independent observers, however, the PM’s decision to launch a mass contact campaign was clearly motivated by mounting pressure from opposition parties over the issue of the Panama Papers leak.
But at a time when parties across the political spectrum were busy discussing a course of action over the proposed judicial commission, the prime minister didn’t even make a passing reference to the subject.
Instead, the PM offered the people of this tehsil near Murree a performance report of his government from the past three years.
“Weren’t people suffering from non-stop loadshedding up to 20 hours a day? Who waged a war against terrorism in the country, which was essential to economic progress in the country? What was the state of law and order in Karachi when I took over?”
Answering these rhetorical questions himself, the PM said Karachi was now back on track, while a number of power generation projects were being built and 2018 will see a “loadshedding-free Pakistan”. He also told locals about the economic benefits of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
Pandering to the needs of locals who were recently hit by flash floods, the PM also announced the payment of compensation and directed the Rawalpindi commissioner to complete the task within the next 24 hours.
Buoyed by the audience’s response, the PM declared, “Tell me if you need more roads, more expressways, or anything you want. I am also announcing the construction of a special hospital in Kotli Sattiyaan.” The crowd responded with boisterous cheers, and a few even shouted, “We love you, Mr prime minister.”
“I love you too,” a beaming prime minister replied.
ABID FAZIL ABBASI ADDS FROM MURREE: The prime minister announced mega development projects for Kotli Sattiyaan, including a Rawalpindi-Kotli Sattiyaan-Muzaffarabad expressway, a state-of-the-art hospital and the carpeting of various roads in this most backward and neglected tehsil of Rawalpindi District.
The PM also distributed compensation cheques to those affected by recent rains and land-sliding in the area. Those who were present were handed cheques by PM personally, while the rest were handed over to the assistant commissioners of the relevant towns.
The PM said that he had visited Kotli Sattiyaan after 28 years, and promised to keep tabs on the development projects launched there.
Federal Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Punjab Labour Minister Raja Ashfaq Sarwar and other local party leaders were present on this occasion.
Published in Dawn, April 26th, 2016