LAHORE: Prime Minister Imran Khan chairs a meeting on Sunday.—PPI
LAHORE: Prime Minister Imran Khan chairs a meeting on Sunday.—PPI

LAHORE: Prime Minister Imran Khan in a one-on-one meeting with Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar here on Sunday directed him to ensure speedy justice to the grieving family in the Sahiwal killings case.

The prime minister, who came to Lahore on a day-long visit, expressed complete solidarity with the bereaved family and hinted at constituting a judicial commission to investigate the Jan 19 shooting if the family would demand, sources said.

Four people, including a teenage girl and her parents, were shot dead on the highway near Sahiwal allegedly by Counter-Terrorism Department personnel in what the CTD immediately claimed was an exchange of fire with terrorists on Jan 19.

During his Lahore visit, Mr Khan chaired back-to-back meetings on issues of governance, police reforms, security situation and development projects besides one-on-one meetings with Governor Chaudhry Sarwar and CM Buzdar at chief minister’s secretariat. Provincial ministers and bureaucracy attended the meetings.

Answering a question about a briefing on the Sahiwal case at one of the meetings, federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry told the media that the prime minister had expressed his complete solidarity with the bereaved family members and asked the chief minister to take all-out measures to dispense justice to the family.

He said considering the complaints being received from domestic consumers against inflated gas bills at citizens’ portal, the prime minister ordered an investigation. The PM was also quoted as saying that it was unjustified to put extra burden of gas prices on the masses. “The prime minister has directed federal minister for petroleum and natural resources Ghulam Sarwar Khan to launch an investigation to find out why inflated gas bills have been sent to the domestic consumers,” said Mr Chaudhry.

Minister told to look into inflated gas bills; another meeting on governance, police reforms today

Seventy per cent domestic consumers across the country used minimum up to 300mmf natural gas and the government had hiked the tariff for such consumers by 10 per cent only, while the major tariff rise was for the wealthy people using higher units of gas, he elaborated while briefing the media about the meetings.

The PM was briefed about the use of technology, investment and judicious use of human resources at the meetings which were held to discuss Punjab’s administrative and financial capacity as well as police reforms.

Also read: ToR for police reforms review body raise eyebrows

Following a briefing by economist Dr Salman Shah, measures to strengthen and promote agriculture, industry, energy, infrastructure and skilled human resources were also discussed at the meeting.

The sources said the prime minister discussed development plan for Punjab’s 50 cities and 36 districts and agreed to declare at least 15 cities in the province economic hub.

The prime minister granted approval to launch Punjab Spatial Strategy, the sources said, adding that the federal government would extend its complete support to it. They said the spatial planning approach was used to assess and prioritise economic, social and environmental objectives besides offering a framework for rationalising and sequencing public investments.

Responding to a question about governance and police reforms, the information minister said that major administrative reforms would be introduced in the governance and police systems in Punjab. He said a follow-up meeting on the subjects had been called at PM Office on Monday (today) and added that further details would be shared later. “It was PTI’s promise to the people of Pakistan that it will bring changes and reform age-old governance and police systems,” he remarked.

Governor Sarwar in a separate one-on-one meeting with PM Khan briefed him about political issues, development projects in Punjab and the need to establish a water authority in the province. Mr Khan gave his nod for the establishment of an authority to ensure provision of clean drinking water to the people, the sources said.

They said the prime minister also pledged to expedite work on the legislation to form the water authority.

Mr Khan directed a media strategy committee to publicise and highlight development projects being initiated by the Punjab government besides promoting the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf-led government in an effective manner in the media. He asked the Punjab government to strengthen its relations with the media.

The federal information minister said the media strategy committee acknowledged the financial crisis being faced by journalists and media workers. He said the prime minister directed the committee to hold a “meeting with the owners of media organisations to understand the reality” behind the crisis. Mr Khan also ordered revival of the PTI’s social media wing, he added.

With regard to the reservations of a ruling coalition partner with the PTI, the information minister said the Chaudhrys of Gujrat were still PTI’s allies and there was nothing serious when certain differences surfaced. “We need to put differences on the backburner and work hand-in-hand in the best interest of the country,” he said.

The minister also announced the launch of ‘health card’ on Monday, explaining that the card holders would be entitled to get annual medical treatment up to Rs0.9 million.

He said the meetings held to review Punjab ministers’ performance was “an ongoing strategy to keep them on their toes”.

The PM also chaired a meeting of task force on housing and was briefed about progress in the Naya Pakistan Housing Programme.

Earlier upon his arrival in Lahore, the affectees of Eden Housing society gathered outside Mr Khan’s private residence in Zaman Park, blocked the Canal Road and chanted slogans demanding relief.

Fate of opposition party leaders About leaders of two major opposition parties, Mr Chaudhry said the only suspense left about their future was whether Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari would spend the last days of their life in jail or in London.

It should be a matter of shame for both the leaders that they ruled the country several times but were looking for options to get medical treatment abroad, the minister said.

“Common people do think that as soon as a powerful or wealthy person goes to jail, he becomes sick and lands in a hospital,” Mr Chaudhry said, while expressing the hope that National Accountability Bureau and courts would ensure all prisoners met the same fate.

Published in Dawn, February 4th, 2019