ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz Tuesday told the media the cabinet had decided to postpone hike in gas and K-Electric tariffs for the time being, and make a decision on the issues in its next meeting.
He said Minister for Planning and Development Asad Omar would supervise the matters pertaining to provincial finance commission in Punjab, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. He said normally the provincial chiefministers and influential ministers utilise development funds in their own constituencies, which creates a sense of deprivation in other areas. He said under the provincial finance commission, every district would get its share of development funds through a formula.
The minister said the meeting issued directives to Pakistan high commissions abroad to take steps for release of 11,376 Pakistani prisoners, languishing in various countries in the context of coronavirus.
The PM said that legal assistance should be provided to the inmates and if they could be given any relief due to coronavirus, the high commissions should strive for their early repatriation.
Shibli said that the PM expressed the government’s determination to ensure transparency in the Senate elections. He said in Senate elections, questions had been raised on their transparency and fairness, particularly in relation to two provinces.
He noted that the appointment of heads of various government institutions was a big challenge as in the past irregularities were committed in these nominations and no proper system was put in place. He said the PM wanted a system should be in place to nominate suitable persons for these key posts in future.
Dr Ishrat Hussain committee was asked to make a comprehensive plan on fast-track basis to introduce a transparent system for such nominations, he added. The meeting was briefed that the PTI-led cabinet held 93 meetings thus far in which a total of 1,759 decisions were made, out of which 1,579 had been implemented. He said that 46 were in the process of implementation whereas 28 were facing delay.
On the issue of health, he said the government had limited resources and there was a proposal for joint ventures with the private sector, which could build hospitals on state land to improve health infrastructure.
The cabinet also discussed a proposal to set up Hajj Fund and steps would be taken to ensure that no institution would spend pension funds for any other purpose. He said that for the Hajj Fund, Malaysian model would be followed after removing legal hurdles in its establishment.
The forum was also briefed on the proposal to provide solar stoves to people in Gilgit-Baltistan to prevent deforestation in the region. The information minister claimed that the opposition leaders were scared of accountability for their sins, and they were desperately trying to spread uncertainty, though they have no agenda or alternative plan (for the nation).
He regretted that the opposition was comparing their corrupt and incapable regimes with the incumbent honest and capable government and said people were very sensible and they know all this.
“All know the opposition is faced with such a situation, in which they have no agenda, nothing to talk about and no alternative plan. For the last two weeks, they desperately tried to spread uncertainty. Whenever, they are scared of accountability, they resort to such bids, as they know about their sins. What PPP did in Sindh is before us. They want to divert the pressure regarding accountability, they are facing,” he noted.
Replying to questions about the federal cabinet meeting, presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan, the minister said it was reflective of the people’s confidence that the country received remittances amounting to record $23 billion, whereas the foreign direct investment had been $2.3 billion despite COVID-19 pandemic.
He said the system the opposition had built and the culture developed had been buried by people, having no transparency and merit; Pakistan was not the country of the past. “They indulged in corruption, played with the economy and built properties abroad and enjoyed their lives there whenever the country faced difficult times. They even leave behind their party and workers in lurch. Previously, they stayed abroad for 10 years under an NRO,” he said.
Calling PML-N senior leader Ahsan Iqbal the courtier of his party leadership, who wasted the nation’s time, the minister said there had been many reports of his corruption and one might ask him what type of leadership he was trying to represent; should not he be ashamed of himself.
Aiming his guns at PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Shibli said the same PPP, which had given slogan of ‘Roti, kapra aur Makan’ [bread, clothing and shelter] plundered the nation and built palaces like Surrey Palace abroad, whereas the PTI government launched so many massive initiatives for the poor, jobless and labourers and other weak segments of society and one of them was Ehsaas Cash Programme.
“There had been 4-5 points improvement in the status of Pakistan passport and this is also reflective of the government’s transparency, steadfastness and commitment to its cause and with it we will change Pakistan while COVID-19 and locust threats are temporary,” he asserted.
PPP’s history, he pointed out, was from Bhutto to Zardari, and now from Zardari to Bilawal, who had left people of Sindh helpless in difficult times. On the contrary, he said, Prime Minister Imran Khan had neither personal business nor was he preparing someone to replace him from his family.
About a question on the PTI government allies, Shibli said that everything was alright and the government was quite strong and that the given situation had given them fresh zeal and motivation. “Our allies may have some reservations but this does not mean they are leaving us,” he added.
However, he conceded that they had a thin majority that was why they had a limited ground to play and when they did not have votes, they could not implement their entire agenda. He added if their performance would be excellent, then they could take more seats to execute their agenda.
He said the housing project was a historic one, saying it was Bhutto’s slogan of ‘Roti kapra aur makan’, which was being implemented by the PTI government for provision of housing to the lower and middle classes of society.
The minister was confident that the prices of sugar and other items would come down gradually. To another question, he admitted that there were issues regarding ownership of almost all airports, including Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar, between the CAA and the PAF. He said he had suggested sorting out ownership through the revenue department.