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Lodhran’s shining example

Shahnawaz Sarmad
The 31st meeting of the Council of Common Interests (CCI) ended in Islamabad last week. The CCI is mandated to debate matters of common interest and whenever needed solve disputes among federating units in the country. The council is holding meetings more often since the passage of the 18th Constitutional Amendment that has made it mandatory for it to meet once in 90 days. In the recent meeting, chief ministers of all provinces, except Punjab, had expressed their concerns over distribution of resources. Though Punjab may be ‘satisfied’ with distribution of resources, but its performance in ensuring equitable distribution of resources it gets as a result among its own districts and regions is far from satisfactory. Interior Sindh, far-flung areas of Balochistan and tribal areas also harbour grievances related to resource sharing. Voices of people of these regions are seldom heard in the media.
Similarly, one can see different treatment of metropolises and remote districts in terms of allocation of resources for infrastructure and socio-economic development. For instance, billions of rupees are being spent on ‘colourful’ mass transit projects in the capital city of Punjab, as many southern districts in the province remain poor performers in human development indexes and education rankings. This may lead to inferiority complex among people of these areas.Despite such limitations, whenever they are given an opportunity Pakistanis have proven that they are exceptionally talented. Every other day such stories of brilliant Pakistanis appear in the mainstream media. Lodhran district has several such persons. Recently, the district had been in the limelight during NA-154 by-poll won by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader Jahangir Khan Tareen. Despite his strong background, Tareen can be seen as a success story of a self-made person hailing from Lodhran. He has spearheaded multiple public policy and development programmes in the district. Another politician, Siddique Khan Kanju, has twice served as the minister of state for foreign affairs and is known globally for his diplomacy skills. Because of his efforts in 1991, Lodhran’s administrative status was upgraded to a district. Earlier, it was a tehsil of Multan district. As foreign minister, Kanju had defended Pakistan’s case on nuclear tests at global forums and proved in the UN’s Committee on Disarmament and International Security that Pakistan’s nuclear-weapon tests were in response to India’s efforts to destabilise balance of power in the region.While working with a team implementing United States Agency for International Development (USAID) projects for promotion of interfaith harmony and peace-building through arts, I had come across many talented and skilful young artists from Lodhran.During my research on the district, I was pleasantly surprised to learn about reforms undertaken there in the fields of policing and school education. Lodhran police is headed by Asad Sarfaraz Khan, an officer who conceptualised some of the most effective technology-based projects in the province.When it comes to the police, we keep hearing in the media that nothing much has changed. But recent reforms in the Punjab have delivered by promoting consistency in structure and policies and introducing state-of-the-art technology in all districts. As a result, citizens can benefit from better quality service whether they are in the metropolitan centre of Lahore or the southern district of Lodhran.This may lead to inferiority complex among people of these areas.Despite such limitations, whenever they are given an opportunity Pakistanis have proven that they are exceptionally talented. Every other day such stories of brilliant Pakistanis appear in the mainstream media. Lodhran district has several such persons. Recently, the district had been in the limelight during NA-154 by-poll won by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader Jahangir Khan Tareen. Despite his strong background, Tareen can be seen as a success story of a self-made person hailing from Lodhran.Recently, outgoing Inspector General of the Police Mushtaq Sukhera had awarded the Lodhran DPO on his excellent performance in introducing and implementing I.T. based initiatives.Asad Sarfaraz introduced projects like the Hotel Eye Android App and an online Complaints Management System in Lodhran. His other achievements were maintenance of responsive social media platforms, establishment of front desks in all 10 police stations of the district, improvements in 15 emergency response service, use of GPS and Android technology to monitor security for census and elections staff and for education and healthcare institutes. Though the district has yet to get a e-Khidmat Markaz recently launched by the provincial government, but the Police Department in the district is running a Citizens’ Service Centre where important certificates are issued and documents verified.This account of Lodhran police tells that a visionary officer can bring notable change in their jurisdiction no matter what area they are posted at. Although technology-based initiatives are working well but there is still a dire need of behavioural change in police officials. The latter can help eradicate citizens’ mistrust and fear towards the police. The second surprise I mentioned earlier is regarding the district’s progress in the education sector. Based on the latest district education ranking related by Alif Ailaan, an educational campaign funded by United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID), the district ranks highest in the infrastructure score for government schools. Alif Ailaan website defines infrastructure score as “the state of basic infrastructure and facilities in government schools. It is made up of five components: availability of drinking water, electricity, toilet, boundary wall, and the condition of school building”. Interestingly, the district has previously also been among top-ranking districts in education standards along with infrastructure score. These achievements of Lodhran prove that there is great potential in neglected areas of Pakistan and we can make them flourish with just a little more effort.

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