KARACHI: Starting his party’s election campaign from Karachi on Monday, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz president Shahbaz Sharif sought the support of the business community, vowing to turn the metropolis into a city like Paris by announcing a special package for its development if voted to power again.
He expressed these views during his interaction with business and industry leaders at the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) office, with the media at the Quaid-i-Azam mausoleum and with PML-N leaders in different constituencies including NA-249 from where he is contesting the election for the first time.
The PML-N president unfolded his socio-economic agenda at the FPCCI focusing on four major issues confronting Karachi after hearing complaints related to water crisis, poor infrastructure, mass public transport system, solid waste management and high cost of doing business.
Mr Sharif said the country was facing two serious issues — terrorism and prolonged power outages — when his party was voted to power in 2013. He said the federal and Punjab governments made massive investment from their resources in establishment of new power plants instead of waiting for the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, International Monetary Fund or other donors to support the projects.
Promises special package for port city, bold decision on loss-making state enterprises
He said that if another opportunity was given to his party, the federal government would make special allocation for Karachi’s development.
Mr Sharif claimed that his party didn’t believe in mud-slinging or blame game. However, he said, all the civil and military governments had neglected Karachi in the past. Karachi’s water crisis could be solved within two to three years and the solid waste management issue could be handled within six months, he added.
The PML-N president said Karachi deserved all modern facilities “even prior to Lahore”. He said the Metro bus service and Orange Line train should have come to Karachi first. If given another opportunity to serve the people, the PML-N would introduce the mass transport system in the metropolis, he claimed.
About investment, he said a bold decision would have to be taken regarding the state enterprises which were incurring huge losses without giving much production. He added that if issues related to water, power and law and order were tackled effectively, investors would themselves avail the opportunity of making profits. He claimed that one-window service would be introduced through legislation to ensure ease of doing business.
Regarding water crisis, the PML-N president said Pakistan was at disadvantage position against India that held higher ground. He said that Kalabagh dam was feasible but the PML-N would not go for it at the cost of national unity. In this scenario, he added, the most viable and suitable solution was Bhasha dam. Work on the project should be initiated without wasting further time, he said, adding that the PML-N government had invested Rs100 billion in the project by purchasing land for the dam. The Bhasha dam, he said, would not only produce 4,000MW power but millions of gallons of water could be stored. It could be completed up to 70 to 80 per cent within the next five years, he maintained.
He said steps would be taken to impart technology-based education to take advantage of the youth comprising 60 per cent of Pakistan population.
Visit to Quaid's mausoleum
After offering fateha and recording his impressions in the visitors’ book at the Quaid’s mausoleum, the PML-N president claimed he would not rest until Pakistan was turned into a welfare state after getting victory in the coming elections.
Talking to the media at the mausoleum, Mr Sharif said Pakistan would be turned into a developed country as per vision of the Quaid. He said he started PML-N’s 2018 election campaign from the city of Quaid this day. He recalled that in 1997 when he was inducted as the chief minister of Punjab for the first time he pledged to make Lahore into a Paris-like city which was not taken seriously then, but this was a reality at present. He then added: “I am making commitment to make Karachi into a beautiful city of South Asia.”
The PML-N president also met local PML-N leaders and prominent citizens at a local hotel, followed by a visit to his constituency NA-249 comprising areas of Baldia Town where he addressed corner meetings.
Addressing his election meeting in Football Ground of Baldia Town, Mr Sharif vowed to set up 500-bed hospital, a technical training centre besides introducing Metro Bus and Orange Train service in the town.
PML-N’s Sindh chapter president Shah Mohammad Shah, general secretary Saleem Zia, former Punjab education minister Rana Mashood and others were also present on the occasion.
Mr Sharif said he had chosen Baldia Town to contest the election so that his opponents should not be mistaken. He said Karachi had not been developed in the past, because billions of rupees allocated for the city were transferred to Dubai and other countries. He said the citizens had been left to suffer, face hardships as they had been deprived of basic facilities for the past two to three decades.
He said Karachi — the gateway of Pakistan — was ruined and he could not control his emotions seeing the miserable condition of the metropolis.
He said PML-N Quaid and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had allocated Rs19 billion for the Green Line Metro yet this project was not completed. He said he would not rest until every rupee looted from the city was not reimbursed. He said he would leave no stone unturned while working for the betterment of Karachi.
He also visited some localities in other constituencies from where PML-N candidates would contest election.
Earlier, former finance minister Miftah Ismail gave lunch in his honour which was attended by Arif Habib, Haji Jan Mohammad, Tariq Abdullah and Ali Yusuf among others. On the occasion, the PML-N president highlighted his party’s economic agenda and reiterated his determination that business-friendly policies would be adopted and measures would be taken to promote investment after coming to power.
Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2018