ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan chairs a meeting of the federal cabinet at the PM Office on Tuesday.—APP
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan chairs a meeting of the federal cabinet at the PM Office on Tuesday.—APP

ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet has decided to make some procedural changes in the working of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to provide “fearless” environment for business activities and investment for the revival of crippling economy.

“In the light of complaints of business community against NAB, the federal cabinet discussed how the practice of arm-twisting and threatening of businessmen by some NAB officials can be thwarted,” said Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan while addressing a press conference after the cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

She said the cabinet observed that businessmen were afraid of NAB and not investing their money. “They are neither investing their money nor depositing it in banks. In fact they are hiding cash under their mattresses,” she added.

She said the federal cabinet observed that business activities had stopped and the economy had crippled due to the fear of NAB. “It has been informed in a series of meetings, chaired by the prime minister, that local and foreign investment has come to a halt and bureaucrats are not signing files and have stopped decision making due to the fear of NAB”.

She said the cabinet in its next meeting would come up with concrete steps to end the practice of arm-twisting and threatening by NAB officials.

Signing of CPEC-like pact with Turkey approved

Before this, many efforts had been made to amend NAB’s controversial laws, but nothing had been done practically in this regard.

Pak-Turk Economic Framework

The special assistant said the cabinet had approved signing of an economic framework with Turkey on the pattern of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

“A similar pact with Turkey will provide us access to the west for trade and investment,” she said.

About the PTEF, she said a high-powered joint committee of the two countries would be constituted. She said Prime Minister Imran Khan would be the head of Pakistan’s side in the committee while President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would lead the Turkey’s representation in the joint committee.

She said that nine joint working groups (JWG) would be formed to hold threadbare discussion on 91 different points regarding trade, investment, technology transfer and bilateral relations. Pakistan Minister for Economic Affairs would lead these groups from the country.

The two sides would also utilise their human resource, technical staff and all those with professional skills for capacity building, she said, adding that they would also look for ways to enhance production and supplement value addition across industries.

The special assistant said that defence and close cooperation between Turkey and Pakistan was part of the Terms of Reference of the working groups.

About US President Donald Trump’s telephonic conversation with PM Khan on Tuesday, she said the prime minister briefed Mr Trump on how Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was heading towards a genocide in India-held Kashmir and how under a constant curfew, humanity was being subjected to utter abasement. Mr Khan also discussed with Mr Trump how all basic rights of the Kashmiri after being landlocked were being trampled.

Bills approved

The cabinet also approved in principle the Christian Marriage and Divorce Bill, 2019 in accordance with the religious norms of the Christian community.

She said the cabinet also gave approval for the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill, 2019 as some points had previously been left unaddressed and having ironed those issues out, approval was granted to the bill. She said social, cultural and religious values would be kept intact and within such a framework protection would be given to the victims of such violence.

Ms Awan said the cabinet approved Rs5bn allocation to help low-income families obtain interest-free loans especially for housing.

The prime minister directed the participants in the meeting that a detailed strategy and mechanism be devised to ensure equal disbursement of the loans among the people in all provinces.

An approval was also accorded for e-meters to be introduced for electricity and gas bills.

Besides, the meeting was informed that a licensing authority was being established under the National Highway Authority (NHA) for issuance of internationally acceptable driving licences.

Published in Dawn, August 21st, 2019