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Women IT varsity, a distant dream

Lahore, July 08, 2008: The Punjab government is finding it hard to convert the lately constructed Chief Minister's Secretariat into an Information Technology University for women, as it is marred by several difficulties of divergent sorts while primary being the fact that it was a purpose-built secretariat for the Punjab Chief Executive.

Consequently, despite tall claims at different levels, including political and administrative, even virtually a straw is yet to be picked up for actualising the much-talked project, which had faced bureaucratic resistance when baboos assert, "If it was an extravagance on the part of the previous regime of Ch Pervaiz Elahi, then turning the Secretariat into a university will cause yet another massive dent to the public exchequer, as the project could cost, if not more than establishing a purpose-built university, then at least half of the total cost spent earlier."

The bureaucracy is of the considered opinion that after spending stupendous amount of money on the construction of the 8-Club Road as the CM's Secretariat, now being turned it into an IT university - an idea floated by President Pakistan Muslim League-N Shahbaz Sharif prior to becoming Chief Minister Punjab during the election campaign of February 18 polls - will cause a lot of wastage of the public money considering the fact that the costly office paraphernalia will be wasted, besides spending more money on turning the purpose-built office into classrooms and computer laboratories.

Due to this, the idea has already run into difficulty, and the political bosses are seeing, if not resistance, then reservations for sure, from the administrative men of the chosen-bureaucracy. After his oath-taking at the Punjab Assembly, Shahbaz Sharif himself alluded to this reality, when he admitted that he had faced opposition from the bureaucracy, but vowed to turn the Secretariat into a university certainly.

On ground, as per sources - fearing 'wrath' from hard taskmasters Shahbaz Sharif and Chief Secretary Javed Mehmood, no one from the officers is ready to come on record - nothing had been for the empty building, being labelled as 'Mughal Palace' or 'a white elephant, while the government was paying electricity bill every month. "Secondly, even if the complex is turned into a university, then one must bear in mind that its maintenance cost is huge," said an officer suggesting that it could be better if the building is turned into a state guest house for the foreign dignitaries as the government was paying huge sums of money to hotels. "If something was to be done, then a feasibility report should have been outlined after the formation of a committee comprising neutral men who could have given a just decision after looking into all the pros and cons of the project. Now the impression is being imparted that it has come out as an emotional rhetoric because an adversary of the present political leadership has constructed this building," he maintained.

An officer, while pointing out the cost-effectiveness and maintenance of the Secretariat, said, "On this three-storey building housing the offices of the CM and Chief Secretary, and their staff, a conference hall, a meeting room, and staff rooms, Rs 900 million were spent on the construction of the building, while the offices' paraphernalia cost Rs 25 million. Bullet-proof glass has been used in the CM's office as well. These things are of no use to an educational institution, and hence would be a waste," he said further establishing his point of view by adding that the maintenance of the building as an institute could cost more. "Once the offices are shifted, carpets, furniture and other office trappings are rarely used, and new things are purchased, which will be at higher prices than the previous ones," he asserted.

Prior to the construction of this Secretariat, the CM's staff used to be stationed at four different locations - 1, 3, and 7-Club Road, and 90-Shaarey-e-Quaid-e-Azam. At that time, it was thought that none of these buildings were large enough to accommodate a Principal Secretary, five additional secretaries, eight deputy secretaries, 12 section officers, two personal staff officers and the ministerial staff, who are part of the CM's men from the bureaucracy. Then the CM used to hold meetings at the Civil Secretariat, and 90-Shaarey-e-Quaid-e-Azam. Later on, a spacious conference hall was also renovated at the premises, where the PML-Q party meetings also took place. It was decided that the scattered-CM's staff was to be shifted to 8-Club Road. Practically, CM Punjab has five offices - 7 and 8 Club Road, 90-Shaarey-e-Quaid-e-Azam, an office each at the Punjab Assembly, and the Civil Secretariat, besides the residence-cum-camp office.

"Instead of keeping the staff at one place, it is a possibility that the CM staff will be again shifted to the other offices. If not done so, then definitely the adjoining houses of the GOR-I will be acquired for 28 officers working with the CM, which will be obviously done with the public money," said a senior officer suggesting that better it would be that the CM vacates all other buildings, while keeping only one Secretariat sans any consideration who had constructed it. "This will definitely help save the money, if at all the purpose is austerity. Secondly, to actualise the idea of saving public money, the CM can also focus on other areas, like small houses for all - from the highest to lowest of the official hierarchy including ministers and advisors," he said.

Considering the traffic congestion, parking problem, and residential area constraints, another officer suggested that it would be far better that 90-Shaarey-e-Quaid-e-Azam - once Freemason Hall - be turned into an education institution. "The GOR-I Secretariat can be cordoned off, while stopping traffic at the main artery of the city will cause huge problems, as we are slipping into more and more precarious law and order situation with every passing day," he averred.

"If at all an IT university has to be constructed, then it can be done some where else, and campus can be built according to the latest requirements, which will be cost effective as well," said an officer maintaining that if it were a personal vendetta, or a case of playing to the public gallery, then nothing could be done about it.

Another officer disclosed that nothing had been done so far. "The pace, if there any, is pretty slow, which hints at the possibility that the distant-dream idea can only be materialised in the faint future provided proper planning is in the offing from today," he asserted. The Nation

Your Comments
"i thaink that cm sec. should not b divrt into it uni/thanks."
Name: asif shabbir
Email: asifshabbir98@yahoo.co.uk
City, Country: khanewal,pakistan

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