ISLAMABAD: The federal government on Friday drew up a comprehensive development plan for the next two years in the first palpable sign that the ruling party is looking ahead at the 2018 general elections.
The 22-month development plan, which encompasses energy and infrastructural development projects, was finalised in a meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the resort town of Murree. According to a statement issued by the PM’s Office, the meeting continued for seven hours.
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“The prime minister will visit various parts of the country in the next month to review the ongoing development projects. He will oversee the development projects for their timely completion,” said the statement, adding that ‘appropriate’ persons have also been selected for various responsibilities.
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Water and Power Minister Khawaja Asif, Railways Minister Saad Rafique, PM’s Adviser on Political Affairs Asif Kirmani, Maryam Nawaz and senior officials of federal and Punjab government attended the meeting.
Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who hails from Murree, was unavailable for comment. However, another senior PML-N leader said on the condition of anonymity that the development projects would start from the resort town.
“Punjab’s Labour Minister Raja Ashfaq Sarwar has been tasked to supervise the related projects which include construction, broadening and repairing of roads, development of tourist spots in Murree and its adjoining belt and inauguration of water schemes in the rural areas,” he said.
Another lawmaker from the PML-N’s Punjab chapter said the development projects will start from Punjab and would be respectively expanded to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Sindh. Some of these projects are already under way and work on them will be sped up.
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These include Hazara Expressway that is to link Islamabad and Abbottabad via Havelian, Karachi-Lahore Motorway, Hyderabad-Sukkur Motorway and a host of other projects being executed under the China- Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in different parts across Pakistan, he added.
“The general elections are two years away and we want to go about it in a big way,” he said, while referring to the development schemes.
It is learned that the finance ministry has been instructed to allocate separate funds for the development plan, the details of which would be chalked out in the coming weeks.
The ruling PML-N has drawn opposition anger for focusing on roads and motorways instead of investing on public health, education, employment and rule of law. PTI chief Imran Khan has repeatedly dubbed N-League a “party of contractors and patwaris.”
However, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah defended the developmental plans.
“It is not about elections. We pursue developmental and welfare plans so aggressively and proactively as if we are in elections throughout the year. Our landslide victory in AJK [Azad Jammu and Kashmir] has vindicated our stance and policies in favour of the public,” he said.
Sanaullah advised ‘Imran Khan and his cronies’ to wait till after 2018 instead of seeking shortcuts and waiting for ‘umpire’s’ finger to go up. “It will never happen,” he said.
According to some reports, the meeting also decided to review developmental projects on a monthly basis and to expand the federal cabinet.
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It was decided that the prime minister will be briefed on the power projects and energy situation on a daily basis. Participants also reviewed the government performance in the last three years as well as progress in different development projects.
According to the plan, the premier will inaugurate development projects throughout the country and announce new motorways, hospitals and health related plans. It includes empowering local government institutions and overhauling the power transmission lines.
The PM will also review Pakistan International Airlines’ premier flights and airplanes.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 30th, 2016.
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