Govt senators being approached to change loyalties: PM

Published March 9, 2021
In this file photo, Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks during the WEF's Country Strategy Dialogue on Pakistan. — DawnNewsTV/File
In this file photo, Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks during the WEF's Country Strategy Dialogue on Pakistan. — DawnNewsTV/File

• PTI has yet to announce candidate for Senate deputy chairman slot
• Imran apprised of digital media advertising policy

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday said government senators are being approached to gain their support for the opposition’s candidate in the upcoming election for Senate chairman.

On the other hand, ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) has so far not announced its candidate for the office of deputy chairman, keeping the slot open and placing itself in a better bargaining position to ensure support of its allies and independent candidates.

Presiding over a meeting of his spokespersons, the prime minister vowed to win the chairman’s post despite opposition’s majority in the upper house.

Following the March 3 elections, the government, its allies and five independent senators have a combined strength of 48 in the upper house while the opposition has 51 senators.

When contacted, a spokesman for the prime minister, who did not want to be named, told Dawn that Mr Khan termed the Senate chairman election as one of the most crucial political events in the country at the moment.

The prime minister, however, was confident that the government candidate for the Senate chairman office, Sadiq Sanjrani, would defeat Pakistan Democratic Movement’s (PDM) joint candidate, former prime minister and senator-elect Yousuf Raza Gilani, on March 12.

Meanwhile, PTI filed another petition with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), seeking disqualification of Mr Gilani as senator-elect for allegedly “winning the election through money”.

“Mr Gilani, who bought his way into becoming senator, will not be able to contest the Senate chairman poll if the ECP takes timely action against him,” the spokesman said.

During a talk show at a private TV channel, Information Minister Shibli Faraz agreed that the opposition was in majority in the Senate but, he said, the difference was quite small which was why the government was confident of winning the Senate chairman seat.

He said Sadiq Sanjrani had run the house in a balanced way and had personal ties with each member.

Mr Faraz said if there was an upset in the polls on March 12, the responsibility would lie on the opposition as it had not supported the government’s move to hold the recently-held Senate election through open ballot.

According to another source, the prime minister informed the spokespersons that he knew which ruling alliance’s MNAs had voted for the opposition’s candidate, Yousuf Raza Gilani, in the Senate polls on March 3.

In a separate meeting with senators Faisal Javed and Zeeshan Khanzada, the prime minister discussed matters related to expansion of Panahgah network and implementation of ‘Nobody Sleeps Hungry’ programme.

PM Khan said taking care of the needs of the poor and deserving people was the priority of the government and it was making efforts to help them in consultation and cooperation with stakeholders at individual and institutional level.

In another meeting, Prime Minister Khan reviewed government’s direct subsidy being given to the needy to buy food and other essential items.

The meeting was attended by Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Minister for Industries Hammad Azhar, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Institutional Reforms Dr Ishrat Hussain, Special Assistant to Prime Minister Waqar Masood, Special Assistant to PM for Social Protection Dr Sania Nishtar, Governor State Bank of Pakistan Dr Raza Baqir and secretaries and senior officers of relevant ministries.

The prime minister was given detailed briefing on the proposed Ehsaas food stamp programme.

Special Assistant Dr Sania Nishtar informed the meeting about the methodology and contours of the proposed programme.

The aim of the direct subsidy programme was to give financial assistance to the poor so that they could buy essential items.

“We completely realise our responsibility and we will go to any extent to fulfill it,” PM Khan said, adding that it was the government’s top priority to provide subsidy in a transparent and effective manner.

Digital media

Information Minister Shibli Faraz, Focal Person to the Prime Minister on Digital Media Dr Arslan Khalid and Digital Media Wing General Manager Imran Ghazali called on Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday.

Mr Faraz apprised the prime minister of the Digital Media Advertising Policy, which was proposed by the information ministry.

The prime minister was told that currently there were 93 million Internet users, including over 45 million social media users in Pakistan.

Keeping in view the rising trend, a mechanism for release of public-sector advertisements on digital media had been proposed.

He was told that at present, there was no mechanism in place for digital media advertisements of the federal government.

It would be the first ever policy framed by a Pakistani government that would enable it to advertise on digital and social media platforms through the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

The prime minister was further informed that digital media industry was rapidly growing and the policy would encourage new digital platforms and content creators, and help the country’s economy.

Dr Arslan Khalid briefed the prime minister about Digital Media Development Programme (DMDP).

He said the DMDP was a multifaceted programme, which focused on the development and growth of the digital media industry of Pakistan and extending digital literacy to the grassroot levels.

The DMDP aimed to bridge the gap between students, government and the digital media industry in order to move towards a brighter future in the digital media ecosystem.

Imran Ghazali also presented the six-month performance report of the digital media wing.

The prime minister appreciated Information Minister Shibli Faraz for steps taken by the ministry to strengthen the digital media industry.

Published in Dawn, March 9th, 2021

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