FAWAD Chaudhry says Asif Zardari will now know the seriousness of JIT.—APP
FAWAD Chaudhry says Asif Zardari will now know the seriousness of JIT.—APP

ISLAMABAD: Hard times await the Pakistan Peoples Party leaders as the government has decided to place the names of Asif Ali Zardari, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Murad Ali Shah and Faryal Talpur on the Exit Control List (ECL) in fake bank accounts and money laundering cases, along with real estate tycoon Malik Riaz.

“Names of all 172 accused in fake bank accounts cases will be placed on the ECL, including [Asif Ali] Zardari, after which they cannot travel abroad,” Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said on Thursday. He was addressing a press conference to apprise the media of decisions taken by the cabinet at a meeting presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The minister said Mr Zardari was taking the joint investigation team (JIT) formed by the Supreme Court “lightly”, but now he would take it quite “seriously”. “I was watching [PPP co-chairperson] Asif Ali Zardari yesterday on TV and he was saying that he does not take the JIT seriously, but hopefully he will take it seriously after today. Mr Zardari will know the seriousness of this inquiry in the days to come,” he added.

Asked if Mr Zardari could be arrested before Dec 31 in the light of recently issued JIT report, Mr Chaudhry said: “Insha Allah”.

Apart from former president, cabinet decides to put names of Bilawal, Faryal, Malik Riaz and Sindh CM on ECL in fake accounts case

The name of former law minister and PPP legal wizard Farooq H. Naek will also be put on the ECL.

It is believed that political temperature will rise in the country once the names of PPP leaders are placed on the ECL and they are barred from travelling abroad as Mr Zardari on Thursday warned the government of dire consequences if they were pushed to the wall.

The information minister said that both Mr Zardari and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif were thinking that no one could take them to task even for their misdeeds. “This is not the ‘old Pakistan’ where the two bigwigs [Nawaz and Zardari] could make a deal. Now they have to be accountable and each and every penny will be accounted for,” he added.

Peace in Karachi

The federal cabinet offered Fateha for former MNA Ali Raza Abidi who was shot dead outside his residence in Karachi on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Khan ordered an investigation into the killing and asked the PPP-led Sindh government to provide security to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leaders. Otherwise, he said, Rangers would be tasked with providing security to the politicians.

The information minister said the death of Ali Raza Abidi showed that some gangs had become active again, adding that Karachi’s peace was linked with the country’s economy. “We have reports that gangs were being operated from South Africa to create unrest in Karachi. It is very important that these gangs should be apprehended where they are being operated from. The Foreign Office has been directed to take up this matter with the South African government,” he said.

Mr Chaudhry said MQM founder Altaf Hussain’s hate speech went viral on social media in which he had issued orders for killing some people in Karachi. “Unfortunately, the UK authorities had not taken any action and the cabinet is concerned about this. Therefore, the issue will be raised with the British government soon,” he added.

Mobile phone registration

The federal cabinet extended the date of registration of mobile phones in the country from Dec 31, 2018 to Jan 15, 2019.

All cell phones can be registered by inserting a SIM card into the device and making a phone call or sending an SMS before Jan 15. “After Jan 15, phones will still be registered but only after payment of 10 per cent of the phone’s customs duty,” the information minister said, adding that non-compliant or non-tax paid mobile set would be deactivated after 30 days.

The cabinet also took an important decision under which a constitutional amendment bill seeking an extra reserved seat for women from Islamabad in both the National Assembly and Senate would be tabled soon.

Mr Chaudhry said a task force on education had been formed. It would be headed by Prof Attaur Rehman, the former federal minister and chairman of the Higher Education Commission.

He said the prime minister commended Education Minister Shafqat Mehmood for his role in conversion of the Prime Minister House into a university. “In the first phase, the PM House’s name will be changed to Darul Hikma [land of wisdom] and all think tanks and research centres will be placed under one roof in Darul Hikma so that new researches could be presented before the government for their implementation,” he added.

In a separate decision, regulatory duty on newsprint has been slashed to just one per cent. “We have decided to cut duty on newsprint and now we hope that the benefit of the measure would be given to working journalists,” he said.

A summary to float bonds in the Chinese market was also approved by the cabinet. “The bonds to be called Panada Bond will be the first time in the history of Pakistan that we will enter the Chinese market,” Mr Chaudhry said.

The cabinet also approved the appointment of Farrukh Sabzwari as new chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP).

In another major decision, the cabinet decided to release funds to pay outstanding dues of employees of the Pakistan Steel Mills. The information minister said Adviser to the Prime minister on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood was making a plan for the revival of sick PSM. “We will make Pakistan Steel Mills a profitable entity,” he said.

Published in Dawn, December 28th, 2018