MULTAN: Focused on thwarting allegations of corruption in the Panamagate case, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif inaugurated the metro bus project here on Tuesday, saying that those who had promised to build a “naya Pakistan” could not even provide their own province an efficient transport system.

“Where is naya Pakistan? Those who want to see it should come to Multan. We are not here to hold sit-ins or waste people’s time by halting progress,” he said.

Without mentioning the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, PM Sharif said the politicians behind the smear campaign against him would be exposed for who they were. “Their wrongdoings will be exposed...while wagging fingers at others they have been unable to do anything practical for the people in their province.”

The inaugural ceremony of the bus project was attended by Punjab Governor Rafique Rajwana, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and several politicians, including Javed Hashmi.

Come to Multan if you want to see ‘naya Pakistan’, PM Sharif’s retort to detractors

In his speech, CM Sharif lashed out at the politicians demanding accountability in the Panama Papers case.

“The Supreme Court is hearing the case and only Allah and the court know what the ruling will be. Those who have plundered the national exchequer in the past are now trying to hide their misdeeds in the dust raised by this case...the nation will not allow it,” he said.

“Nawaz Sharif had never committed corruption, either as a businessman or as prime minister,” he claimed. “He is my elder brother and we know each other well...I will be responsible if any corruption charges against him are proved.”

The chief minister said there were several past rulings of the Supreme Court and high courts which had uncovered corruption of billions of rupees.

Giving examples of such rulings, he mentioned the National Logistics Cell and Nandipur scams and said that $60 million was kept in Swiss banks and loans worth billions of rupees had been waived, and then there were examples of rampant corruption in the rental power projects and Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority cases. “Ironically, the same people are now talking loudly about accountability.”

Had these political leaders not wasted the nation’s time over sit-ins, development projects like the metro bus would have been completed long ago, the CM said.

Lauding the team behind the construction of the Multan metro bus project, the prime minister said that despite hurdles they had managed to complete the project in the least time possible and announced that the second phase of the project would start soon.

The 18.5km-long metro bus project in Multan was completed at a cost of Rs28.88 billion. Its fare will be kept at Rs20 — the same as for the metro bus rides in Lahore and Rawalpindi-Islamabad.

The revenue generated by metro bus projects was insignificant, compared to the running cost, the PM said. However, he added, the government would bear the deficit.

Highlighting other road infrastructure projects, the PM said: “Faisalabad will be linked to Multan through the motorway while the contract for the Sukkur-Hyderabad motorway section would be awarded soon...The Hyderabad-Karachi section is almost complete.”

A network of roads was being built in Balochistan along with economic zones and power generation projects, he added. “Balochistan was ignored in the past, but these projects will bring it on a par with other provinces in terms of development.”

PM Sharif said a network of roads, including motorways and expressways, was being constructed from Khunjerab to Gwadar.

“Pakistan is on the road to progress. Loadshedding will end next year as 10,000MW will be added to the system,” he said, adding that the federal government had acquired land for Diamer-Bhasha dam at a cost of Rs110bn to generate 4,000MW electricity and store water for irrigation purposes.

A national health insurance scheme was on the cards and new hospitals were being built, he said.

CM Sharif said that during a recent visit to China, the Chinese had agreed to launch circular rail projects in Quetta and Karachi, besides launching a metro bus project for Peshawar.

“How will [opposition parties] now criticise the metro bus projects of Punjab and how will it be possible for them to claim that there will be no corruption in the projects they will now oversee,” he said.

The prime minister said that only those politicians who serve the people would survive politics, while announcing metro bus projects at the divisional level in Punjab.

Published in Dawn January 25th, 2017