LAHORE: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday stressed the need for changing the “old mindset”, as he addressed the top government functionaries in Punjab during his daylong visit to Lahore.
Speaking a day after he ordered a massive reshuffle in the federal and provincial bureaucracy, replacing at least 134 officers, including the provincial chief secretary and the inspector general of police, Imran called for improving governance and law and order in Punjab.
“We have to change the old mindset. The old system can no longer work in Naya Pakistan,” Imran said, while presiding over a meeting attended by provincial bureaucrats and senior police officers. “Efforts should be made to bring improvement in the lives of the poor people,” he said.
The prime minister directed the bureaucracy to discharge their duties on merit and fulfil their responsibility of serving the masses. “A capable bureaucracy has an important role in the economic development of the country,” the prime minister said.
He underlined that there was a need for improving governance and law and order in the province. He said that the police department enjoyed the legal authority, but this power should only be used to serve the masses and bring improvement in the lives of the people.
On Friday, the government notified a massive reshuffle, including the appointment, promotion and transfer of 44 officers in Islamabad and 90 in Punjab. The decision was anxiously awaited as Imran had expressed his dissatisfaction over the administrative structure in the province earlier this week.
Addressing the officers in the Punjab capital, the prime minister highlighted that the appointments in bureaucracy and other posts had been made on merit and that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government had freed the officers from any political interference.
Strategy to curb smog
Later, addressing a news conference at the Punjab Chief Minister’s Secretariat, Prime Minister Imran announced that the government had decided to adopt a multipronged strategy to curb smog and improve air quality in Punjab.
Imran highlighted that around 70% of green cover of the provincial capital had been erased because of cutting of trees during the last 10 years. “Tree cover absorbs pollution particles and gives us clean environment. A merciless cutting of trees has caused great loss to the city’s environment,” he said.
He pointed out that burning of crop residue in fields by farmers in India and Pakistan and smoke from factories and brick kilns were all contributing to environmental pollution, adding that the biggest contributor of atmospheric pollutions, however, was vehicular smoke.
He highlighted that the government had taken various decisions to combat environmental pollution. “Currently, Pakistan is importing Euro 2 emission standard oil, which is 50-60% of the total national consumption,” the prime minister said.
“The government has decided to import a cleaner fuel and environment-friendly oil, which will meet the Euro 4 emission standard, and by the end of 2020, Pakistan will be shifted to the Euro 5 emission standard,” he added. “We believe it will have 90% impact on the quality of air.”
Imran indicated that the decisions were taken after deliberations in a meeting with his Special Assistant on Petroleum Nadeem Babar. He said that oil refineries would be given a period of three years to improve quality of their products.
“At present, refineries are producing low-quality fuel, having a lot of pollutants. If the oil refineries do not improve their product quality in the given time, the government will shut them down,” he warned.
He also said the government would shift the auto industry’s focus towards electric vehicles, telling the reporters that the government was also holding talks with auto manufacturers in this regard “because they have” certain reservations.
The prime minister announced that incentives would be offered next year to promote use of intra-city buses. “All buses which run across city will be either hybrid or electric to curb atmospheric pollution. We may also insist on use of CNG, like Delhi, where public transport runs on CNG.”
The prime minister also addressed a service-level agreement signing ceremony between the Punjab Land Record Authority (PLRA) and major commercial banks for quick release of agriculture loans.
He underlined that the future of the province was bright, but it required reforms in governance.
“Provision of loans to the small farmers and small and medium enterprises are a government priority. Both these sectors are the major sources of employment,” the prime minister said, adding that these sectors had a pivotal role in the government’s efforts for poverty alleviation.
Through this initiative, a farmer could take agriculture loan by visiting a bank and getting the land record verified without any hassle. Under this agreement, a digital link would be established between the central database of the land records and the banks, which would verify the status of the land.
Imran said that at present, it was almost impossible for small farmers to obtain loans. “Even the small and medium enterprises, which are the backbone of the economy as they create the most employment also face difficulties in obtaining loans,” he remarked.
“Data is being gathered for the government’s largest ‘Ehsas’ programme, which is aimed at revolutionising and easing out procedural difficulties, which the farmers face in obtaining credit from financial institutions,” he said.
Earlier, Prime Minister Imran arrived in Lahore on a daylong visit to review progress on developmental and welfare projects in the province. Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar also called on the prime minister and discussed overall situation in the province.
The prime minister received a briefing on the law and order situation in the province from the chief secretary and the inspector general of police. The prime minister appreciated the performance of the Punjab chief minister but stressed the need for more work to get good results.