The Punjab government has constituted a cell comprising parliamentarians from Lahore for providing flood relief and financial assistance in southern Punjab.
Criticising the move, sources said that the cell was formed at the expense of 67 lawmakers from the seven worst-affected districts.
Two officers of the chief minister’s secretariat will also serve in the cell.
Bypassed lawmakers include 48 provincial assembly legislators and 19 National Assembly members. Twenty of them belong to Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N), which heads the ruling coalition in the province. Others belong to Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), PML-Quaid and PML-Functional.
The four lawmakers who belong to Lahore and two officers posted at the chief minister’s secretariat are less informed about the demography and real problems of locals, a number of parliamentarians told The Express Tribune.
Bhakar, Muzaffargarh, Layyah, Rajanpur, Dera Ghazi Khan, Rahim Yar Khan and Mianwali were hit by devastating floods. The government has pledged to provide Rs100,000 to every surviving family after completion of a damage assessment survey.
According to a notification issued by the chief minister’s secretariat, a Flood Relief and Monitoring Cell has been constituted.
MNA Afzal Khokar, MPA Hafiz Mian Muhammad Noman, Dr Saeed Elahi and Khwaja Salman Rafiq have been named its members. They will be assisted by two deputy secretaries posted in the chief minister’s secretariat.
A parliamentarian of PML-N from south Punjab, requesting anonymity, criticised the move and said that it meant that the party does not trust its own parliamentarians from flood-hit districts. He said that the government should take them on board to solve real problems for transparent distribution of funds.
Muhammad Mohsin Khan Laghari, a PML-Q legislator from Muzaffargarh district, termed the formation of cell unjust and said that it was a ruse to accommodate blue-eyed parliamentarians. The government should have formed an impartial cell, rising above party loyalties. He claimed that parliamentarians appointed to the cell had no knowledge about flood-affected areas. A seasoned PPP parliamentarian from Multan Syed Nazim Hussain Shah said that the government should have taken local lawmakers with previous experience to handle such calamities on board. “Wrong decisions show the government’s failure.” Shah said that without local parliamentarians’ participation, the cell would be “just a drama”.
Senator Pervaiz Rasheed, spokesperson for the Punjab government, said that the cell had been formed only to coordinate with local parliamentarians in providing relief and financial assistance. He said local lawmakers would head the registration centres and supervise financial aid centres to ensure fair and transparent distribution of funds. If any PML-N parliamentarians of PML-N had reservations over the cell’s formation, they should approach the party head.
Dr Touqeer Hussain Shah, the secretary to the chief minister, said that 20 registration cells had been set up in seven districts. Local parliamentarians, he said, would supervise these cells to ensure proper distribution of relief. Members of the cell, he said, would work as focal persons between the chief minister and the parliamentarians in flood-hit districts.
He said the four parliamentarians in question had spent approximately a month on an average in flood-hit areas, supervising flood relief activity. They are well-informed about problems of the people in these areas, he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 16th, 2010.