ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet, which met on Monday under Prime Minster Imran Khan, took some important decisions, approving an ordinance regarding formation of a regulatory authority on real estate and calling a meeting of the provinces to bring down skyrocketing prices of essential items.
The cabinet, which usually meets on Tuesdays, held its meeting a day earlier as Prime Minister Khan will be travelling to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday as part of his efforts to ease tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia. He visited Tehran on Sunday, offering the Iranian leadership to play the role of facilitator to iron out differences between the two Muslim countries.
The cabinet decided to drop its plan to form a committee on business community’s cases and threw the ball into National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) court and now it would be up to the anti-graft body as to how it would deal with such cases and negate an impression of “harassment”.
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said at a post-cabinet meeting press conference that Prime Minister Imran Khan has ordered the authorities concerned to take steps to control the prices of basic food items. He called a high-level meeting to be attended by the four chief ministers on Friday to devise a strategy to control inflation which had increased by 11.4 per cent year-on-year in September.
“Members of the cabinet decided that the price committees of provinces will be activated and the elements responsible for fluctuation of prices and hoarding will be dealt with strictly,” Dr Awan added.
It has been observed that the prices of consumer items, vegetables and fruits have gone up unprecedentedly over the last couple of weeks adding more miseries to the people already hit by inflation.
The prime minister also directed the officials concerned to maintain the prices of life-saving medicines. The meeting was told that a summary was being moved to reduce the prices of 89 medicines.
The SAPM said the cabinet had approved an ordinance under which a Real Estate Regulatory Authority would be formed to check the unplanned growth of private housing societies, put them under the tax net and safeguard people’s investment in them.
She said the authority would also ensure that there was no artificial raise in prices of plots in housing societies and that the rate of land in one society was not much different from the other. “Housing societies should work under some rules and regulations. We want to turn this disparity into parity to safeguard people’s investments in real estate,” she added.
Dr Awan said the cabinet dropped the idea of forming a committee comprising top businessmen and industrialists to deal with the cases filed by NAB against businessmen and investors. Now the meeting decided that it would be up to NAB to deal with the cases of businessmen and do away with the impression of harassment, she added.
Talking about the opposition’s Azad March to be staged in the federal capital on Oct 31, the SAPM said Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman was being used by other main opposition parties — Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N).
She claimed that Maulana Fazl had already seen lack of public support as he could not become a member of parliament after a long time. “People, who have already rejected the Maulana, will not come out on his call for agitation against the government,” she added.
Ms Awan said there was some rift within the PML-N as its supreme leader and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and president Shahbaz Sharif had differences. “PML-N is feeling so insecure that in its meeting held on Monday, all members were asked to keep their cell phones outside the meeting room so that no inside discussion could be shared outside,” she said.
The cabinet approved the decisions taken by the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) recently.
The SAPM said Prime Minister Khan had taken the cabinet members into confidence on his recent visits to China and Iran and apprised them of his efforts to facilitate better relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
On the issue of better utilisation of Evacuee Trust Property’s land, the cabinet was told that the Evacuee Trust Property Board had recovered 1,262 acres of land over the past year. The cabinet approved the appointment of board members under the Health Care Act as well as the Real Estate Regulatory Authority Ordinance, she said.
Dr Awan said the cabinet also approved a policy regarding Langar Khanas [free meal places]. Under the policy, the programme will be run under a public-private partnership to extend its scope.
The cabinet suspended matters relating to six other ordinances.
Asked why the government was bent upon doing legislation through ordinances despite the fact the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf had lamented the last PML-N government for doing so, Dr Awan told Dawn after the press conference: “In fact the opposition wants some Muk Muka [dealing] with us and thus it does not allow us to pass bills in parliament.”
Published in Dawn, October 15th, 2019