–PM says Punjab CM does his work ‘quietly’, asks him to publicise his performance
–Imran goes soft on Nawaz, targets Maulana Fazlur Rehman
–Says govt will import Euro-4-compliant fuel, shift towards e-vehicle and help steel, brick kiln industries curb pollutants
–Announces launch of Orange Line train in Lahore on Dec 10
LAHORE: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday put to rest speculations regarding a change in the Punjab government, saying he was satisfied with Chief Minister Usman Buzdar’s performance but the latter needed to publicise his work because “people don’t even get to know about it”.
Addressing a press conference here, the prime minister heaped praise on Buzdar, saying he is a dark horse.
The development comes a day after the Punjab government shuffled the police and bureaucracy.
The PM’s support to Buzdar comes amid increasing concerns in the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) regarding the chief minister’s failure to run the affairs of Punjab.
According to reports, members of the ruling party have stated in background interviews that the government was failing to run the province of Punjab.
A senior PTI leader had told a media outlet that they were dissatisfied with Buzdar’s performance and a majority within the party wanted him replaced with a better and more active political leader.
He added that it was difficult to bring all the pressure groups on the same page regarding the chief ministership. He added that there were groups led by Jahangir Tareen, Muhammad Sarwar and Aleem Khan.
During his speech, Prime Minister Imran also lashed out at Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman but remained soft while commenting on the health of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
“Nawaz Sharif is getting treatment in UK. We are waiting for his medical reports,” the PM said.
On the other hand, he criticised the JUI-F chief, saying “Fazlur Rehman came to Islamabad to win diesel permits.”
The prime minister said that there was a mafia in the country which was afraid that their corruption would be exposed and they will be thrown in jail.
POLICY ON CLEANER ENVIRONMENT:
Speaking on the government’s efforts to combat smog — that continues to take a toll on people’s health in several Punjab districts, including Lahore — Prime Minister Imran said the government had decided to improve the fuel quality to Euro-4 and gradually shift the auto industry towards electric vehicles.
He blamed the policies of erstwhile rulers of Punjab for disastrous air quality of the province and said Lahore lost 70 per cent of its trees over the past decade.
“A 70 per cent drop in tree cover has meant far-reaching consequences,” he said, linking the deforestation to increase in air pollution. He said that with a dense tree cover, pollution particles are absorbed by the leaves.
Unlike the statements made by his cabinet members, the PM acknowledged the role of vehicular emissions in the worsening air quality, which are the biggest contributor to air pollution.
The premier noted that crop burning in India and Pakistan and smoke from factories and brick kilns also affect the environment drastically.
“However, what adds the most to air pollution is the transport sector and we have made certain decisions in this regard [after meeting with PM’s Special Assistant on Petroleum Division, Nadeem Babar],” he said.
He said that Pakistan relies on 50-60 percent of import for oil and currently imports oil that meets the European Union’s Euro 2 emission standard. “We have decided we will import a cleaner [environmental friendly] oil, [which will meet] the Euro 4 standard.”
By the end of next year, Pakistan will use the fuel which would be Euro-5-compliant, said the PM, adding the government felt that such steps would have a 90 percent impact on the quality of air.
Listing further measures, he said the oil refineries will be given a period of three years to improve the quality of oil produced, but if they failed to comply the government would shut them down. “The quality they are currently producing has a lot of pollutants,” he added.
He also announced that the government had decided to shift the focus of the auto industry towards electric vehicles. “We are holding talks with the car industry to address their certain reservations,” he said, adding an incentive policy will be introduced in 2020 with a special emphasis on buses.
“The buses that run across our cities will either be hybrid vehicles or electric. Or, we may insist on CNG, like in Delhi, where they run buses only on CNG,” the PM said.
ORANGE LINE TRAIN:
Prime Minister Imran also announced that Orange Line Metro Train (OLMT) in Lahore will start working from December 10.
The project, started in October 2015 by PML-N government, was supposed to be completed in 27 months. The court halted the work on some sites of the mega project as a case was being heard, however it will now be opened for the public on Dec 10, as per the PM’s announcement.
Speaking of the practice whereby farmers burn rice crop after its harvest, the premier said that imported machinery will be brought in which will facilitate the farmers to make use of the post-harvest crop, making it possible for it to be sold. This will ensure that there is no need to burn the crop, drastically reducing the air pollution caused otherwise.
He said the government will remove improve duties on scrubbers so that steel factories could purchase them as they are one of the main sources of PM2.5 (fine air particles). Scrubbers are systems that use liquid (typically water) to remove particulates from industrial exhaust streams.
Moreover, the government would also help the brick kiln owners to install zigzag technology which will reduce air pollution.
Turning to Lahore, he said that an urban forestry initiative will be undertaken in the city. “We have identified 60,000 kanals of land where we will grow trees so they can clean the city’s air,” said the PM.
He lamented the delay in the measures, saying if such steps were taken 20 years ago, the environment would have been much better. “But, no one bothered,” he added.
The prime minister recognised that Lahore is not the only city suffering from high levels of pollution. “It is an issue in Karachi, in Peshawar, in Rawalpindi. This issue will greatly affect our future generations if we do not take steps to combat it today.”