ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has started interviews of candidates for the slot of Azad Jammu and Kashmir prime minister in which they are being asked for their future strategy and views on environment, tourism and national and international issues.
However, uncertainty prevails as to who will be the next AJK premier as the list of probables continues to swell.
On the first day on Thursday, the prime minister interviewed five candidates — Sardar Tanveer Ilyas, Barrister Sultan Mehmood, Khawaja Farooq, Azhar Sadiq and Abdul Qayyum Niazi. Mr Niazi was not earlier in the run for the PM slot, but his name came to the fore suddenly.
Three to four candidates will be interviewed on Friday (today) and Mr Khan it is expected to announce the name of new AJK premier before Aug 5.
Five aspirants call on PM, three to four will meet today
A source said Prime Minister Khan expressed displeasure as he was being contacted by different quarters for “support and favour” for particular candidates, but he told the aspirants that he would take his own decision without any pressure.
“Yes, the prime minister has started interviews of candidates and now no one can be called himself as most favourite one,” Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry told Dawn. He said four to five candidates for the office of AJK premier met Mr Khan on Thursday and almost the same number of people would meet him on Friday.
“The prime minister is taking lengthy interviews of the candidates in which he is asking questions about environment, tourism, economy, border issues and their future plans,” he added.
Fawad Chaudhry said the spadework for the formation of AJK government had started after the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf won majority seats in the recent elections. He said PM Khan would also finalise the names of the president and speaker and deputy speaker of the AJK Legislative Assembly.
The source said that after the meeting with the prime minister, the body language of both Sardar Tanveer and Sultan Mehmood appeared to be “dull” which indicated that some other candidates were also being seriously considered.
Special technology zones
Prime Minister Khan called for paying equal attention towards setting up of special technology zones in Balochistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir, besides major cities that were already ahead of the curve in establishing such STZs. He observed that increased number of STZs with all needed ecosystem would go a long way in facilitating tech businesses to thrive in the country.
The prime minister stated this while presiding over a meeting held to review the progress made towards streamlining business processes, especially in priority sectors, including small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and establishment of STZs in the country.
PM Khan appreciated the progress made so far by different departments of the federal and provincial governments towards improving the ease of doing business along with steps, including easy and fast registration of companies and online approvals through a fast track system. He directed the relevant authorities to expedite work on the remaining identified steps in that regard.
The prime minister expressed satisfaction over the efforts being made to reform the tax system and directed that maximum facilitation of the business community be ensured.
The prime minister said the proposal for levying a fixed tax on goods at an affordable rate might also be considered in consultation with all stakeholders, besides introduction of international standards rating regime to ensure quality control.
He commended the Special Technology Zones Authority’s efforts to attract big tech companies like Huawei and Samsung along with top boot camps to start operations in Pakistan. It would not only offer lot of training opportunities to talented Pakistani IT professionals but also lend them rewarding employment opportunities, the prime minister maintained.
Ravi Urban City
Prime Minister Khan was apprised that Lahore’s upcoming Ravi Urban City is being designed under a modern forestation policy to address environmental hazards of the metropolitan.
The prime minister, who chaired a review meeting on Ravi Urban City and Lahore Central Business District, was told that the comprehensive policy would include protection of the existing forests and establishment of green areas, including public parks and botanical gardens. Bird sanctuaries and butterfly parks as per international standards and in consultation with experts will be another highlight of the policy.
The prime minister was apprised that a 24,000-kanal Jhoke Forest to be set up in Ravi City would be the first of its kind in the country which would be monitored by smart sensors. The project has been partnered with Huawei for technical support. A Knowledge Park on 150 acres of land will be set up in the vicinity.
It was highlighted that over 1,000 industries would be set up within the country’s first Renewable Industrial Zone over an area of 2,000 acres in Ravi Urban City.
The industrial zone will offer facilities like information technology parks, cold storage, landfill sites, low-pollution and green industry, green reserves and water treatment plants. In addition, a waste power plant will be installed in the project.
About Central Business District, the prime minister was informed that Rs13 billion revenue was expected from the auction of five plots on Aug 4 in the first phase. The second phase will also be held in near future.
The prime minister said both the projects would play a key role in resolving the problems of Lahore city and promote economic activity. He ordered formulation of a comprehensive strategy for unhindered progress on the projects.
The meeting was attended by Minister of State for Information Farrukh Habib, PM’s special assistant Shahbaz Gill, Naya Pakistan Housing Authority chairman retired Lt Gen Anwar Ali Haider and Lahore Development Authority vice chairman Sheikh Muhammad Imran. Finance Minister Shaukat Tareen, Punjab Housing Minister Mian Mahmood-ur-Rasheed, Punjab chief minister’s Adviser to Dr Salman Shah, Ravi Urban Development Authority CEO Imran Amin and senior officials participated in the meeting through video link.
Published in Dawn, July 30th, 2021