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LAHORE: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government’s flagship programme Punjab Aab-e-Pak Authority to provide clean drinking water to people across the province has hit a snag as the authority’s bill passed by the Punjab Assembly about a month ago is yet to be sent to the governor for his assent.

The bill has ingrained governor’s role as its (authority’s) patron-in-chief as was approved by the Punjab cabinet following a nod by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The opposition had made hue and cry over the governor’s role in an authority created by the Punjab government, saying it is tantamount to encroaching upon the provincial government powers. The Punjab Aab-e-Pak Authority bill 2019 was, however, passed by the Punjab Assembly with majority votes on March 14. It will replace the previous government’s multi-billion-rupee Saaf Pani project that could not take off because of squabbling and political intervention from the ruling family.

Delay in moving bill to governor smacks of squabbling

Criticising the governor’s role in the authority during a debate in the assembly, PML-N MPA Azma Bukhari had said the legislation seemed person-specific and called for nomination of an elected member from the house to head the authority. She had also announced challenging the bill in the Lahore High Court.

PML-N’s Samiullah Khan had said Chaudhry Sarwar was earlier PML-N government’s governor and wanted to work on water filtration plants, alleging that one of his close aides was in the water filtration plant business. He alleged that Mr Sarwar had even asked former chief minister Shahbaz Sharif to launch the project but Mr Sharif did not agree and that led to his parting of ways with the party.

“I fear some mega scandal in the authority at the end of the day,” Mr Khan had said.

It is learnt that the Governor House secretariat has several times contacted the Punjab Assembly secretariat to get the bill for final assent by the governor but there has been no response.

This reporter sent messages and tried to contact officials of the PML-Q or the Punjab Assembly secretary to have their point of view but to no avail.

Sources say Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi had differences with Governor Chaudhry Sarwar and was not allowing the secretariat to forward the bill to the Governor House. They allege that Mr Elahi was not happy with the PTI government for not appointing his son Moonis Elahi as federal minister despite assurances.

They say a video was ‘leaked’ a few months ago wherein Mr Elahi and PML-Q federal minister Tariq Bashir Cheema in a meeting with PTI’s former general secretary Jahangir Khan Tareen (at former’s residence) were complaining against Chaudhry Sarwar and demanding that “Mr Sarwar should be controlled”.

The PTI leaders had brushed aside the video contents saying “there is nothing serious” and asserted that the PML-Q was PTI’s trusted coalition partner.

Sources say the delay in forwarding the bill, duly passed by the Punjab Assembly, is in the knowledge of the prime minister. Amid the impasse, sources say, the Governor House might approach the law ministry besides looking for other legal options to get the bill for the governor’s assent and create the authority.

Published in Dawn, April 14th, 2019