Punjab governance forum: Chief minister demands early general elections

Says democratic system not bad, but being badly handled.

Our Correspondent July 19, 2012


Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif said on Thursday that Pakistan needs free and fair and early general elections to strengthen democracy.

He said democracy in Pakistan was in peril because its leaders did were insincere. He said democracy was not bad, but had been badly handled. He said that people should vote to bring change.

The chief minister was addressing the Punjab Governance Forum, organised by the Institutional Reform Group (IRG), on governance issues at 90, The Mall, on Thursday.

Sharif said that his government had introduced a practice of getting third-party audits for all development projects. He said the system had been “buried in corruption” when he came to power.

He said the government could not stop every corrupt official, but it was working hard to improve accountability and transparency in the public sector.

The chief minister said the Bab-i-Pakistan project initiated by the previous government was an example of its extravagance and corruption. They had planned to import Rs900 million worth of white marble to build the foundations of the monument. He said he had rejected the costly marble plan and ordered the use of local marble costing Rs300 million.

Sharif defended the Danish Schools his government introduced, saying the schools would become important drivers of improved social mobility by giving poor children the chance to get a good education.

He said that they would cause a “paradigm shift”, as they would prevent poor children falling into the hands of militant groups. He said it was unfortunate that those who read the Kalma were killing their fellow Muslims in Pakistan.

He said criticism of the Danish Schools budget was unfair. He said that each cadet college spent about Rs500 million a year, and merit was not even the main criterion for admission to these colleges.

He said merit was the only criterion for Danish Schools and they would promote meritocracy.

He said the Punjab government was trying to “correct a faulty system”, to which the biggest hurdle was our “uneven society”. He said if the system were not corrected, the economy would break down further “like in African countries”. He said that the power shortage was killing the Punjab’s economy. He said the Punjab had been most affected by the shortage.

The chief minister said that the Punjab government welcomed aid from friendly countries, but would not do so at the cost of people who were targeted in drone strikes. He said he would continue to protest against drone strikes.

Sharif said the Punjab government had established the Punjab Skills Programme to promote skilled labour and craftsmanship. The programme gave young people employable skills, he said. He praised the Punjab Education Foundation, saying about 30,000 science teachers had been recruited on merit in the province.

IRG Chairman Ashan Iqbal, the Punjab Education Foundation chairman, the schools secretary and the Vehari district police officer also spoke at the forum.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 20th, 2012.