LAHORE: Punjab Minister for Social Welfare and Baitul Maal Syed Yawar Abbas Bukhari is a man with solid credentials. His polite demeanor and candid way of expressing his views on key issues has earned him respect, not only in the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) but also amongst the rival political parties.
A close aide of Prime Minister Imran Khan as well as Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, Yawar Abbas’ track record as political worker makes him one of the ablest ministers in the cabinet. He emerged victorious in the 2018 general election by securing 39,567 votes from PP-1 Attock.
He is adored by people of his constituency for always being there for them through thick and thin and for carrying out the development works at a regular pace.
This week, Bol News had the privilege to speak with him.
Q What measures your ministry is taking for the betterment of masses in this province?
SYAB: When I took charge of the Ministry of Social Welfare and Baitul Maal, I first identified the areas which needed improvement and the steps which were previously taken. We did not change the things that were beneficial but brainstormed on areas that need improvement to come up to the expectations of masses. One of the major constraints for the Social Welfare and Baitul Maal was the budget. Since I took charge as the minister we have managed to increase the budget allocation by 94% in ADP – which is in addition to the additional grants for rehabilitation centres – on the directions of Chief Minister Usman Buzdar. We have established 94 Panahgahs for travellers across the province which are working wholeheartedly with complete devotion to provide shelter and food to the deserving people along with their rehabilitation.
Eight out of these 94 Panagahs are established on properties which are acquired on rent. We have established medical social services units in all the district headquarters hospitals and teaching hospitals of the province where medical social officers are appointed who are working day and night under the supervision of the social welfare department. Their main responsibility is to ensure free of cost medicine and treatment of the poor and needy patients and they also help the patients financially. We have established Chamanzar for 7 to 14-year-old children to improve mental perseverance of the helpless, poor and needy children. Here they are provided with special training for mental toughness.
Besides, we have also established 12 modern children homes where both boys and girls are provided education, food, accommodation, counselling and medical and vocational training free of cost. Then we have established Kashanas in the province with the ultimate aim of providing safe and secure shelter to young girls who are poor, helpless and cannot make ends meet. In these Kashanas the young girls are also provided counselling to help them become better and confident citizens who could play their part in taking Pakistan to new heights. They are also provided free education in these centres.
We have also started a pilot project for the children with special needs where they will be provided state of the art residential facilities and education as per the international standards in this regard and an memorandum of understanding (MoU) has already been signed. I also want to get an ISO certification for this project. Then we have our project named Gahwara where we have innocent children from newborns to up to 6-years-old. These centres look after these children like a mother and giving them state of the art nursery education. We have also established Dar-ul-Amaans in each district of the province where the helpless victims of torture and domestic violence are provided with residence, medical facilities and sports facilities along with protection. Then we have also established Sanatzaars in each and every district of the province where the women are empowered through different skills.
Q It is said that charity begins at home. What measures have you taken for the betterment of your constituency, city and district?
SYAB: I am grateful to Chief Minister Usman Buzdar who has released the development funds for the betterment of my area and constituency in Attock. We are constructing a 200-bed state of the art hospital with a cost of Rs5.5 billion and added 100 more beds to Asfandyar Shaheed Hospital. We have also upgraded other hospitals by establishing in them new departments. We have established trauma centres from Peshawar to GT Roads with a cost of Rs1.5 billion. Basic Health Units (BHUs) have been upgraded and we are all set to make a model health district of the province.
The Rescue 1122 satellite station was established and the response time to help people was reduced from 10-12 minutes to 4-5 minutes. We are constructing University of Attock at a cost of Rs1billion and also Pir Mehar Ali Shah Barani University along with the upgrading of primary, secondary and elementary schools. We are leaving no stone unturned in improving the road infrastructure in district Attock. We are dualizing the Teen Bili Road with a cost of Rs1.5 billion and a network of link roads with a cost of approximately Rs1 billion.
Also, we have established the first medical social unit which is the first in the entire Punjab. We are establishing a sports complex and upgrading a hockey stadium with a cost of Rs1 billion. The sewerage system of Attock has already been turned around with a cost of Rs0.8 billion and we have also fulfilled the 40 years old demand of the district people by installing an 8-inch gas pipeline which addressed the issue of low gas pressure in the area. We are providing free of cost medical facilities in the district through our funds and Zakat and Ushr for the poor. We have increased the local social welfare budget of Attock by 200% – from Rs1.2 million to Rs3.8 million.
Q Are you foreseeing an in-house change in Punjab in case opposition moves a no confidence motion there? Previously we have seen your allies including the PML-Q were unhappy with you?
SYAB: I am not foreseeing any in-house change in Punjab and Chief Minister Usman Buzdar is not going anywhere. He is aware of the problems faced by the masses and is leaving no stone unturned to address the problems. He always takes allies on board and addresses their issues and concerns as well. Our allies are with us and they aren’t leaving us either.
Q Do you think that the current PTI government is better than the Shehbaz Sharif’s govt in Punjab?
SYAB: CM Buzdar led PTI government in Punjab does not show-off and tell lies. The work carried out under his leadership in Punjab speaks volumes for itself and Shehbaz led PML-N government is no match to him. Just take the examples of schools in two steps. 28,000 schools are established across the province and we achieved this milestone with almost zero cost by starting evening classes and that clearly depicts CM Buzdar’s vision. We admit that unemployment and inflation is there. But when we took over we had to face the Covid-19 pandemic which has literally destroyed the economies of the world but despite hard times we reached the record growth of 3.94% during our tenure under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Q Will the next election be held using the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) even if no consensus is reached? What will be the PTI’s manifesto for next general elections?
SYAB: Yes Inshallah, the next general elections will be held using the EVMs. What we have witnessed since the Independence is that every election was controversial except for the 1971 election. With the introduction of the EVMs in the electoral process of Pakistan, the free and fair elections would become possible. This has been a long and outstanding demand of all the political parties. It is our responsibility, being in power, to address the concerns of all the stakeholders regarding the use of these machines and we will address all the concerns. As far as the PTI’s manifesto is concerned, we will go to the next election with a reforms agenda and take each and every city of this country towards sustainability.
Q What is the future of the TLP in Pakistan’s politics? Can the PTI form an electoral alliance with it?
SYAB: The Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) is a reality whether the other mainstream parties admit it or not. As far as the PTI’s political or electoral alliance is concerned, well if it could be with any party then why not the TLP. Political alliances are formed with like-minded groups and parties. Our ultimate aim is to establish Riyasat-e-Madina. Unfortunately, we were unable to achieve our great potential because we lost sight of our Quaid’s [Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s] vision for Pakistan.