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Cabinet unhappy over LHC decision of granting Shahbaz bail

Updated February 15, 2019

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Prime Minister Imran Khan chairs a cabinet meeting. — File photo
Prime Minister Imran Khan chairs a cabinet meeting. — File photo

ISLAMABAD: A meeting of the federal cabinet presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday expressed dissatisfaction over the Lahore High Court’s (LHC) decision of granting bail to Leader of the Opposition in National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif in two cases and urged the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to file an appeal against the court’s decision.

Addressing a press conference after the meeting, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said that the cabinet reiterated that there was a need to revamp the accountability system in the country so that influential and powerful should also be made accountable for their deeds.

“It is ironic that both Shahbaz Sharif and former president Asif Ali Zardari, who had [allegedly] committed billions of rupees corruption are moving like free men while a poor person is jailed for two years for stealing a bird,” he said.

Asks NAB to file appeal against high court’s decision

The meeting expressed satisfaction over the six-month performance of the government and the federal cabinet for holding 26 meetings in which 440 important decisions were taken.

The cabinet approved signing of eight memorandums of understanding (MoUs) with Saudi Arabia during the two-day visit of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Pakistan scheduled to begin on Feb 16.

The information minister said eight MoUs amounting to billions of dollars would be inked during the crown prince’s visit, including an agreement of $8 billion for establishment of an oil refinery in the country.

“The volume of investment to be promised during the crown prince’s visit would be higher than the total amount of foreign investment received by the country over the past 10 years,” the minister said.

He claimed that foreign investment the country received during the previous Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government was negligible.

Giving details of the crown prince’s visit, the minister said meetings with him would be held in the Presidency and the Prime Minister House.

According to Board of Investment (BOI) Chairman Haroon Sharif, three mega government-to-government MoUs would be signed and their total volume would be in double digit billion dollars.

He said the BOI would arrange meetings of over 40 top Saudi businessmen with local businessmen and industrialists and various agreements would be signed between the two sides.

When asked about the Saudi crown prince’s visit to India after his Pakistan’s tour, Mr Chaudhry hoped that his visit to the neighbouring country would benefit Pakistan. “We are good friends of Saudi Arabia and hope that the crown prince’s visit to the two countries would bring prosperity in the whole region,” he added.

Answering a question, he said the expenses of the crown prince’s visit would be borne by the Saudi government. “We cannot ask them (Saudi dignitaries) to use only two vehicles,” he added.

The minister said the cabinet approved signing of multiple agreements in the water and power sectors with the Saudi delegation.

These MoUs will be signed in the fields of oil refinery, Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and Mineral Development.

Besides three mega MoUs, some other agreements are also likely to be struck between businessmen and industrialists of the two sides. “A group of 40 top businessmen of Saudi Arabia are accompanying Prince Mohammed and they will interact with the local business community and it is expected some other private level agreements will also be inked during his visit,” the BOI chief said.

Later, PM Khan chaired a preparatory meeting on the visit of the crown prince and hoped that the visit would bring prosperity in the country. He reviewed all arrangements being made for the visit.

Foreign policy

Mr Chaudhry said the cabinet expressed satisfaction over the government’s foreign policy. He said the next round of talks between the Afghan Taliban and the United States would take place in Pakistan.

He said the government had achieved unprecedented success in its foreign policy. “Pakistan has again gained the similar image in the world which it experienced when former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto convened an OIC summit in the country in 1974,” he claimed.

Meanwhile, Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Yao Jing called on PM Khan and assured his country’s complete support to Pakistani government’s initiatives to stable the country’s crippling economy.

A video message of Chinese ambassador was issued by the PM Office in which the ambassador lauded the policies of PM Khan.

The meeting of Chinese ambassador is believed to be quite significant on the eve of Saudi crown prince’s visit to Pakistan and buried all speculations that China might have some concerns on Saudi investment in Gwadar.

Ambassador Yao Jing said that Pakistan and China were closest friends and partners and reaffirmed his government’s resolve to work closely with Pakistan to further strengthen Pakistan-China relations.

The Chinese ambassador updated the prime minister on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects. He said the next stage of the CPEC would be focused to invest more in Pakistan and buy more from Pakistan.

Speaking on the occasion, PM Khan said Pakistan and China were close friends and strong partners. Praising the vision of President Xi Jinping for Chinese socio-economic development, he said Pakistan could learn much from the Chinese experience for the social uplift of the people of Pakistan.

The prime minister highlighted that the CPEC had added a new dimension to bilateral ties and reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to its timely completion. Mr Khan underscored his priorities for transfer of technology and enhancing capacity in agricultural sector, which would have direct impact on poverty alleviation in rural areas.

Published in Dawn, February 15th, 2019