• Minister asks opposition to shun politics of resignations from assemblies
• PM calls for strict vigilance on availability of commodities during Ramazan
ISLAMABAD: The government on Tuesday once again invited the opposition to sit with it to resolve all controversial issues and initiate the process of much-needed electoral reforms for the larger interest of the country.
“We are ready to sit separately with the three main opposition parties — Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Pakistan Peoples Party and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl — and initiate talks on electoral reforms and also on other issues,” federal Minister for Science and Technology Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said in a post-cabinet meeting press conference.
The government extended the olive branch to the opposition a few days after Prime Minister Imran Khan directed his media team not to criticise the opposition and focus on highlighting the government’s achievements.
Mr Chaudhry said the prime minister had already written a letter to National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaisar to involve the opposition in the process of electoral reforms.
“Following collapse of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), the opposition should realise that days of politics of protest are over, therefore they (opposition parties) should come forward for the much-required reforms in the country,” he added.
The minister said the opposition’s narrative of sending the government packing lay ‘buried’ following the demise of PDM.
“I had predicted that the alliance not based on an ideology cannot remain intact for a long time and PDM’s burial proved me correct as it was formed to protect personal interests,” he added.
Mr Chaudhry said the PDM was now a relic of the past, therefore, the opposition should end the politics of resignations from the assemblies. The PPP was against resignations as it had a stake in the system and the PML-N and JUI-F should reconsider their strategy, the minister said.
He said JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman told the PPP not to make BAP (Balochistan Awami Party) its ‘father’ while the PML-N leadership had expelled PPP leaders Sherry Rehman and Qamar Zaman Kaira from the WhatsApp group.
Mr Chaudhry reiterated the government’s offer to the opposition parties to present their proposals for electoral reforms in the parliament as the treasury benches had already submitted their’s.
The opposition should cooperate with the government for institutional reforms, he said, adding that reformation of the judicial system could be taken up in the next phase.
The minister said the digitalisation process of the cabinet had been completed which would help save Rs10 million per annum, adding that from next week, cabinet members would get tablets and agendas would be shared digitally.
He requested the National Assembly speaker as well as the Senate chairman to expedite the process of making both houses paperless.
The minister said the cabinet had also been given a briefing on the on-going Covid-19 situation by Minister for Planning Asad Umar.
The meeting was informed that the third wave of coronavirus was more dangerous as the number of critical patients at present was 4,200 compared to 3,200 in the first wave. Sindh and Balochistan were most affected.
According to the planning minister, the next two weeks were crucial and following standard operating procedures was vital, Mr Chaudhry added.
A logistic committee of the cabinet headed by Maritime Minister Ali Zaidi had been constituted, which would present its recommendations on importing the coronavirus vaccine, the minister said.
The cabinet, he said, also gave approval for the establishment of the Central Business District in Lahore, which would comprise two projects – Walton Road of 350 acres and Wahdat Colony of 270 acres. Work on public-private partnership project would start within 18 months, he added.
Mr Chaudhry said the cabinet also approved setting up of registration authority to get geographical indicator tags for agricultural and non-agricultural products to maintain their Pakistani identity.
He said geographical indicator tag for the country’s mangoes, precious gems, and other products would be acquired for their protection as Pakistani products in the international market.
The minister said succession certificates used to be a big issue for overseas Pakistanis as they had to come to Pakistan to acquire them from courts. Now they would get them from the country’s embassies through the Nadra system, he added.
Mr Chaudhry said the cabinet approved the proposal of setting up Litigants Facilitation Centre in Islamabad and the Capital Development Authority would build its building.
The cabinet, he added, amended the rules of business to empower the ministries so that they could make their own decisions.
The minister said the cabinet also gave approval to the mid-term budget strategy paper which was presented before it. It was informed that exports had reached $18.7 billion mark compared to $17.4 billion last year.
Imports worth $39.5 billion had been made in the current fiscal year whereas last year they stood at $34.5 billion, he added.
He said remittances had reached $21.5 billion, which was a record and proof of the overseas Pakistanis’ trust in the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan.
He said largescale manufacturing had expanded by 7.9 per cent this year, adding that currently the economic growth was 3pc and would reach 5.1pc by the year 2023-24.
The foreign exchange reserves were now enough to meet three-and-a-half months’ requirements, he added.
Mr Chaudhry said in the coming Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP), special additions would be made and disparity in the employees’ salaries would be addressed.
The cabinet, he said, had approved the deployment of Rangers in Lahore, Rawalpindi, Gujranwala, Jhelum and Bahawalpur to maintain law and order.
He further said the Zaireen Management Policy and reduction in students visa fee were also given approval.
Prime Minister Imran Khan issued directives for strict vigilance on availability of daily-use commodities during Ramazan to facilitate the poor segment of the society.
The prime minister also issued directives for continuation of legal proceedings against profiteers and hoarders during the holy month.
He was presiding over a high-level meeting held to review availability of daily-use items and their prices during Ramazan, PM Office media wing said in a press release.
The meeting was attended by Finance Minister Mohammad Hammad Azhar, Minister for Food Security Syed Fakhar Imam, Minister for Energy Omar Ayub Khan, the PM’s special assistants Dr Sania Nishtar, Dr Shahbaz Gill, relevant secretaries, the FBR chairman, chief commissioner of Islamabad and Utility Stores Corporation (USC) managing director. Provincial chief secretaries attended the meeting through video link.
The USC managing director said 20kg flour bag was available at Rs800, sugar per kg at Rs68 and ghee per kg at Rs170 at all outlets across the country.
The meeting was told that about 2,600 tonnes of flour, 2,000 tonnes of sugar and 1,200 tonnes of ghee were being sold on a daily basis at Utility Stores.
The chief commissioner said Sasta Bazaars had been established throughout the capital where daily-use commodities were available at reduced prices.
Due to the coronavirus situation, these items were also available on mobile vans, he added.
The chief secretaries of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa informed the meeting that availability of sufficient flour and sugar was being ensured at fixed prices.
Minister for Energy Omar Ayub Khan said no unannounced loadshedding would be carried out during Sehar and Iftar timings.
The prime minister also directed for ensuring observance of standard operating procedures (SOPs) in Ramazan bazaars.
Published in Dawn, April 14th, 2021