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LAHORE: The Punjab government has expanded the agenda of its maiden cabinet meeting in Bahawalpur within 24 hours of its initial plan but it still seems to lack anything concrete for the people of south Punjab.

As the cabinet meeting has been scheduled to be held at Islamia University’s Old Campus conference hall on Saturday (today), the Punjab government has revised its 12-point agenda and included eight more items.

The fresh agenda items include implementation of user charges in tertiary care hospitals across the province and subsidy on export of sugar.

People had pinned hopes on the visit of Chief Minister Usman Buzdar because he belongs to south Punjab and the PTI government has long been committing that the deprivation of south Punjab people will be mitigated. The sixth Punjab cabinet’s 20-point agenda neither has discussion about the creation of south Punjab province, nor is there anything about its secretariat. There is not even any specific development agenda.

Chief Minister’s spokesman Dr Shahbaz Gill, however, believes that the cabinet meeting in Bahawalpur has a symbolic value. It will show that the government wants to hear the problems of the people of south Punjab which had been denied its due right of Rs265 billion development funds during the past seven years.

CM suspends jail staff soon after arrival

Dr Gill said, “We want to tell people that the PTI government represents whole Punjab and the common man is our priority.”

He said the PTI government would also hold cabinet meetings in other divisional headquarters to show that all parts of the province are equally important. “The PTI government does not believe in Takht-i-Lahore or monarchism,” he asserted.

The cabinet will discuss relaxation of rule 28 of Punjab Procurement Rules 2014 under section 20 of General Clauses Act, 1956, to implement the ADP scheme for the “Purchase of ventilators and ICU Beds with Basic ICU Equipment (Phase-I). Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Saqib Nisar had asked the specialized healthcare department to procure 279 ventilators for the public sector hospitals and the health department officials had committed to do the needful within four months.

The cabinet is expected to take decision for the regularisation of contract appointment of assistant professors of different specialties at the newly-established medical colleges.

On two agenda items of the social welfare department, the cabinet will discuss and decide about the relaxation of ban for implementation of three per cent quota for the recruitment of disabled persons. It will also review a request for relaxation of ban on recruitment of posts in non-development schemes.

The cabinet will consider approving funds that lapsed during financial year 2017-18 in respect of the Rawalpindi Waste Management Company (RWMC).

On the school education department request, the cabinet is expected to discuss and approve demand for funds for the Chamalang Balochistan Education Programme (CBEP) from Nov and Dec 2017 to April 2018, during the current financial year 2018-19.

Already on the cabinet agenda, the meeting will discuss and approve draft Punjab Water Policy and formulation of provincial labour deletion policy.

Meanwhile, the chief minister reached Bahawalpur while six provincial ministers left for south Punjab by train to attend the cabinet meeting. Administrative secretaries had already reached the Bahawalpur division to prepare for the cabinet meeting as well as other meetings to be chaired by the chief minister.

Punjab ministers Mian Mehmood-ur-Rasheed, Dr Yasmin Rashid, Dr Murad Raas, Taimur Bhatti, Raja Arshad and adviser Akram Chaudhry left for Bahawalpur by train.

Speaking to media persons at the Lahore Railway Station, the ministers said it was a unique step of the PTI government to hold cabinet meeting in south Punjab to acknowledge its importance.

Mr Rasheed said the cabinet meeting in Bahawalpur would help mitigate the sense of deprivation among the people of south Punjab.

Of the 36-member cabinet as well as 10 advisers and special assistants, the five ministers and an adviser said that they had purchased tickets from their own pockets to follow government’s policy of austerity. “This shows a changed culture in which resources are not utilised for personal benefit but spent on the welfare of the masses,” Dr Raas said.

The chief minister, says a handout, made a surprise visit to the Borstal Institute of Juvenile Jail and suspended the staff over poor arrangements. He also visited the Bahawal Victoria Hospital and the model bazaar recently affected by a fire. He assured the affected traders that they would be compensated.

Our Bahawalpur correspondent adds people expressed their concern over ignoring the burning issue of creation of south Punjab province in the agenda. The only local item is regarding the constitution of a search committee for the selection/appointment of the vice chancellor of the Cholistan University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences (UVAS). The UVAS is expected to be functional next year.

The circuit house where the chief minister and ministers will be staying, is being guarded by the local police and other LEAs.

The leaders of the Tehreek-i-Bhalai Suba Bahawalpur and the Jamaat-i-Islami at a joint meeting decided to protest on CM’s arrival to demand restoration of Bahawalpur province.

Published in Dawn, December 29th, 2018