LAHORE - Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar said on Monday that Village Panchayat elections are likely to be held in March and the local government department is making arrangements in this regard.

Presiding over a provincial parliamentary party meeting where provincial ministers and MPAs of the PTI and PML-Q were also present, Buzdar said that Village Panchayat elections would be held on a non-party basis. In the next phase, he said, local government elections would be held on a party basis.

Also, the ruling party finalised its strategy with regard to the ongoing Punjab Assembly session at the meeting. Addressing the meeting, the chief minister said that public welfare has always been given priority by the incumbent government adding that all matters are being settled with mutual consultations in Punjab.

The chief minister announced that overhead bridges would be built at different places in the provincial metropolis to facilitate pedestrians and the traffic system would be improved. Similarly, different roads will be repaired in Lahore with an amount of Rs1 billion, he said.

Rs9 billion to be allocated for youth skill development

Buzdar said that comprehensive jail reforms have been introduced by the PTI government and announced that parole rules are being changed to facilitate 5,000 prisoners. For the first time in the history of the province, the chief minister said, he used his authority to remit prisoners’ sentence and release 1,000 prisoners after payment of the fine amount. He said the motorbike ambulance service is being extended to other districts of the province and employees’ allowance of Rescue-1122 has been increased. He reiterated that effective measures have been adopted to control price hike and announced that scope of model bazaars will be extended to tehsil level. Model bazaars have been set up to help growers sell their produce directly, he said. Indiscriminate action against hoarders and profiteers will continue and people will have to play their role to fight price hike, he said. The chief minister said the government would launch a new loan scheme for skill development of the needy youth and added that Rs9 billion would be distributed to the youth for starting their own businesses. The scope of the Punjab Safe Cities project is being extended to other districts, he said, and added that safe cities project is being started in Rawalpindi and Dera Ghazi Khan. He said that line departments have been activated to deal with smog. He said that steel rolling industries and brick kilns are being shifted to modern technology and the vehicle number plates issue would be resolved soon as the excise department has been given 14 days for this purpose.

The chief minister said that scope of the Walled City of Lahore Authority is being extended to the entire province. The operation against encroachments will continue and assembly members should identify encroachments in their areas for immediate action, he said. He said that 5,000 college teaching interns have been recruited. Nine mega hospitals are being built with the capacity of 9,000 beds. Distribution of Sehat Insaf cards has been completed in 34 districts and this task will be completed in some backward areas by end of this month. He said the first phase of repair and maintenance of rural roads will be completed by December under the Naya Pakistan Manzilein Aasan Programme and 1200km long roads will be constructed from January to June next year. A total of Rs15 billion will be spent on the second phase of this programme, he said. He said that 883km long roads will be constructed in Punjab with an amount of Rs180 billion under the public-private partnership. The chief minister said that policy for the cement industry has been prepared and 115 land record centres will be made functional by the end of next month. He said that 25 mobile centres will start working by the end of December and they will facilitate people in getting their property documents without any difficulty.

Buzdar said that work is in progress on ten special economic zones to give employment opportunities to 200,000 people. Six special economic zones have been approved, he said, adding that just three special economic zones were established during previous tenures. He said that work has been started on eight universities and three institutions. He said that agri credit cards will be introduced soon and two small dams will be constructed in southern Punjab. He said that Punjab’s education policy has been announced and funds have been allocated for missing facilities at schools. On the other hand, he said, the teacher e-transfer policy has yielded positive results. He said that permission for high-rise buildings has been granted in Lahore.

He said the Punjab Assembly has made record legislation in one year.

He said that agitation and march have been best handled by the government, adding that assembly members will be informed about six-month performance. He said that salaries of policemen, engineers and doctors have been increased. He said that women assembly members will be given their rights. “I have never tolerated corruption and zero-tolerance policy has been adopted against it,” he said. He said that assembly members should identify corruption and immediate action will be taken against the corrupt.

Meetings with assembly members will continue during the assembly session and parliamentarians’ problems will be solved on a priority basis. The assembly members should ensure their attendance in the Punjab Assembly session, he said.

Law Minister Raja Basharat briefed the assembly members and expressed the hope that they would fully participate in the current session of the Punjab Assembly.