ISLAMABAD: In a major policy decision, the federal cabinet on Tuesday decided the fate of over 10,000 imported (used) cars which would leave the Karachi port soon and run on the country’s roads.

The cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi allowed clearance of the vehicles under the gift, baggage and transfer of residence schemes for overseas Pakistanis.

“Thousands of different kinds of three-year-old vehicles have been stuck at Karachi port since October 2017. The cabinet has allowed the clearance of these vehicles under the baggage scheme,” a cabinet member told Dawn when contacted.

The government had banned import of used cars, citing misuse of the gift and baggage scheme by the importers and car dealers.

Ministers decide to expedite repatriation of Afghan refugees

Now the cabinet has restored the previous policy on the demand of importers. It is believed the decision will help bring increasing prices of used imported cars under control.

Under the policy, import of used vehicles takes place under the gift, baggage and transfer of residence schemes for overseas Pakistanis who ship such vehicles individually.

In another significant decision, the cabinet restored the Pakistan Origin Card (POC) for foreign spouses of Pakistani citizens residing in the country enabling them to buy properties, run businesses and open bank accounts.

Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal said under a notification issued in 2015 the POC was prohibited for foreigner spouses of Pakistani citizens after which they had been facing a number of difficulties. “A fresh notification regarding restoration of POC rules will be issued today [Wednesday],” he added.

The federal cabinet also decided to expedite the process of repatriation of Afghan refugees in collaboration with the provincial authorities and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

According to the prime minister’s spokesman, it was observed that the cabinet had twice granted extension in validity of the Proof of Residence (PoR) card and now the government would facilitate voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees holding PoR cards.

The cabinet also considered various recommendations for addressing the issue of Afghan refugees. “It was emphasised that the international community should fulfill its obligations towards shouldering this responsibility to ensure smooth repatriation and rehabilitation of the refugees,” the spokesman said.

As per the second extension for the stay of Afghans in Pakistan, the refugees will be repatriated after March 31.

The cabinet also ratified the decisions made by the Cabinet Committee on Energy in its meeting on Feb 1.

The decisions taken by the Economic Coordination Committee of the cabinet at a meeting on Feb 7 were also ratified.

A report of the committee constituted for the naming of new Islamabad international airport was presented during the meeting. It was decided that the members would consider recommendations made in the report for reaching a consensus name during the next meeting.

On tariff rationalisation for the power sector, the cabinet rejected the recommendation of the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority for upward revision of power tariff and decided to maintain the existing tariff.

The cabinet approved nomination of the director on the board of directors of the Sui Southern Gas Company.

Reconstitution of the board of directors of the Export Processing Zones Authority and nomination of ex-officio members in the Utility Stores Corporation were also approved.

The cabinet also approved appointment of general manager (engineering) of the Karachi Port Trust and executive member of The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority.

Discussing the issue of land lease involving the Pakistan Steel Mills and the National Industrial Parks Development and Management Company, the cabinet reiterated its resolve to promote foreign investment in the country which would help in the growth of economy and creation of job opportunities.

It decided to constitute a committee, headed by the minister for privatisation, to look into the matter and submit its recommendations in the next meeting of the cabinet.

Published in Dawn, February 21st, 2018