Not a single mega public project has been completed in the garrison city of Rawalpindi in the last four years.
The city, which has more than two million inhabitants, is a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) stronghold and is the country’s fourth largest city. Owing to the seeming non-interest of Punjab government in the city’s matters, citizen groups have made repeated demands for the restoration of the local government system, which, in their view, did a better job.
There are six National Assembly members (MNA) and 14 Punjab Assembly members (MPA) elected from Rawalpindi district. The annual grant for each MPA is Rs29 million, while MNAs get Rs22 million each. The total funds available with these representatives comes out to about Rs538 million.
However, according to the data from the previous financial year, the civic agencies in Rawalpindi utilised less than 40 per cent of available development funds.
Khurran Aftab, a resident of Satellite Town, told The Express Tribune, “Not a single project of public importance had been completed since the local government system was abolished.”
In his opinion, projects such as the construction of Leh Expressway, Tuberculosis Hospital, Judicial Complex, the widening of Murree Road, construction of a boys college and parking plazas are “glaring” examples of the Punjab government’s negligence.
A project for replacement of old pipelines and another for installation of a sewage treatment plant are also up in the air.
“Even the renovation of the city’s link roads has not been completed in many areas,” another resident of the area lamented.
Public representatives and executing agencies keep shifting the blame on each other. To avoid public criticism, politicos present numerous excuses for the delay in the completion of various ongoing development schemes. They claim that the provincial government released Rs4.680 billion during the current financial year, of which Rs2.88 billion (about 60 per cent) remained unutilised due to the laxity of contractors.
However, Government Contractors Association Rawalpindi Chairman Chaudhry Abdul Hafeez said, “Projects were delayed because the contractors were not paid their arrears on time.”
According to official figures released by District Coordination Officer (DCO) Saqib Zafar, a total of 1,819 schemes were initiated in 2010-11, out of which 695 were completed, while the rest remain unfinished. The estimated cost of the projects notified by the MNAs and MPAs was Rs17.080 billion.
MNA Hanif Abbasi claimed that “record development work” has been completed during the last three years in Rawalpindi, especially in NA-56, his constituency. Projects include the construction of water filtration plants, tube wells, construction of new blocks in Hashmat Ali College and other educational institutions.
MNA Malik Shakeel Awan said that there was a long list of development projects that were completed during the PML-N tenure.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 28th, 2011.
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