RAWALPINDI: After losing two National Assembly and five provincial assembly seats in Rawalpindi city in the 2013 general elections, the PML-N federal government has chosen to execute multibillion rupee development schemes in areas identified by the party’s election candidates in order to sway voters.

Observers have described the development as a build up to the next general elections, now less than two years away. They said development work would likely begin in the PML-N government’s last fiscal year before the polls.

A senior PML-N leader agreed with the reasoning, and said development schemes were sought for each constituency from PML-N leaders without any discrimination as to whether or not they were elected MNAs in the 2013 elections.

He said the Performa was distributed among sitting members last month, in which each PML-N member gave his or her priority for development schemes, such as health, water, road infrastructure or other civic issues.

He said party leaders had to submit the schemes to a committee led by Sheikh Aftab and retired Capt Mohammad Safdar. Party members were asked to survey their constituencies and send schemes preferred by their constituents.

In Rawalpindi city, the PML-N lost two key constituencies: NA-55, where Awami Muslim League (AML) President Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad defeated Malik Shakil Awan, and NA-56, where Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan defeated Hanif Abbasi.

However, rather than the sitting MNAs, the federal government sought development scheme proposals from Malik Shakil Awan and Hanif Abbasi. Mr Awan said the federal government would spend Rs200 million in each constituency for development work.

“We will soon submit development proposals to the committee led by Sheikh Aftab and retired Capt Safdar, so the people can see the city’s development during this tenure of the PML-N led federal government,” he said.

He said the party had the right to develop the city. “The federal government can spend money on the development of cities constituency-wise, and there is no harm in this,” he said.

PML-N MNA from NA-54, Malik Abrar, told Dawn that the federal government was committed to improving the standard of living of ordinary citizens, and would launch projects in this regard in the coming days.

He said funding for these projects would exceed Rs500 million in each constituency, proposals had been sought and work would begin soon.

He said the government wanted to improve health, water and sanitation and resolve the civil problems facing residents of the city and rural areas during its tenure.

However, AML’s Sheikh Rasheed said development works would not win elections for anybody because people wanted better economic policies that would provide employment, improved health facilities and education.

He said the government had failed to complete a 400-bed mother and child hospital in his constituency for the last eight years, and the Leh Nullah expressway – which was launched in 2007 – was also incomplete, but it had still sought a list of development works in NA-55 from the defeated candidate.

“The Rs60 million released for me by the National Assembly for development work has been available with the district coordination officer of Rawalpindi for two years but he has not spent it, on the directions of the Punjab government. The Punjab government directed not to use the funds for development in my constituency,” he claimed.

Sheikh Rasheed said he had no choice but to turn to the Supreme Court to stop the federal government from using public funds through PML-N leaders who were defeated in the 2013 elections.

Published in Dawn, September 28th, 2016

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