LAHORE: Punjab ministers will plan policies and draft legislation regarding their departments to empower public representatives and ensure good quality service to masses across the province – within a month. It has yet to be seen what the five ministers, who are without portfolios, will plan in the coming days.

Besides policymaking, government departments will be made apolitical. The decision, perhaps, stems from the controversy over the transfer of Pakpattan district police officer under ‘elite influence’ and political interference.

Punjab Information and Culture Minister Fayyazul Hassan Chohan briefed reporters about Punjab cabinet meeting decisions – beginning with lauding austerity measures taken by the chief minister secretariat - on Friday.

The cabinet decided to ban recruitments below BS-17 till the formulation of a recruitment policy that would ensure merit and repel political interference.

Meeting participants also discussed Prime Minister Imran Khan’s first 100-day agenda of change that calls for taking certain priority actions and initiatives to set the tone and direction of the PTI government.

“The 100-day programme spans six discrete areas – governance, federation, economy, agriculture and water, social services and national security – that would facilitate local government reforms, improve education and health services, mitigate water scarcity and creation of jobs for the unemployed youth in the province,” said an official.

The meeting participants also discussed the creation of south Punjab province, local government system, police reforms, healthcare delivery, provision of clean drinking water, joblessness and other issues. Senior minister Aleem Khan will coordinate with ministers and ensure that every department comes up with concrete proposals for legislation in the best interest of masses.

Mr Chohan said the cabinet decided that the spadework on the creation of south Punjab province must be completed during the first 100 days of the PTI government.

“The Punjab government will coordinate with the centre besides giving its input with regard to legal and administrative matters to ensure that the south Punjab demand be materialized,” he said.

About the local governments, Mr Chohan said their predecessor PML-N government installed an impotent local government system – a copy of dictator Ziaul Haq’s local bodies system – where elected representatives were neither empowered administratively nor financially. “The PTI government plans to study 2001, 2005 and KP’s local government systems and brings a system that empowers the public representatives financially and administratively to facilitate masses,” he said.

Side by side, the Punjab government has released Rs1.67 billion to the seven Solid Waste Management Companies (for the first quarter of financial year 2018-19) operating in Lahore, Gujranwala, Faisalabad, Sialkot, Rawalpindi, Multan and Bahawalpur.

Aleem Khan said the local government and community development department would launch cleanliness as well as anti-encroachment campaign in six big cities. He said officials concerned had been told that the “work on cleanliness and encroachment must be visible”.

Lauding the KP’s apolitical police force, the information minister said the Punjab government would ensure that political interference be eliminated from the working of the Punjab police. “The Punjab government will prepare draft legislation and bring in a bill in the Punjab Assembly to end political interference in the remaining 87 days,” he said.

Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid briefed the cabinet that radical steps would be taken to transform the health department that look after the health of people in real sense of the word. She said the Punjab government was also working to introduce a “Sehat Insaf Card” (Health Insaf Card) offering poor families free healthcare facilities up to Rs500,000 a year.

The cabinet discussed the provision of safe drinking water across the province to upgrade masses’ health and shun the burden of diseases.

Mr Chohan said appointments in BS-17 and above would be made by the Punjab Public Service Commission, while the lower scale appointments would be banned till a new recruitment policy be framed.

Industries Minister Mian Aslam Iqbal was asked to ensure quality training in technical institutions and empower youth to get jobs and earn decent livelihood. Small and medium enterprises will also be promoted.

About his own department, Mr Chohan said the government would bring a right to information bill to empower people to seek information from government office holders. He said the PML-N government did introduce such as law but it was never implemented for want of office, staff and other requirements.

He said the information ministry had plans to establish an art academy where youth would train as actors and singers.

The minister said the PTI would conduct forensic audit of mega transport projects in Punjab and revise system that would lessen the financial burden on government and give people a decent transport system. He said that no public welfare project would be stopped as it would tantamount to follow the mindset of the PML-N government.

Published in Dawn, September 1st, 2018