LAHORE: Federal law and information minister Ali Zafar has said the government will implement accountability court’s orders in letter and spirit and arrest ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz on their arrival at any airport in Pakistan.

He was speaking at “Meet the Press” programme at the Lahore Press Club here on Sunday Mr Zafar said the (caretaker) government had no mandate to interfere in the state institutions’ working or criticise their decisions, he said, adding that anybody having reservations against any court judgment should file an appeal.

“The law enforcement agencies will arrest Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz on airport, if they did not get bail before landing in Pakistan,” Mr Zafar told journalists.

‘NAB court verdict won’t affect holding of polls’

He said the court’s judgment against the Sharif family would not affect holding of general elections on July 25.

“General elections will be held on time and that too in a free, fair and transparent manner,” he asserted.

Answering a question about the arrest of Nawaz Sharif’s son-in-law, Mr Zafar said the government would extend full support to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to implement court orders that called for retired Capt Safdar’s arrest. “The law enforcement agencies are on the move to arrest Capt Safdar,” he said.

In a later development, Safdar surrendered himself to NAB officials in Rawalpindi, after leading a protest rally.

With regard to putting the names of former president Asif Ali Zardari and his sister on the Exit Control List (ECL), the minister said it was the government’s responsibility to properly assess the law enforcement agencies’ requests before putting names on the list.

Acknowledging that it was a common practice to put names on the ECL just on law enforcement agencies’ requests, Mr Zafar said the courts had given relief to many and chided the government for putting people’s names on the ECL without assessing such requests. “The caretaker government is assessing every request and questioning investigators about the grounds (on which a request is made) before putting names on the ECL,” he said.

A cabinet committee discussed the law enforcement agencies’ separate requests for putting some 50 to 60 people on the ECL, he said and added that after assessment many names were put on the list, while requests for several others were declined. “It is a two-stage consultative process that helps (the government) take judicious decisions regarding putting names on the ECL,” he said.

Responding to a question about PTI chairman Imran Khan’s close aide Zulfi Bukhari, the law minister said Mr Bukhari was never on the ECL. He was on a temporary ‘black list’ that could be decided at interior secretary’s level, he claimed.

About holding of general elections and permission for giving journalists access to information, Mr Zafar said the Election Commission of Pakistan was preparing a code of conduct and the caretaker government would readily implement it.

Acknowledging the need for transparency, he said, the journalists and international observers would be allowed to monitor the July 25 elections. He said the government had requested the ECP that local journalists should be allowed access to polling stations unlike the by-elections. He, however, said the foreign journalists would be monitored to know whether they were focusing on the elections or trying to “do some other things” as well.

About the construction of dams for water storage, the minister said a 1965 report had suggested that Pakistan should have constructed 14 to 20 dams. He said the country needed reservoirs to store water and dams to generate power. “Not constructing dams is tantamount to throwing diamonds in the sea,” he said.

Regretting that Pakistan could construct only two dams since independence, he said most country’s were spending 20 to 25 per cent of their development budgets on the conservation, storage and use of water, while Pakistan was spending just five to seven per cent of it on the most important sector.

He said Pakistan was also using 90 per cent of its water resources in agriculture sector while employing age-old irrigation methods. “Modern systems, including the drip irrigation, need to be introduced to conserve water,” he said. He also called for treating sewage for reuse, except for drinking purposes.

“A committee has been formed to develop a document, which will be left for the elected government to implement, take action and save water,” he said.

Mr Zafar said the print media should defeat the social media with truthful reporting. Stating that the younger generation is depending more on the social media, he regretted that the social media most of the time ran fake news.

Published in Dawn, July 9th, 2018