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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan chairs a meeting of the federal cabinet at PM Office on Monday.—INP
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan chairs a meeting of the federal cabinet at PM Office on Monday.—INP

ISLAMABAD: In the first cabinet meeting, the federal ministers and advisers shortly after being sworn in on Monday decided to place the names of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz on the Exit Control List (ECL).

“Today the cabinet has decided that the names of jailed Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz will be put on the ECL,” announced Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry while addressing a press conference following the cabinet meeting.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has been demanding restriction on foreign travel of the Sharifs after their conviction by an accountability court of Islamabad in the Avenfield property reference.

Mr Chaudhry said the PTI government would keep a close contact with the British government for the attachment of the ousted premier’s property in London. “The property was made through public money, looted by the Sharifs. It is public wealth and we will try our best to bring it back to the country,” he added.

Two committees formed to look into luxurious state properties in use of senior bureaucrats and to assess how governor houses and other state buildings could be utilised to generate money

As ex-finance minister Ishaq Dar and the two sons of the ousted premier, Hassan and Hussain, had already been declared proclaimed absconders, efforts would also be made to bring them back to Pakistan through Interpol, said Mr Chaudhry. “They should return to the country to face corruption charges. Otherwise they will be brought back at any cost,” he said, adding that the government had directed the law and interior ministries to act upon the red warrants, which had been issued last month.

He said the federal cabinet also decided to launch its anti-corruption drive by holding Prime Minister Imran Khan, federal ministers and advisers and other PTI leaders accountable first.

Referring to the claim that Nawaz Sharif had been bearing PM House expenses from his pocket, the information minister said the building’s expenses were part of the national budget. “If Sharif’s claim is true, he should produce his income tax statement,” he added.

No foreign tour for three months

One of the important decisions taken by the cabinet is that Mr Khan and federal ministers would not make any foreign tour over the next three months. “If necessary only Foreign Minster Shah Mehmood Qureshi will be sent aboard on official visits,” the information minister said.

As part of its austerity plans, the PTI-led government would restrict the expenditures of ministers as the cabinet had decided that the state would not pay for their medical check-ups in other countries, Mr Chaudhry said.

The government announced forming two separate committees, one headed by Finance Minister Asad Umar and the other by Minister for National History and Literary Heritage Division Shafqat Mehmood, to decide the fate of luxurious state properties in use of senior bureaucrats and to assess how governor houses and other state buildings could be utilised to generate money.

Regarding the presidential election scheduled to be held in the first week of September, Mr Chaudhry expressed the hope that PTI candidate Arif Alvi would smoothly assume the president office.

The minister said the cabinet also took stern notice of blasphemous caricature of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) recently made in Holland and tasked the foreign minister to take up the issue with Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC).

Talking about the PTI-led government’s foreign policy, he said the government wanted to restore better relations with all countries including India.

Cabinet members sworn in Earlier, President Mamnoon Hussain administered the oath to 16 federal ministers and five advisers at the President House in the presence of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

PTI vice chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi took oath as foreign minister, a position that he had during the last PPP government under the then president Asif Zardari and former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. Previously, he had served as Punjab finance minister in the cabinet of Nawaz Sharif during the military rule of Gen Ziaul Haq.

PTI economic wizard Asad Umar has been given the portfolio of finance and revenue.

PTI spokesman Fawad Chaudhry, who had served as retired Gen Pervez Musharraf and the PPP’s spokesman, has been appointed as information and broadcasting minister.

Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiyar, who had previously served as minister of state for foreign affairs during the military regime of Gen Musharraf, has been made the minister for water resources.

Ghulam Sarwar Khan, who defeated PML-N’s estranged leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan in the July 25 elections in two constituencies, has been allocated the portfolio of petroleum ministry.

Dr Shireen Mazari will serve as minister for human rights and former speaker of the National Assembly Dr Fehmida Mirza, who contested the elections on a ticket of the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA), has been appointed as minister for inter-provincial coordination.

Former Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) chief minister Pervez Khattak has become defence minister.

Shafqat Mehmood has been given the portfolio of federal education and professional training with the additional charge of national history and literary heritage division.

PTI’s founding member from Rawalpindi, Aamir Mehmood Kiyani, will serve as minister for national health services, regulations and coordination.

Almost all PTI allies have been given representation in the cabinet. Khalid Maqbool and Farogh Naseem of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) have been given the ministries of law and justice and information technology, respectively.

Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid leader Chaudhry Tariq Bashir Cheema has been made federal minister of states and frontier regions.

Zubaida Jalal of the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP), who also had worked in the Gen Musharraf’s regime, has been appointed as minister for defence production.

Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid has been given the same railway ministry that he had served during the military regime of Gen Musharraf. An independent MNA from Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) Noorul Haq Qadri was made minister for religious affairs and interfaith harmony.

Also, five advisers to the prime minister took their oath on Monday. They include former law minister in the PPP government Babar Awan, who will deal with parliamentary affairs. Former KP chief secretary Shehzad Arbab has become adviser to the prime minister on establishment division. Former minister in the regime of Gen Musharraf Abdul Razzak Dawood has been appointed as adviser on commerce, textile, industry, and production and investment. Amin Aslam, another former state minister in the Gen Musharraf regime, has been made adviser to prime minister on climate change. Dr Ishrat Husain, who served as State Bank governor during the military rule of Gen Musharraf, has been appointed adviser to prime minister on institutional reforms and austerity.

Published in Dawn, August 21st, 2018