The government of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) "believes in the right to freedom of expression and speech", chief government spokesperson Firdous Ashiq Awan said on Sunday, while addressing a ceremony held to mark the completion of the party's first year in government.
A special ceremony was held at the Prime Minister's Secretariat in Islamabad and was attended by various ministers and party leaders, including Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting (SAPM) Awan and Prime Minister's Special Assistant on Political Affairs Naeemul Haque.
At the start of her address, Awan said that the day would be dedicated to the people of occupied Kashmir.
She said the premier's address to the nation that was scheduled for today had been postponed as the government's "full-time focus" was on Kashmir.
"In the interest of the greater cause of Kashmir, we have put aside our political engagements and decided to take the national narrative forward."
"The greatest achievement of the government in the past year is that we believe in the right of freedom of expression and speech."
She insisted that Prime Minister Imran Khan had not tried to curb the media at any level or at any forum, whether at the party level or government level.
"He did not communicate that the media be maligned [...] or that the media's fundamental rights be taken, at any forum or through any personal action."
According to the PTI manifesto, press freedom is one of the commitments of the government.
"We are committed to maintaining a vigorous free media, which will evolve its own rules to ensure responsible journalism both in the electronic and print media," reads the manifesto.
Highlights from Awan's speech
- Pakistan Postal Service and National Highway Authority were success stories during the past year
- Housing ministry using Naya Pakistan Housing Scheme to reduce the housing shortage in the country
- Visa on arrival facility introduced and new tourism policy developed
- Interior ministry improved border security, the results of which will be seen in the country
- Premier gave orders to clear media dues
- Space will be created this year for positive news about Pakistan
The special assistant said that the attendees of the event had been given a folder regarding the reform agenda for various ministries in the government.
She said that in the coming week, one ministry will be answerable before the media daily.
Foreign ministry's 'big success'
Awan lauded the foreign ministry for raising the Kashmir issue at international forums, including the United Nations.
"It was a big success of the foreign ministry that for the first time [in 50 years] a UN session took place [regarding Kashmir] despite India repeatedly calling for a veto of this in the past.
"The government, through the platform of the foreign ministry and under the leadership of the prime minister, will present the Kashmir issue — which is our top priority — before the world."
Awan highlighted the Ehsas welfare programme as one of the achievements of the PTI government: "Ehsas programme is close to the premier's heart. He believes that a society cannot change until people understand each other's situations."
Ehsas is an ambitious social safety and poverty alleviation programme for the welfare of the public that was launched by Prime Minister Imran in March this year.
The SAPM said that when she took over the information ministry, she had initiated the process of enabling the Associated Press of Pakistan to "stand on its own two feet".
She added that the ministry had introduced new policies to empower Radio Pakistan.
Awan said that this year, space would be created for foreign journalists so that not only "negative news" of Pakistan is promoted but positive as well.
'PTI took tough decisions'
Earlier, while speaking to Radio Pakistan, Federal Minister for Education and Professional Training Shafqat Mahmood said that PTI had taken "tough decisions" to address the economic crisis in Pakistan.
"Our government is repairing the economic damage done by the previous governments," he said.
While appreciating the efforts of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to hold powerful individuals accountable, the federal minister said that billions of rupees had been stashed abroad through money laundering.
PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb criticised the government and said that the premier had "damaged the country in the hatred of Nawaz Sharif and Shehbaz Sharif".
Speaking to the media, Aurangzeb said: "Prime Minister Imran did well not to speak today. Today would be marked as the first day he didn't lie."
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Usman Buzdar inaugurated the Plant for Pakistan drive in Punjab today. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi also planted a sapling at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as part of the Clean and Green Drive.
On Saturday, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Media Iftikhar Durrani said that the government had managed to decrease the current account and trade deficit, made savings through the austerity drive, introduced flagship programmes in the social sector and restored the lost dignity of the Pakistani leadership.
Meanwhile, PML-N information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb said that the premier had failed in all aspects.
In a statement issued yesterday, she had said: "In one year you have transformed all national successes into failures."