LAHORE  -  The Punjab cabinet which met here Friday with Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar in the chair approved drastic reforms to be introduced in police, local bodies, health and other departments, besides establishment of a working group to work out modalities to create South Punjab province.

The meeting decided that a new local bodies system will be introduced to help complete development projects through it. The new system will be devised keeping in view the local government system introduced by General Pervez Musharraf in 2001, which devolved financial and administrative powers from the provinces to the districts. Most of local bodies’ representatives, including district nazims, will be directly elected by the people under the new system.

Necessary steps will be taken to depoliticise the police on the pattern of KP. The government will hire the services of former KP IGP Nasir Durrani to implement the reforms in the police department.

The meeting decided to provide state-of-the-art healthcare facilities to everybody in line with PTI’s manifesto. The cabinet approved issuance of Insaf health cards to deserving persons for free treatment at government hospitals. It was decided the government would bear the treatment expenses up to Rs 0.5 million of all citizens.

In this regard, the government will ensure immediate implementation of three points in the first phase which includes improvement of facilities in emergency, provision of free medicines and launch of Insaf health cards.

The meeting also decided to establish a working group immediately for taking necessary steps to fulfill the promise of establishment of Southern Punjab province.

The meeting was told that provision of clean drinking water to every Pakistani was the priority of Prime Minister Imran Khan and, for that purpose work would have to be started on emergency basis. The cabinet members observed slogans were raised for provision of clean drinking water in the past and billions of rupees were wasted, but the PTI government would unveil a comprehensive roadmap within next 100 days after a concrete planning.

The cabinet decided to take effective measures for provision of employment to the jobless, promotion of skill-based education, provision of homes to homeless people and alleviation of poverty at the grassroots.

The meeting held a detailed discussion on how to boost the prime minister’s vision of national development agenda, creation of employment opportunities and initiation of reforms in public-sector departments.

The meeting unanimously decided that the prime minister’s 100 days programme would be speedily implemented and the Punjab would play the role of a vanguard in this regard. Good governance, merit, transparency, austerity and simplicity would be the priorities of the government, the meeting decided. Similarly, a comprehensive strategy would be adopted to solve the problems of the masses so that they could perceive change around them.

The meeting also decided to constitute a committee for austerity purposes so that unnecessary expenditures could be curtailed in public-sector departments.

The meeting decided that recruitments would continue through Public Service Commission while there would be complete ban on direct recruitments from scale 1 to 15. Later, the information minister clarified ban on recruitments in lower scales would be lifted soon after formulation of recruitment policy.

The meeting decided that child enrolment targets would be given to all districts for the promotion of primary education so that the children of low-income families could get education through the resources of the state.

It was decided to promote cottage industry so that educated youth could be made self-reliant through loan facility. It was also decided to increase the role of Tevta with regard to technical education and development of skilled labour in the province. The meeting affirmed provision of basic facilities to the common man would be ensured, adding education and development of human resource would also be made part of priorities. It was decided that public-welfare agenda would be implemented dedicatedly instead of relying on hollow claims of the past.

The meeting decided that every possible step would be made for public welfare in the light of the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The meeting decided all departments would compile recommendations for implementation of 100 days plan. Senior Minister Abdul Aleem Khan would be the coordinator on behalf of the Punjab province, who would present the recommendations in the next cabinet meeting after making necessary coordination with different departments and holding a review of their recommendations.

The meeting also reviewed arrangements with regard to the upcoming holy month of Muharram-ul-Haram and ministers would be deputed in different districts to help maintain law and order there.

Addressing the meeting, the chief minister said all the cabinet members would have to work as a team to fulfill the agenda of Imran Khan. “I am always at your disposal and I am sure that you will act as my supporting arms. We will let Punjab transform and transparency, good governance and merit are our important priorities. We have to work diligently to achieve targets and I will always be standing by you,” he asserted.

The meeting was briefed on improving the law and order situation, working of P&D, finance and local government and community development departments. The meeting was also briefed on specialised healthcare and medical education, primary and secondary healthcare and school education departments.

The provincial ministers, the advisers, the chief secretary and others attended the meeting which was told that the PTI’s agenda of change included a set of priority actions and initiatives to be undertaken in its first 100 days to set the tone and direction of the new government.

The meeting was told that the 100-day programme was covering six discrete areas – governance, federation, economy, agriculture and water, social services and national security.

The chief minister emphasised the plan was a public compact with the Pakistani people and that every minister in his cabinet must be clear on what they must do. He also reiterated he and his team would deliver on prime minister's 100 days agenda. The chief minister said he would personally review and monitor progress. He asked his colleagues to shun old solutions that hadn’t worked in the past.

The cabinet members, individually and collectively, reaffirmed their commitment to the 100-day agenda. They mentioned they would work tirelessly to deliver 100 days agenda.

The first meeting of the provincial cabinet lasted for three and a half hours. It was reflective of austerity and simplicity as only tea and biscuits were served to the cabinet members during the meeting. A 30-minute break was made for Juma prayers. The chief minister and the ministers offered Juma prayers in the mosque of the chief minister’s office. During the meeting, Senior Minister Abdul Aleem Khan and others congratulated Usman Buzdar for holding the Punjab chief minister’s slot.

Meanwhile, Information Minister Faizul Hassan Chohan faced a volley of questions from journalists over his indecent remarks about the media and the matter ended over his unconditional apology.