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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has assured the newspaper industry that the five per cent regulatory duty on import of newsprint will be withdrawn and the pending bills of electronic media will be scrutinised by the Ministry of Information.

The prime minister gave the assurance during a meeting with a joint delegation of the All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS), Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA) and the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) on Wednesday.

He said government advertisements would not be stopped, but the volume might be cut down.

Imran Khan was assisted by Information Minister Fawad Chaudhary, Senator Faisal Javed, Iftikhar Durrani and Sheikh Rashid, who was information minister more than a decade ago.

The decision to abolish the regulatory duty requires approval from the federal cabinet. After that the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) will issue a Statuary Regulatory Order (SRO) for implementation of zero regulatory duty.

The meeting also discussed the clearance of an amount of Rs8 billion outstanding against the government for advertisements published in newspapers.

The PBA members sought acceleration of the verification process for bills pending in government departments since long. The government side assured them that the verification process for clearance of all audited bills would be speeded up.

The prime minister tried to remove apprehensions of electronic media over reports that the government intended to stop advertisements on television channels.

He categorically stated that there was no move to stop advertisements on TV channels, but reiterated that the volume might shrink because of the austerity drive.

He said the government would not release any advertisement for promotion of individuals.

Imran Khan called for transparency in the release of advertisements and asked the APNS and the PBA to form a committee to coordinate with the information ministry.

Mr Khan thanked the media for giving him and his party adequate coverage before the general election.

He said the current state of the economy was due to incorrect policies of the previous government.

The prime minister expressed confidence that overall conditions, including the economy, would improve after corrective steps taken by the government start bearing fruit.

One of the participants told Dawn that Mr Khan said at the meeting that the government was making efforts to avoid seeking a bailout package from the International Monetary Fund.

He said the government was trying to find ways to insulate the poor from impact of its harsh measures. He termed the opposition’s behaviour undemocratic.

Published in Dawn, October 18th, 2018