ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan chairs a meeting of the federal cabinet on Tuesday.—PPI
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan chairs a meeting of the federal cabinet on Tuesday.—PPI

• Cabinet decides to incorporate opposition’s suggestions, address its concerns
• Receives briefing from ANF chief on Rana Sanaullah case

ISLAMABAD: As the sessions of the Senate and National Assembly have been convened on Wednesday (today), the federal cabinet on Tuesday decided to incorporate suggestions of the opposition by addressing its concerns over the newly promulgated National Accountability (Second Amendment) Ordinance 2019 so that the law could be passed from the two houses of parliament with consensus.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said at a post-cabinet meeting press conference that the cabinet had decided to get the NAB’s amended ordinance passed by the two houses. “We do not want to implement NAB ordinance by force as the law is going to parliament for debate where opposition’s concerns will be addressed,” she added.

She said the government acknowledged the role of the opposition in the passage of the NAB ordinance as it [the opposition] was in majority in the Senate.

Dr Awan said the cabinet had endorsed the prime minister’s stance that he would not retreat on the new NAB ordinance and hoped that it would provide ease to the business community and would pave the way for progress and economic stability in the country.

“Although it was a long-standing demand of the opposition to change controversial NAB ordinance, the credit goes to Prime Minister Imran Khan who did it. Now instead of appreciating the prime minister, the opposition is engaged in point scoring over the issue,” she added.

“For the law to be passed through the Senate, it is important for the opposition to come on board. But the government will not bulldoze this entire process to forcefully implement the law,” she said, adding that apparently the opposition was criticising the government but internally it was enjoying the slashing of NAB powers that would also benefit the opposition leaders facing NAB cases.

The cabinet in its meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Khan, approved a new social welfare programme — Financial Assistance Cards Scheme [FACS] — for providing monetary assistance to the poor. Mr Khan will launch the scheme on Jan 20.

The cabinet also formed a committee to solve problems confronting the growers and industrialists associated with sugar and cotton industries. The first meeting of the committee will be held on Wednesday.

Rana Sanaullah case

Rejecting the Lahore High Court’s decision granting bail to PML-N leader Rana Sanaullah in the drug case, the cabinet and the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) decided to go in appeal against the order.

SAPM Awan said a special in-camera session was held in which the ANF director general gave a detailed briefing to the prime minister on the drug case. “The ANF was demoralised and a media campaign was launched to malign it,” she said, adding: “The accused [Rana Sanaullah] became triumphant while the institution [ANF], which is fighting a war to secure the future of the country, was subjected to media trial as the real accused was not him but the ANF.”

The LHC had on Dec 24 granted bail to the PML-N stalwart in the drug case. And on Dec 27, Minister of State for Narcotics Control Shehryar Afridi vowed to uphold the court decision.

“It is an old practice that we hold weak people accountable and do not lay our hands on the powerful and bigwigs. If today a powerful is nabbed it is also contrary to the mood of the media,” Dr Awan added.

She said that during the meeting, the ANF director general presented all facts before the cabinet and asserted that the ANF was an independent institution which was striving hard to eliminate the menace of drug trafficking and addiction without any political affiliation and design. The DG also apprised the meeting of hidden realities having links with Rana Sanaullah’s case.

The prime minister appreciated the performance of the ANF and directed him [the DG] to work for eliminating drugs form society without any discrimination and political affiliation. He said the ANF should continue to work within the legal and constitutional limits as the government stood by the institution, Dr Awan added.

Financial assistance cards

At the outset of the meeting, the prime minister highlighted the achievements of his government and placed future guidelines and targets before the cabinet members. He vowed that 2020 will be the year of progress and economic stability and its trickle-down effect will pass on to the people, especially the poor.

“On the eve of New Year, the prime minister set new priorities of the government and talked about all achievements made and problems faced in 2019,” Dr Awan added.

She said the Financial Assistant Cards Scheme would different from the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) and other finance assistance initiatives being taken under the government’s flagship programme called Ehsas.

PM visits hospitals

The prime minister paid a surprise visit to Poly Clinic and Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences hospitals on Tuesday night and inquired after the health of patients. Accompanied by Health Minister Zafar Mirza, the prime minister vowed to provide better health care facilities to the people in 2020. He also promised expansion of Poly Clinic.

Published in Dawn, January 1st, 2020