• Takes notice of govt employees’ protest
• Cabinet told 100,000 more housing units to be built
• Aide says PM ready to resign if opposition leaders deposit laundered money in national exchequer
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday said the government did not want any missing person in the country and directed the relevant authorities to ensure orders were implemented in letter and spirit.
Presiding over a meeting of the cabinet, Prime Minister Khan also took notice of the protest staged by the federal government employees and ordered removal of anomalies in the way of uniform salary package for employees working in the provinces and the Centre.
Reacting to the fatal traffic accident in Islamabad on Monday night that claimed four lives, the prime minister called for discouraging protocol culture adopted on the pretext of security.
The meeting was also informed that over 100,000 housing units were built under the Naya Pakistan Housing Programme and another 100,000 would be constructed over the next six months.
A participant of the meeting told Dawn that on the prime minister’s directives, a recent order of the Islamabad High Court on missing persons was presented in the meeting in which the government and the prime minster were held responsible for their disappearance.
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah, in the judgement, said: “The worthy prime minister and members of the federal cabinet would become responsible for failure on part of the state to protect the constitutionally-guaranteed rights of the citizens because the buck stops at the top.
“Enforced disappearance is the most heinous crime and intolerable in a society governed under the Constitution. Why in the instant case this court should not declare every prime minister and member of the cabinet responsible who has held the respective public offices from the date when the petitioner’s son went missing till his whereabouts have been traced or at least a satisfactory explanation is given for the latter’s absence.”
The chief justice said assistance of the attorney general was required and he was expected to submit a list of prime ministers and members of the federal cabinet who have held the said offices from 2015 till the next date of hearing.
“The learned attorney general is also expected to inform this court why exemplary costs may not be imposed on those who may be declared responsible for the failure of the state to give a satisfactory explanation for disappearance of the petitioner’s son,” the judgement said.
The meeting’s participants quoted PM Khan as saying: “I totally agree with the decision of the court that there should be no missing person in the country and that the government is responsible for any person who disappears.”
He ordered that effective legislation be made to ensure that no person went missing in the country.
Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari said a bill on forced disappearance had been pending in parliament for the last two years and nothing was being done on it.
On this, Law Minister Farogh Naseem said the interior ministry had sent him a letter and that it was an issue pertaining to the interior ministry and not the human rights ministry.
PM Khan directed the law minister to sit with all stakeholders on Thursday and settle the issue, as “we do not want any missing person in our government”.
Taking notice of the protests being staged by employees of a federal government department, Mr Khan ordered that salaries be brought on a par with those being drawn by employees of other provincial and federal government departments.
“There is an anomaly under which the employees of provincial departments are getting more salaries than the federal government servants,” PM Khan said, adding that the authorities concerned must devise a policy under which salaries of the federal and provincial governments employees were equal.
At a post-cabinet meeting press conference, Information Minister Shibli Faraz said the cabinet’s main focus was on the housing sector. The meeting was told that 110,501 housing units had been constructed and over 100,000 would be completed over the next six months at an estimated cost of Rs657 billion.
“Banks have allocated Rs175 billion for house loan facility whereas the government has simplified the process of issuance of NOCs and granting permissions to be carried out in 30 days in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” the minister added.
Speaking about the traffic accident on Srinagar Highway in Islamabad on Monday night, he said PM Khan had condemned the culture of travelling with a security escort without the relevant authorities’ permission.
He said the elite was usually accompanied by a security squad and did not even stop their vehicles at traffic signals.
The meeting, the minister said, also condemned land grabbing by mafias and decided to take stern action against them. “The government will also get railway property vacated from land grabbers,” he added.
Responding to a question about horse-trading in the Senate elections, Mr Faraz said it had earned a bad name for the country, adding that the government wanted to hold the upcoming Senate elections in a transparent manner for which a bill was being tabled in parliament for open ballot.
“Both PPP and PML-N have promised in their Charter of Democracy in 2006 that they will close the door on horse-trading in the Senate polls, but now they are opposing the government’s move to ensure holding of elections through open ballot,” he added.
The minister expressed the hope that the government would secure majority in the upper house of parliament, which would enable it to carry out important pending legislation that had been blocked by the opposition.
Replying to a question about the problems being faced by the journalist community, the minister said the government was working for the welfare of journalists and that he would ask the government to provide health coverage under the government’s health card scheme.
Meanwhile, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Political Communication Dr Shahzad Gill issued a statement of Prime Minister Imran Khan in which the premier said he was ready to resign from his office if opposition leaders, who had laundered public wealth, deposited it in the national exchequer.
When the information minister was asked why the prime minister gave such an offer, he said the prime minister’s resignation was not the main issue, but what was more important was why the opposition had failed to get his resignation before its Jan 31 deadline.
Published in Dawn, February 3rd, 2021