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PML-N cries foul as Jahangir Tareen briefs cabinet meeting on agriculture

Updated March 20, 2019

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Prime Minister Imran Khan chairs a meeting of the federal cabinet on Tuesday. — Photo courtesy Radio Pakistan
Prime Minister Imran Khan chairs a meeting of the federal cabinet on Tuesday. — Photo courtesy Radio Pakistan

Disqualified former Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) parliamentarian Jahangir Khan Tareen on Tuesday gave a detailed briefing on agriculture to a federal cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, prompting criticism from the PML-N.

Addressing a press conference following the cabinet meeting, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry revealed that Tareen had briefed the meeting on agricultural matters. It was decided during the meeting that the government will spend Rs290 billion on agriculture, with 18 major schemes to be launched in the next five years, Radio Pakistan reported.

PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb was quick to react to the news of Tareen's briefing.

Tareen was disqualified by the Supreme Court in December 2017 for mis-declaration under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution — the same provision under which former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was held ineligible for life to hold any public office over the Panama Papers leaks case.

While he has previously chaired a meeting of top government officials at the Prime Minister's Secretariat in September, this was the first time that he briefed a federal cabinet meeting.

Aurangzeb in a statement claimed that although Prime Minister Imran Khan had stated that he would expel Tareen from the party [PTI] after the SC order, he had now "taken a U-turn and made him sit in the cabinet".

She alleged that the premier "is in love with ATMs run through money laundering".

"Isn't it contempt of court that a person sentenced by the court was sitting in a cabinet meeting?" the PML-N spokesperson questioned, demanding of the prime minister to explain "in what capacity" Tareen was allowed to participate in a constitutional forum after his disqualification.

'Special attention'

Chaudhry in his media briefing said that over the past eight years, Pakistan's spending on agriculture had gone down by over 60 per cent while its agricultural imports had gone up to $4 billion, which included $2 billion worth of edible oil bills alone, Radio Pakistan reported.

He said there was a need to start an awareness campaign among the masses to use cooking oil as less as possible. The government is taking steps for the creation of oilseeds, he added.

According to Chaudhry, the cabinet meeting decided that special attention will be paid to the agriculture sector over the next five years.

The government also wants to work in the livestock and fisheries sectors, Chaudhry said, adding that the economy would see stability with steps being taken in the livestock sector.

He said the two sectors would be given special attention as per the directives of Prime Minister Khan as they had "huge export potential".

He said the new agricultural schemes would focus on increasing the production per capita, prudent water usage as well as increased access to farming credit.

Inflated gas bills

Additionally, the information minister said a total of 3.2 million gas consumers in the country had been affected by increased gas bills, which he said have been a problem since 2016-17.

He announced that Rs2.5 billion in inflated gas bills would be returned to consumers.

Chaudhry said following an investigation into the increased gas bills, "bewildering" details will be presented before the public and some prominent names would emerge.

"By giving gas connections to big companies, the average consumers were affected," he said.