Pervaiz pledges to uproot corruption

Published November 29, 2002

LAHORE, Nov 28: Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, the Punjab president of the PML-Q, takes over as chief minister of the country’s biggest province on Friday with the pledge that he will uproot corruption and the culture of sycophancy.

In an interview with Dawn on Thursday, he said his rule would mark the advent of a new era as all important decisions would be taken through a consultative process in which the advice of technocrats would be given importance.

Equal development funds would be given to all areas of the province, dispensing with the unenviable past tradition of spending funds on posh areas of some selected cities, the leader from Gujrat said.

The election of the chief minister will be held on Friday morning while the oath-taking ceremony is scheduled for the afternoon.

The results of the Wednesday speaker and deputy speaker elections and the turnout at the parliamentary party meeting at his Gulberg residence on Thursday afternoon leave no doubt that Pervaiz will defeat his opponent — PPP’s Qasim Zia — with a big margin.

Pervaiz is also being supported by the National Alliance, the PML (Junejo) and the PML (Jinnah). Over three dozen independents have already joined the PML-Q. There are also indications that some PPP dissidents will also vote for Pervaiz.

Pervaiz Elahi brings with him a treasure of experience. He has been working as chairman of the district council, Gujrat, minister for local government, leader of the opposition in the Punjab Assembly and then the speaker of the same house. After the 1985 partyless elections, he had set up a group against the then chief minister Mian Nawaz Sharif on account of differences on various issues. The initiative led to permanent distrust between the Chaudhris and the Sharifs, although they have been working together till the ouster of the PML-N government in October 1999.

In 1993-96, Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi worked as acting opposition leader in the absence of Mian Shahbaz Sharif, who had gone to London for backache treatment. During this period, Mian Nawaz Sharif promised that if the party won the next elections, Pervaiz would be made the Punjab chief minister.

However, the situation changed when the PML-N swept the 1997 elections. Mian Nawaz Sharif became the prime minister and Mian Shahbaz Sharif was nominated the chief executive of the Punjab. Though it was better pill for Pervaiz to swallow, he himself proposed the name of Mian Shahbaz Sharif for the top provincial post to erase the impression that the Chaudhris were unhappy with the decision.

However, Pervaiz Elahi did not like to become a member of the Shahbaz Sharif cabinet. He was elected speaker of the Punjab Assembly, an office which enriched his experience as a parliamentarian.

During the three-year military rule, Pervaiz Elahi focused his attention on improving his position in the Punjab. While other leaders sat at home waiting for good days, Pervaiz visited every nook and corner of the province to establish personal contacts with influential leaders.

He also launched a mass contact campaign when other parties had doubts that Gen Musharraf would hold elections according to his commitment to the Supreme Court. Bringing the party to victory stand was a gigantic task at a time when the PML was divided and the PPP was regaining ground in the Punjab.

Replying to a question, Pervaiz said that poverty alleviation, improvement of the law and order and health and education sectors would be given priority.

Efforts, he said, would also be made to restore flat rates for power-operated tubewells and bring down prices of agricultural inputs. Problems of rural areas would be addressed and more jobs opportunities created there to arrest the trend of migration to cities.

He said he would also ensure a better working relationship between the legislators and district governments.

Pervaiz Elahi said he was aware of the sense of deprivation among the people of the southern Punjab. To remove this, he said, he planned to set up an industrial estate there as a result of which many people would get employment.

He said he would also ensure that people were not implicated in false cases.

Asked about the justification of accepting people from other parties to the PML-Q when he already enjoyed majority’s support, Pervaiz said he could not disallow those who wanted to join his party. He argued that the more people would be on his side, the more stable would be the system.

He did not give an idea about the number of ministers he would have in his cabinet. “Their number would be reasonable”.

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