ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry said on Tuesday that the government is considering imposition of a blanket ban on the use of Pakistani airspace by flights taking off from India.

In a tweet after a meeting of the federal cabinet, he said the government was also considering banning India from using Pakistan’s territory for Indo-Afghan trade.

He told Dawn that the cabinet expressed dissatisfaction over the government’s decision to allow Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to use Pakistani airspace for travelling to France on Thursday.

Firdous says after cabinet meeting that it is time for world ‘to do more’ to rein in Modi

However, Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed helplessness and said he could not bar the Indian prime minister’s flight because of international laws.

“The prime minister was of the view that he cannot bar any individual (Modi) because the international laws allow only a blanket ban,” Mr Chaudhry said.

Modi used Pakistani airspace on a state visit to France, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain from Aug 22 to 26.

The minister said the government would also review legal formalities to ban the use of Pakistani airspace and land route.

Earlier, Pakistan had imposed the restrictions after the Indian Air Force violated its airspace on Feb 26 and continued these till March 15.

Later, Special Assistant to the PM on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan told a press conference after the cabinet meeting that it was time for the world “to do more” to rein in India.

“Now the world, which asked Pakistan to do more for its peace and the peace of region, should do more to force India to end gross human rights violations in occupied Kashmir,” she added.

Dr Awan said the prime minister had become the voice of the nation and Kashmiris and he would advocate the Kashmiris’ cause at the United Nations General Assembly. “Prime Minister Imran Khan has become a voice for the Kashmiris as he has turned the Kashmir issue into a movement,” she said.

She said the whole nation would come out on Friday from 12 noon to 12.30pm to express solidarity with the Kashmiris. “We will stand by the Kashmiris and their cause even if the whole world does not support it,” she added.

The prime minister took the cabinet into confidence about the steps taken by the government on the Kashmir issue and apprised it about the efforts to highlight the cause at international forums and the government’s strategy for future.

The special assistant said the cabinet endorsed the prime minister’s decision to observe every Friday as Kashmir Solidarity Day and his efforts to turn the Kashmir issue into a movement. “Protests on the streets of Pakistan would be a message to the world that it would have to do more to resolve the Kashmir issue,” she added.

She said a focal group had been established and during its meeting opposition members Mushahid Hussain Sayed of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Naveed Qamar of the Pakistan Peoples Party supported the government’s priorities on Kashmir.

Dr Awan said the cabinet discussed different options to give momentum to the Kashmir freedom movement by arranging activities every Friday. “School and college students, labourers, farmers, employees of government departments, hospitals and other institutions will show their solidarity to the Kashmiris, sending an effective message to the world about the issue,” she added.

Ms Awan said the cabinet was apprised about various initiatives taken by some ministries to provide relief to the common man.

The foreign ministry informed the meeting that a token system had been introduced for people who visited the ministry for different affairs, and they would now be allowed inside on a first come first served basis.

Similarly, Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan said a weather forecast system of the Civil Aviation Authority would be used to provide weather information to farmers.

Minister for Communications Murad Saeed said that special seats had been allocated for disabled and special persons in city buses.

Prime Minister Khan directed the authority concerned to allocate special quota for transgender persons in public projects so that they could get a respectable place in society. He also ordered the release of jail inmates who were facing imprisonment for non-payment of fines.

Ms Awan said on a proposal of the interior ministry the cabinet granted approval for establishment of a rehabilitation centre for drug addicts, specially youths, so that they could get rid of addition.

Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said people of 65 years and above would get rail tickets for half their price and those who were over 75 years of age would get four tickets free of cost per year.

The meeting was informed that a model police station had been established in the federal capital to facilitate overseas Pakistanis. The concept would be introduced in the provinces.

The cabinet also approved a proposal for awarding death sentence to the convicts involved in child pornography and child abuse. The decision was taken in the light of a report that incidence of child abuse had increased in Islamabad.

The cabinet approved the appointment of Amir Mumtaz as the director and chairman of the Pakistan Steel Mills.

Published in Dawn, August 28th, 2019