Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry on Thursday announced that the federal cabinet has decided to place on the exit control list (ECL) all 172 suspects named in a joint investigation team's report in the fake bank accounts case.
"I was watching [PPP co-chairperson] Asif Ali Zardari say that he does not take the JIT seriously," recalled the minister. "Hopefully, he will take it seriously after today. In the upcoming days he will know the seriousness of this inquiry.
"This is not purana Pakistan where the two big [players] make a deal. Now, each and every penny will be accounted for."
Chaudhry explained that the decision was taken because "this money belongs to the people of Pakistan."
The information minister, who was briefing the media following a cabinet meeting, also discussed the recent spate of killings in Karachi.
"The situation has deteriorated suddenly," the minister said. "The death of Ali Raza Abidi shows that some gangs have become active again. Karachi's peace is linked with Pakistan's economy so we will never allow Karachi's peace to be sabotaged like this again."
"We have seen Altaf Hussain's provocation and orders from England to commit murders here. His hate speech then went viral on social media. The UK authorities have not taken any action yet. The cabinet is concerned about this. These issues will be raised with the British government.
"There are South African gangs active in Karachi. It's very important that these gangs are squeezed where they are being operated from. The Foreign Office has been directed to take up this matter with the South African government as well."
Extension in mobile phone registration
Chaudhry also announced that the government has decided to extend till January 15 the deadline for registration of mobile phones that are still 'non-compliant'. All such phones can be registered by inserting a SIM card into the device and making a phone call or sending an SMS.
"After January 15, phones will still be registered but after payment of 10 per cent of the phone's custom duty," he said.
Minister of State for Revenue Hammad Azhar also tweeted about the decision, saying: "A large number of non-compliant & smuggled mobile sets are active in Pak. Therefore (and as a one time measure) to avoid blockage of services to individuals using such phones, the cabinet has directed PTA to regularise all phones activated in Pak till 15th Jan 2019."
"After 15th Jan, any mobile set that is activated in Pak and is non-compliant or non tax paid will be deactivated after 30 days," he added.
Speaking to Dawn.com, Azhar explained that while travelers bringing in phones from abroad will also benefit from the extension, customs baggage rules that limit the number of devices per passenger to five per year will remain in force at airports.
"We took this measure [to extend the deadline] because a lot of citizens are continuing to purchase mobile sets that are 'non-compliant' on the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority's network. Not only that, a large number of vendors also have unsold inventory lying around. We want to this backlog to be cleared without inconveniencing honest citizens," he explained.
The information minister further said that the cabinet has approved the tabling of a constitutional amendment bill that would seek an extra reserved seat for women from Islamabad in both the National Assembly and Senate.
Chaudhry said that the prime minister also commended Education Minister Shafqat Mehmood for his part in the planned conversion of the PM House into a university.
"In the first phase, the the PM House's name will be Darul Hikma [roughly: The Land of Wisdom]," he said, adding that the place will be used for research.
"In the long run we will convert it into a university."
The information minister said that the regulatory duty on newsprint is being slashed to just one per cent, and hoped that the benefit of the measure would be felt by working journalists.
A summary to float bonds in the Chinese market was also approved by the cabinet, Chaudhry said, adding that "it will be the the first time in the history of Pakistan that we will enter the Chinese market."
He also confirmed that Farrukh Sabzwari has been appointed the new chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP).