May 31 - June 6, 2010

A gigantic and multi-dimensional uplift programme for Southern Punjab is briskly underway whose impact should bring the much needed relief to the long neglected region.

Quite contrary to mere lip service of the past regime, Southern Punjab is currently witnessing a new phenomenon of speedy and all round development programme. Southern Punjab Development Programme (SPDP) launched during current financial year, with an extra allocation of Rs5 billion in addition to schemes costing Rs135 billion which are under execution in 11 districts of Southern Punjab.

These schemes are strategic in nature, having immediate impact, benefit maximum area of the region, pro-poor and above all would create jobs. Funds have been provided to 112 development schemes in various sectors, in Multan, Bahawalpur and DG Khan divisions. Out of this huge allocation, a sum of Rs2000 million has been already released in the current year.

Punjab Chief Minister, Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif, has paid numerous visits to every nook and corner of the Southern region ever since he assumed office. Apart from his several visits, he took an unprecedented step of taking the entire top provincial hierarchy to the region for an on-the-spot evaluation and decisions for the speedy development and good governance. On Chief Minister's direction, the Chief Secretary has visited South alongwith all his provincial Secretaries and key officials more than twice during last two years. He camped there to provide on-the-spot decisions and redressal of pending matters, which is an unheard of thing in the past.

Baligh-ur-Rehman, MNA, hailing from Bahawalpur has been playing pivotal role in the development of Southern region as a close coordinator in the whole project. According to him the important aspect of this high priority project is to keep close vigilance and strict follow-up of all on-going schemes. Another notable thing is Chief Minister's keen desire to promote, encourage and groom the talent from hitherto neglected Southern region and undertake measures to achieve this worthy objective. He has also established a special cell in the Chief Minister's Secretariat to monitor and coordinate the on-going mega development plan in the whole region, whose progress is being fastidiously monitored.

Another brainchild of the Punjab Chief Minister is Punjab Educational Endowment Fund (PEEF), a unique programme for which Rs4 billion have already been allocated. A higher number of scholarships are given out to talented students in backward areas in the South, as compared to more developed districts in ratio is a policy directive. Similarly, the ratio for sponsored foreign visits of talented students tends to include larger number from South to give a morale boost to this region.

Among the major initiatives announced by Punjab Chief Minister in various sectors, South is being given a lion's share. For instance, out of 3 Danish schools being set up in first phase, all would be located in the South. The construction of all three Danish schools is progressing with a fast pace. The new innovative Mobile Health Units Scheme, being procured from Netherlands are to be deployed in far flung areas of Punjab, in the first phase, would all be located in South. Another significant step is the establishment of Bahawalpur University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, due to its close proximity of major Livestock holding territory of Cholistan. The project is being established in collaboration with University of Glasgow at an estimated cost of Rs3500 millions.

Shahbad Cooperative Livestock Farm Project is an ambitious project envisioned by the CM aimed for the efficient utilisation of natural resources of Cholistan desert in Bahawalpur, Bahawalnagar and Rahim Yar Khan, to develop its vast potential for livestock and dairy farming and boost an organic food production zone through the active participation of local community and is yet another initiative taken in the region. All these measures, which are in progress at a fast track in the region, will make it a hub of increasing economic activity in the coming months and years.

Added to these are a host of other projects like Urban Renewal Programme for intermediate cities (Phase-I), Punjab Economic Opportunities Programme (PEOP), Tribal Area Development Project in DG Khan and Rajanpur, MPA's Package of Rs25 million for each constituency, the whole South region from a sleepy and neglected area is destined to become a zone pulsating with increasing economic activity and abundance of much needed job opportunities to play its rightful role in the national mainstream.