LAHORE: The Punjab cabinet in its seventh sitting on Friday approved senior minister Aleem Khan’s resignation and also okayed giving additional charge of senior minister local government department to law minister Basharat Raja.

A notification in this regard is expected on Saturday (today).

The cabinet also approved giving environment portfolio to PML-Q’s Bao Rizwan who was sworn in at the Governor House on Friday.

It granted administrative and financial autonomy to the Institute of Public Health besides constituting its administrative committee.

The cabinet also approved nominations of MPAs and technical experts on the governing bodies of development authorities in Rawalpindi, Multan, Sargodha, Faisalabad, Bahawalpur as well as nominations of environmentalists, horticulture experts, representatives of chambers of commerce and technical experts in the Parks and Horticulture Authorities in Lahore, Multan, Sargodha and Gujranwala.

Issues of water pricing and food quality discussed at cabinet meeting

The cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Usman Buzdar discussed the 40-point agenda. It revised the cabinet committee on energy notification (finalised in the second Sept 8 cabinet meeting) and included minister for energy as committee chairman as well as additional chief secretary (energy) as member of the cabinet committee. Interestingly, since September last year, the energy minister was not even part of the cabinet committee and senior minister was chairing it. One gets the feeling that wisdom has prevailed after the resignation of the senior minister.

The cabinet approved the change of nomenclature of Fort Munro Development Authority as Koh-e-Suleman Development Authority, Dera Ghazi Khan with its enhancement of jurisdiction to Tehsil Kohe-Suleman, tribal area. It had been promised by CM Buzdar during his visit to D.G. Khan.

The cabinet approved establishment of new BMP post at “SAAKAR” in tribal area, D.G. Khan for security of PAEC Salaary camp, OGDCL Dhodak and Dewan Petroleum. The committee also approved funds to the tune of around Rs28 million for construction of the post.

The cabinet was briefed on the Prime Minister’s Naya Pakistan Housing Programme and informed that 52 acres of land had been identified in Renala Khurd, 50 acre in Lodhran and 50 acre for three-marla houses in Chishtian. The gathering granted approval for the construction of houses and apartments.

For the construction of six-lane bypass from Kala Shah Kaku by the NHA, the Punjab cabinet approved giving 25 acre falling on Darghai Gill reserve forest of the Punjab Forest Department free of cost. It stressed that the land should not be used for the construction of concrete building but grant the right of way to people.

The cabinet approved a policy regarding modernising the wheat marketing system in Punjab under a World Bank-assisted SMART programme. The meeting discussed that the food department was procuring three to four million tons of wheat for farmers annually.

“The accumulated effect of subsidy is Rs180 billion for wheat procurement, while the overall liability for Punjab stands around Rs375 billion.”

The meeting also stressed that the private sector should play its role in wheat markets and the food department would confine itself to strategic stock of two million tons for emergency operation.

The cabinet also discussed a human rights case regarding pricing mechanism and management of the usage of water. Meeting was told that the Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan had organised a workshop on pricing mechanism and management of usage of water and worked out 38 recommendations. The chief minister said the Supreme Court had sent the recommendations to the Punjab government for consideration and stressed the need for collective wisdom to finalise workable recommendations.

The Punjab cabinet also gave its nod to the Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) Bill 2019 which aims at providing the parties an opportunity to resolve their cases after the matter has gone to the court.

The cabinet took up Amendment in Petroleum (Exploration and Production) Policy, 2012, and informed the ACS Energy about government policy for presentation in the Council of Common Interest (CCI) meeting. Since Prime Minister Imran Khan constituted a committee to look into the issues of formulation of standards of food items in the previous CCI meeting, the Punjab government had discussed the subject and resolved to state that food had always been a jurisdiction of the provinces. The Punjab government had promulgated the Punjab Pure Food Ordinance way back in 1960 to deal with the matter of food. The ordinance was later repealed and replaced by the Punjab Food Authority Act, 2011 and after 18th Amendment, the subject of food was completely devolved to the provinces.

“The federal government is empowered to regulate standard of quality of food items meant to be exported,” the Punjab cabinet agreed.

It reportedly deferred an agenda that called the senior minister for local government to oversee framing of new local government system in the absence of the senior minister who is in NAB custody. The cabinet expressed its hope that Aleem Khan would come out clean in a case of having offshore companies and income beyond means.

Published in Dawn, February 9th, 2019