ISLAMABAD: The government on Tuesday decided not to extend the bail of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and declared him an “absconder” for violating the bail requirements by not presenting his medical report before a board formed on the order of the Islamabad High Court.
The government also decided to freeze gas and electricity tariffs for the next four months [till announcement of the next budget].
The decisions were taken at a meeting of the federal cabinet presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan.
“After Nawaz Sharif failed to submit his medical report of any hospital in London, the medical board rejected a medical certificate sent by him and [the government] declared him an absconder. From today Nawaz Sharif is an absconder according to the law of land and if he does not return to the country he will be declared a proclaimed offender,” Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said at a post-cabinet meeting press conference.
She said the Punjab government, which was authorised by the IHC to decide Nawaz Sharif’s case on medical grounds, had written several letters asking the self-exiled former premier to submit his medical report from any hospital in London, but he failed to do so and only sent a certificate which was not accepted by the medical board. “If he [Nawaz Sharif] is seriously ill then why a comprehensive medical report is not being submitted to the medical board,” she added.
Cabinet freezes electricity, gas tariffs for four months, approves national education plan
The Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) supremo was convicted and disqualified in corruption cases. The IHC granted him bail for eight weeks on medical grounds on Oct 29 last year. He left the country for London on Nov 19, 2019 for medical treatment there. His younger brother and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif accompanied him and is in London too.
“The medical board wants to know exactly about ailment of Nawaz Sharif and its treatment and due to his lack of response the Punjab government has decided not to accept Mr Sharif’s application regarding extension in his eight-week bail [that expired on Dec 24, 2019],” Dr Awan added.
She did not elaborate how Mr Sharif could be declared an absconder legally.
However, it is believed that the Punjab government will move the IHC with the medical board’s decision and it will be up to the court to decide whether or not he should be declared an absconder or a proclaimed offender.
Dr Awan said the office of the opposition leader was also waiting for Shahbaz Sharif, who was also staying in London for “no reason”. “He is getting monthly salary and enjoying luxurious offices and other perks and privileges but not performing his duties required by his office and the people. Shahbaz Sahib, return to the country and justify your salary and other benefits being given from taxpayers’ money,” she added.
The cabinet decided to freeze electricity and gas tariffs for the next four months.
Dr Awan said the prime minister had directed the energy ministry to find an “out of the box solution” to increase gas and electricity tariffs and remove all additional taxes, surcharges and levies on utility bills so that minimum burden could be passed on to domestic consumers and the industrial sector.
The prime minister was briefed on long-term measures to reduce electricity prices. The meeting was apprised that power generating units were established between 2015 and 2018, but their cost was not reflected in electricity bills that caused circular debt of over Rs500 billion in the power sector.
“The cost of new projects caused an increase of Rs5.32 per unit and Rs127bn subsidy given in this regard was not reflected in the budget. Besides, in the last year of the PML-N government, the load management was cut down by 50 per cent that caused additional losses to the power sector,” Dr Awan said.
The prime minister, she added, also took notice of inadequate capacity transmission lines to bear load of over 18,000MW and that was one of the major causes of loadshedding in the country. “In summer, electricity demand goes up to 26,000MW, but the existing transmission lines have no capacity to bear load of more than 18,000MW,” she added.
National education plan
The cabinet approved the PTI government’s much ambitious National Education Plan 2020 under which uniform curriculum will be introduced in all educational institutions and seminaries [Madressahs] across the country.
It is worth mentioning that the cabinet took such a decision several times in the past.
“Uniform curriculum, bringing religious seminaries to mainstream, sending 22 million out-of-school children to schools, adults education, skill for all and reform in higher education are basic objectives of the education policy,” Dr Awan said.
The meeting was apprised that uniform curriculum for class I-V had been prepared and sent to the National Curriculum Council for approval. Likewise, syllabus for class VI and VIII will be finalised by 2021.
Dr Awan said Ittehad Tanzeemul Madaris was fully cooperating with the government in implementing uniform curriculum in Madressahs for which a programme was also being devised with the monetary assistance of the World Bank. She said that under Hunarmand Pakistan Programme, more than 170,000 girls would be given skill training.
Following the press conference, when Dr Awan’s attention was drawn to implementation of the recently approved 8th Wage Board Award, she expressed ignorance that the document was lying with the Pakistan Printing Press for incorporating it in the government gazette and that it was being delayed there for no reason. “I through it would have been done by the Printing Press of Pakistan, but I will check it tomorrow why it is not being done,” she added.
She said the cabinet in principle decided to merge two separate bills relating to journalists’ safety, security, insurance and terrorism and directed the ministry concerned to make a comprehensive law on the matter for approval.
Dr Awan said the cabinet expressed satisfaction over the measures being taken to control inflation and their outcome in the shape of relief to the poor segments of society.
Published in Dawn, February 26th, 2020