Education Ministry madrassa reform watchdog made
By Khalid Mustafa
ISLAMABAD: The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) extended the government’s commitment to madrassa reform on Wednesday by establishing a mechanism to monitor the Rs 5.8 billion Madrassa Reform Programme.
At a meeting chaired by Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz, the committee approved a Federal Project Implementation Unit to work closely with upcoming provincial steering committees to oversee the madrassa reform project. The project has been made the responsibility of the Education Ministry.
According to sources at the meeting, the president has ordered the Madrassa Reform Programme to be executed throughout Pakistan, including in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), the Federally Administered Northern Areas (FANA), Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT). It is designed to close the gap between formal and madrassa education by modernising syllabi at 8,000 seminaries. Madaris will be chosen after consultation with provincial governments and the administrations in FATA, FANA, AJK and ICT. The ECNEC also discussed other projects amounting to Rs 25.478 million:
In the water sector, the meeting source said that ECNEC was to take up for approval three projects which included a Rs 12.445 billion Lining of Distributaries and Minors in Sindh, a Rs 18.861 billion Rainee Canal Project and Rs 4.917 billion Sindh On-Farm Water Management Project, but the meeting approved the Rainee Canal Project.
The homegrown project located in Nara Desert of Ghotki, Sukkur and Khairpur districts of Sindh is a part of WAPDA Vision 2025. Of the total gross area of 5,15,500 acres, Rainee Canal will irrigate a cultivable area of 4,12,400 acres on both sides of the canal in the Nara region. The canal would start from Guddu Barrage. It would use surplus flood water of Indus River subject to availability of water in the Indus River as per the Water Accord 1991. It is promised to result in an increase in farm income as well as opportunities for labour, which will bring prosperity to the people of the project area.
The Rainee Canal will increase agricultural production, improve physical environment, quality of life and enhance infrastructure facilities. In the PSDP an amount of Rs 300 million has been provided during the current financial year to start the project. The scope of work envisages 101.8 canal miles of main canal, 88.2 miles of seven branch canals, 214.5 canal miles of 29 distributaries, 28.7 canal miles of eight minors, 881 different structures on the main canal and 833 on forestry and range management study and development of the command area.
The meeting also approved the Sindh Farm Water Management Project costing over Rs 4.9 billion. This would increase agricultural production and farmers income through rehabilitation and better management of the irrigation system. The project is to provide improved on-farm water management as well as exploit and manage water resources in rain-fed/barani and hilly areas through implementation of non-conventional on-farm water management technology. It would also enhance farmers’ participation in the operation and management of irrigation and supplement government’s efforts to generate employment in the rural sector.
ECNEC also approved a Rs 303.018 million Population Welfare Services Project for Azad Jammu and Kashmir. To be completed by 2008, the project would cater to a population of 3.2 million people of Azad Kashmir living in an area of 13,297 kms. It would address the high population growth rate, improve health condition of women and children, create economic development and educate people about healthcare. It would also create employment for over 600 people and help reduce poverty. The establishment of a National Monument of Pakistan in Islamabad was approved for Rs 427,698 million. To be located on the hills of Shakarparian, the monument will reflect the culture and civilisation of Pakistan.
The ECNEC reviewed progress on the PSDP in 2003-2004 and noted that the projects were on track. The funds released were being effectively utilised and outcome based approach on expenditure was being followed. The ECNEC approved recommendations for improved training, establishment of a fund release committee, diversion of funds to high priority areas, training of a project director and the establishment of core projects management units to further make the PSDP effective.
The ECNEC also decided to establish planning and monitoring cells and creation of separate project account and directed all divisions to appoint a project director for each project by March. The ECNEC approved the purchase of fire fighting vehicles at the cost of Rs 318.470 million. The money would be used to buy 35 modern fire fighting vehicles to expand the existing fleet and augment the fire fighting capacity, particularly for high-rise buildings in Islamabad.
The meeting also approved the construction of a high security block in the Foreign Affairs Ministry at a cost of Rs 248.602 million to provide additional accommodation and meet security requirements of the foreign office.
Lastly, the ECNEC approved Rs 450 million Global System of Mobiles (GSM) Project for Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Northern Areas. The project would help improve the telecommunication system in AJK and Northern Areas and connect these areas with rest of the country with quality telecommunication system. It would also promote information technology, create jobs and help establish an e-governance.