HUB: Members of the All Balochistan Employees and Workers Grand Alliance block RCD Highway on Monday as they hold a demonstration for acceptance of their demands.—PPI
HUB: Members of the All Balochistan Employees and Workers Grand Alliance block RCD Highway on Monday as they hold a demonstration for acceptance of their demands.—PPI

ISLAMABAD: Terming the opposition ‘harmless’ to the government, Prime Minister Imran Khan in a major policy shift on Monday directed his spokespersons not to criticise the opposition in the media but to highlight the government’s achievements.

Presiding over a meeting of his spokespersons at Prime Minister House, Mr Khan highlighted the need for implementing proposed electoral and judicial reforms for which the government was likely to invite the opposition for a dialogue.

The prime minister also met Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly Speaker Mushtaq Ghani and urged them to take effective measures to control sky-rocketing prices by taking stern action against the “mafias” and middleman responsible for the “artificial” price hike in the country.

Later, Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Zaheer Ahmad Baber Sidhu called on the prime minister. During the meeting, professional matters pertaining to Pakistan Air Force were discussed, a press release issued by the PM Office said.

Tells his spokespersons to highlight achievements instead of criticising opposition

A spokesman told Dawn after attending the meeting of spokespersons that PM Khan was of the opinion that after split in the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), the opposition was no more ‘harmful’ to the government. Therefore the spokespersons should not indulge themselves in any confrontation with the opposition members in the media and TV programmes or in parliament.

He quoted the prime minister as saying: “Now the opposition does not matter.”

The remarks are believed to be a shift from his earlier position as Mr Khan and his close aides since Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) came to power have been lashing out at the opposition leaders for what they call “looting national wealth and being responsible” for putting the county into economic crisis.

The spokesman said Mr Khan was quite concerned about judicial and electoral reforms to ensure speedy justice and holding of elections in a free, fair and transparent manner. “For that purpose National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaisar will again invite all heads of parliamentary parties including opposition parties to sit together and initiate process of reforms through consensus,” said the participant in the PM House meeting.

However, according to another PTI leader, Senator Faisal Javed, the prime minister did not talk about the PDM in the meeting and said whatever destruction was taking place in the PDM was the opposition’s problem.

He said the prime minister did ask his spokespersons that the ruling party leaders should focus on resolving people’s problems. He urged his team to watch interest of common man and said the government would enhance its programme — ‘No one will sleep hungry’ (koi bhooka na soye) this week.

Mr Khan was hopeful that the steps being taken by the government would stabilise prices as stringent action would be taken against the “mafia” involved in hoarding and profiteering of essential food items such as wheat flour and sugar.

Earlier in a separate meeting, the prime minister and Speaker Ghani discussed matters related to pace of development work and coronavirus situation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The meeting was also attended by KP Minister for Revenue Qalandar Lodhi and Member of National Assembly from Abbottabad Ali Khan Jadoon.

Technology zones

While presiding over a separate meeting on the promotion of the IT sector in the country, Mr Khan said the establishment of Special Technology Zones (STZs) would ensure the promotion of information technology and directed finalisation of a timeline-based strategy in this regard.

He said the government was taking priority steps to engage IT experts and mainstreaming of the field freelancers. He stressed defining short, medium and long-term policies for the development of IT sector to meet the challenges of contemporary world.

The prime minister termed the IT sector important in harnessing the potential of the country’s youth. “As coronavirus pandemic resulted in several challenges, the situation provides opportunities to educate youth for online work,” he added.

Mr Khan was informed that the IT sector could generate $5 billion foreign exchange, but the lack of proper strategy and facilities kept the potential far below its capacity.

The meeting was attended by IT expert Masood Jabbar, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority chairman retired Maj-Gen Amir Azeem Bajwa, Special Technology Zone Authority chairman Amir Hashmi and National Information Technology Board CEO Syed Shabahat Ali Shah.

Published in Dawn, April 6th, 2021

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