When we think of Mian Shehbaz Sharif, one term that immediately comes to our mind is “Khaadim-e-Aala”, a person who has served the people of Punjab with dedication, honesty and integrity.
Shehbaz Sharif has served Punjab as Chief Minister on three occasions, all with distinction. Anyone who has worked with Shehbaz Sharif knows him to be a tireless, energetic and hands-on CM who is not afraid to take tough decisions for the betterment of the people. His energetic and fast paced project completion record has endeared him to millions of Pakistanis, who fondly call projects finished within record time “Shehbaz Speed”.
Shehbaz Sharif revolutionized the standards of performance-driven governance and outcome-oriented delivery with strict fiscal discipline. It is ironic that Shehbaz Sharif’s business background is held against him even though during his multiple tenures as the Chief Minister of Punjab, he managed to initiate globally acclaimed projects, streamlined processes and was also able to save over 1 trillion rupees, which is unprecedented in Pakistan’s history.
The jewel in Punjab’s crown is the Orange Line Metro Train (OLMT) that has brought affordable transport to the doorstep of people who struggle day in, day out for their livelihoods yet they are left with little money at the end of the month due to the hefty costs incurred on commuting to their workplaces.
The vision behind this project was twofold. OMLT currently has the capacity to transport over 245,000 passengers daily, which will cut the general public’s travel cost and enable them to use the saved money for fulfilling other needs. The landmark project will also result in reducing the traffic load on the city roads, which means there will be less toxic emissions that are hazardous to our environment.
Shehbaz Sharif set the pace by engaging in government to government competitive bidding, and then relentlessly negotiated with the lowest bidder that resulted in the saving of an additional 600 million dollars. This was also the first time when expressing satisfaction with how the Punjab government was handling this project, the winning bidder handed over the civil works to Pakistani contractors.
OLMT was built at “Shehbaz Speed” despite the fact that forces inimical to the project’s success used all possible means to derail it. It is unfortunate that soon after coming into power, the PTI government immediately set upon disengaging itself from the OLMT project, escalating the cost and depriving the people of this much needed mode of public transport. Now that the OLMT is fully operational despite the PTI government’s delay tactics, the love and adoration Shehbaz Sharif is receiving from the people reflects their appreciation of the former CM’s farsighted vision.
Before launching the OLMT project, Shehbaz Sharif introduced the Lahore Metro Bus that revolutionized intra-city public transport in Pakistan. Earlier, people had to change several passenger vans to reach their destinations, which was not only expensive but also put their lives at risk due to the high percentage of accidents resulting from reckless driving.
Despite facing severe criticism from the PTI, which was in opposition at the time, Shehbaz Sharif succeeded in completing the project within the stipulated period. Its success can be gauged from the fact that even though the PTI is in power now, it is forced to continue with the transport service due to its popularity in the masses.
Welfare of the youth of Pakistan has always been close to Shehbaz Sharif’s heart, which is evident from the many schemes that were launched during his tenure as CM Punjab.
In 2015, the Apna Rozgar Scheme was launched to create job opportunities for the youth and to also help budding entrepreneurs in realizing their dreams of owning their own businesses. Today the youth of Punjab who benefited from this scheme can be seen living their dream, whether it is to reach their job destinations or creating a self-sustainable business. It merits a mention here that Shehbaz Sharif ensured that the Punjab government saved over 20,000 rupees on each vehicle purchased from Pak Suzuki Limited under this scheme.
Under Shehbaz Sharif’s visionary leadership, Punjab embarked on a state-of-the-art Lahore Safe City project, which is the envy of every city in Pakistan today. Under the project, 8,000 surveillance cameras were installed across Lahore which have been instrumental in tackling crime in the metropolis The Punjab government saved over 4 billion rupees thanks to Shehbaz Sharif’s shrewd bargaining with the vendor.
The water table in Punjab has dropped at an alarming rate but at the same time the presence of extremely high levels of arsenic in the water available for consumption is affecting the health of millions of people of the province. The overzealous PTI government has tried to ensnare Shehbaz Sharif in frivolous cases, one amongst them is the Saaf Pani Project, a scheme which was set up to provide water filtration plants across the Punjab to provide safe drinking water to the people. Instead of celebrating the fact that the previous government was providing safe drinking water, the incumbent government launched an attack against the PML-N and the Saaf Pani Company. Despite the government’s best efforts, the Lahore High Court eventually granted bail to Saaf Pani Company officials, ruling that there was no corruption involved in the project and that the Saaf Pani Company had won the bid fairly and in a transparent manner.
When the PML-N came into power, Pakistan was facing a huge shortfall of electricity while the circular debt was also on the rise. Not the one to shy away from a tough challenge, Shehbaz Sharif took the bull by the horns and embarked on several projects which have today given a cushion to Pakistan in terms of electricity generation.
For the first time in Pakistan’s history, energy projects of 5,000MW were completed at Bhikki, HBS, Balloki, Trimmu, Quaid-e-Azam Solar Project and Sahiwal Coal Power Plant in record time under the dynamic leadership of Nawaz Sharif and Shehbaz Sharif. An additional three RLNG-powered projects were completed in record time under the direct supervision of Shehbaz Sharif, which resulted in a net saving of 1.36 billion US dollars. Just by completing the Sahiwal Coal Power project seven months before its due date, Shehbaz Sharif saved taxpayers a whopping 162 billion rupees.
Another project started by Shehbaz Sharif that has acclaimed people’s respect is the initiation of the Lahore Waste Management Company. The provincial capital had become infamous due to large heaps of garbage on almost all the main roads and streets. Soon after assuming charge as the CM Punjab, Shehbaz Sharif set up the Lahore Waste Management Company which took over the function of cleaning Lahore from the Metropolitan Corporation. The Company subsequently engaged a renowned Turkish company, which had revolutionized Istanbul’s waste collection system, to implement a similar system in Lahore resulting in efficient waste disposal that has truly transformed the city.
There has been a huge controversy over the Sharif family’s sugar mills, a matter that has been inflamed by the PTI’s quest for power even whilst being intellectually dishonest. Fact of the matter is that under Shehbaz Sharif’s watch, nepotism was discouraged and the family business was not taken into consideration while taking decisions in the best interest of the people.
In his drive to give relief to the people of Punjab, Shehbaz Sharif’s government took tough administrative decisions which resulted in a net loss of 1.5 billion rupees to the Sharif family’s sugar business. It is noteworthy that Shehbaz Sharif refused to succumb to the pressure exerted by the Punjab Sugar Mills Association to give subsidy or to lower the support price of sugar on the pattern of the Sindh government.
Shehbaz Sharif set the rare example of forgoing all entitlements in terms of his salary, TA/DA and other admissible allowances. He even paid for his foreign trips out of his own pocket, a fact that has been admitted by the PTI government on the floor of the Punjab Assembly.
In spite of several frivolous cases filed against Shehbaz Sharif and other members of his family, the PTI government and National Accountability Bureau, which has become a tool of political victimization in the hands of the incumbent regime, have failed to tarnish their reputation because people of Punjab and other parts of the country are fully aware of the struggle and efforts that their “Khaadim-e-Aala” has undertaken to alleviate the suffering of the common man.
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