ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet on Tuesday criticised the Sindh government for playing a “dirty role” in last year’s wheat crisis by “hoarding” millions of tonnes of the commodity.
The cabinet could not reach a decision on the raise in salaries of federal secretariat employees and a follow-up meeting between representatives of the employees and Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid on the issue also remained inconclusive.
The employees then decided to observe a strike on Wednesday (today) and stage a sit-in with the support of the opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM).
Prime Minister Imran Khan took notice of non-filling of about 90 posts of heads of government organisations and ordered that the positions be filled within seven days.
The meeting also discussed the upcoming Senate polls and the ordinance promulgated to amend the Elections Act, 2017 for open voting in the upper house of parliament.
PM criticises PDM for supporting a ‘corruption-friendly’ system in Senate elections
Addressing a press conference along with Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar after the cabinet meeting, Information Minister Shibli Faraz said that the meeting expressed serious concern over a report on the release of “six-year-old and unfit-for-consumption” stock of 32,000 tonnes of wheat by the Sindh government.
He said the cabinet noted that the Sindh government did not release wheat in time and also did not share data about wheat and sugar stocks with the federal government, resulting in artificial price hike, hoarding and wastage of available wheat stock that could have been utilised by the public.
“Does the Sindh government see people as animals who could be given rotten wheat?.
“The Sindh government did filthy politics by hoarding wheat and despite a letter sent by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government it did not release wheat when needed,” he claimed.
The cabinet also accorded approval to exemption of Public Procurement Regulatory Authority regulations for import of 300,000 tonnes of wheat and 500,000 tonnes of sugar.
A source in the interior ministry told Dawn that the cabinet had agreed to increase salaries of the government employees of Grades 1 to 16 by 40 per cent. However, the employees had demanded 100pc increase for Grades 1 to 22.
The cabinet was informed that 56 heads/CEOs had been appointed in public sector organisations in a transparent manner since 2018, but 86 posts of heads/CEOs were still vacant.
The prime minister expressed displeasure and directed the establishment division to submit a report to the cabinet citing reasons for the delay in appointments.
The cabinet discussed the coming Senate polls and endorsed the government decision to introduce an ordinance to ensure these elections through an open vote.
PM Imran Khan criticised the PDM for supporting a “corruption-friendly” system in the Senate elections and said his government was determined to stop the cycle of corruption and money laundering. He tweeted on the issue and showed a video.
“The videos showing the shameful way in which politicians buy & sell votes in Senate reflects the total destruction of the nation’s morality by successive ruling elites as they drowned the nation in debt. Cycle of corruption & money laundering is a sordid tale of our political elite,” he said in a tweet.
The video showed distribution of money by and among some members of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly before the 2018 Senate elections.
“They spend money to come to power & then use this political power to make money to purchase bureaucrats, media & other decision-makers to consolidate their power & rob nation’s wealth – money laundering it into offshore accounts/ foreign assets / palatial residences abroad,” he remarked.
“This is what the PDM cabal wants to now protect by supporting a corruption-friendly system. We are determined to stop this cycle of corruption & money laundering that is debilitating the nation,” the prime minister maintained.
The cabinet was also informed about the updated status of actions taken pursuant to the Sugar Enquiry Committee Report. The meeting was told that several sugar mills had approached courts of law and action was under way after completion of court proceedings. The cabinet was also informed that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was looking into the issue of subsidies.
The meeting approved the Tax Laws (Amendment) Ordinance, 2021, aimed at facilitating transaction under the Digital Roshan Pakistan scheme. The cabinet was apprised that $ 500 million have been transacted through this scheme so far.
The chairman of the Task Force on IT & Telecom briefed the cabinet about progress made for development of the IT and Telecom sector.
The meeting accorded approval for mutual legal assistance requests from non-treaty countries.
The cabinet approved establishment of 30 additional accountability courts in Karachi, Lahore, Multan, Peshawar, Rawalpindi, Sukkur, Hyderabad and Quetta. The prime minister directed that the first phase of setting up additional accountability courts should be completed on priority.
The meeting approved the appointment of Masroor Khan as chairman of the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority.
The cabinet allowed a three-month extension in the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement. The existing agreement is due to expire on Feb 11.
The meeting was briefed about the measures taken to control smuggling at borders with Iran and Afghanistan.
The cabinet ratified decisions taken by the Economic Coordination Committee in its meeting held on Feb 3 and 8 and Cabinet Committee on Energy in its meeting held on Feb 4 and 8.
Information Minister Faraz said the government would benefit save Rs800 billion over a period of 20 years by making adjustments in the contacts with the Independent Power Producers (IPPs).
“The government is clearing a liability of Rs400bn after pre-audit and a committee comprising two Supreme Court judges and the auditor has been established to decide on the disputed amount of Rs57bn claimed by IPPs,” he added.
The cabinet was informed that as a result of negotiations, the government saved Rs32bn against an adjudicated claim of Rs92bn by IPPs.
The minister said the number of public entities had been reduced from over 400 to 300 plus, while deliberations were continuing for their mergers.
“We are facing over 70 years old issues and one should not expect that this government will fix them in mere 32 months. It is a time-consuming exercise. The government’s intentions are good as the country is moving in a right direction,” he added.
The prime minister directed that unscheduled load-shedding should not be done in any part of the country and directed the minister for energy to conduct investigations for the load-shedding caused by technical reasons.
Mr Khan apprised the cabinet that relevant ministries have been directed to present proposals for reducing the burden of indirect taxes, particularly on food items to provide relief to the masses.
Published in Dawn, February 10th, 2021