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Editorial: An Auspicious Beginning

Punjab C.M. Maryam Nawaz’s inaugural speech hit the right notes

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Maryam Nawaz takes oath as the Chief Minister of Punjab. Photo courtesy PMLN

By any standards, newly-elected Punjab Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz’s inaugural speech was an impressive beginning, making new history among chief ministers—all of whom were previously men—who ever addressed the province. In a lengthy address, she laid out an impressive program aimed at improving governance, appearing well-versed in her delivery unlike many of her predecessors. Among her priorities, she said, was incentivizing businessmen; removing bureaucratic hurdles; and shifting to a public-private partnership to transform Punjab into an “economic hub.” She stressed her job was “to make policies in Punjab, to provide an enabling environment, and to regulate—we will do this but at the same time we will facilitate the business community so that they invest and economic revival begins.”

Acknowledging the country’s “youth bulge,” she said her mission included making their lives easier by promising to utilize the Punjab Education Endowment Fund to finance the studies of any deserving child on merit. Similarly, she said, the government would evolve a criteria to sponsor the education of gifted boys and girls capable of admission to Ivy League schools and other renowned universities but lacking the financial resources to do so. The Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) also pledged to revive the youth loan program launched by her father, Nawaz Sharif, as well as focusing on skill training and providing laptops and tablets. She said her government would expand internship programs, adding these would be funded with minimum salaries of Rs 25,000/month.

Recalling her party’s manifesto, Maryam described information technology startups as “low-hanging” fruit, vowing to provide youth “with resources to start their own businesses.” This, she said, would be achieved by setting up incubators. She added a plan was in place to provide students with electric motorbikes and vowed to continue interacting with the youth to remain aware of their problems. Stressing education was a priority, she announced the introduction of a school transport system across the province; intent to revise the curriculums of government schools; and the development of state-of-the-art education for “differently-enabled” children in all districts. On the health sector, she said her government would ensure capable doctors and modern equipment at all basic health-units, rural health-centers and tehsil headquarter hospitals. “After five years, when I leave the government, I want that there is no district which does not have a state-of-the-art hospital,” she said, pledging to launch Punjab’s first air ambulance service within 12 weeks to “improve healthcare for people living in mountainous and hilly areas.”

The chief minister further emphasized the safety of women was her priority, declaring any form of harassment was her “red line.” She announced the establishment of a dedicated helpline for women, stressing she wanted to create a better, safer Punjab for women. In this regard, she said, she would work to create “respectable” working women hostels. “As a mother, I understand that working women worry about their children,” she noted, while also lauding Gulberg Circle ASP Shehrbano for defusing a charged mob in Lahore who had attacked a girl wearing a dress with Arabic calligraphy. In all, it was a remarkably well-delivered speech by a first-time lady chief minister.

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