• Special visa process for Chinese citizens working on CPEC projects approved
• Decides to hold elections in cantonment boards’ areas

ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet on Tuesday decided to form a committee to review an appeal of Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) on lifting of a ban imposed on it last month after the organisation staged violent protests while demanding expulsion of the French ambassador from the country.

The meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, also decided that local government elections would be held in the areas of all cantonment boards.

“In view of an appeal of the TLP, the federal cabinet decided to form a review committee,” said Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry in a post-cabinet meeting press conference along with Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar.

Mr Chaudhry said the proscribed party had submitted a request to review the ban and under the Anti-Terrorism Act, the government was bound to form a committee comprising officials of the interior ministry for a review.

The three-member committee comprising the additional secretary interior and two other secretaries would review TLP’s application.

The cabinet also decided that local government elections would be held in the cantonment boards’ areas. The defence ministry was directed to finalise arrangements so that a date for the elections could be announced.

The minister said during the meeting, the cabinet “welcomed the improvement of relations” between Turkey and Saudi Arabia, adding that “we believe that a reduction of grievances among Muslim Ummah will bring stability in the world and we support it”.

ECP action demanded

The meeting demanded action from the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) “on how its social media pages were misused”, in an apparent reference to a Twitter post in which electronic voting machines (EVMs) were called “expensive fraud”.

A presentation on the government’s bill on electoral reforms was also given by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Dr Babar Awan.

The minister said the journalist associations, including Parliamentary Journalists Association and press clubs, as well as bar associations had expressed their willingness to hold their respective elections by using EVMs. The government would provide them all assistance on their request, he added.

He said ensuring voting rights to overseas Pakistanis was an important agenda of the PTI government. The ECP should take measures to grant the right of franchise to 8.5 million holders of National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis (NICOP).

Easy visas for Chinese citizens

The minister said the cabinet approved a ‘special visa process’ for Chinese citizens working on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects or those who wanted to invest in the country.

“Pakistani missions in China will provide a two-year work entry visa to Chinese citizens for CPEC [projects] within 48 hours. Security clearance will be given within 30 days. Separate immigration counters will be established on the line of green channel for CPEC business visa holders,” he shared.

“[For] work/business visa, a separate subcategory of CPEC visas will be established. Similarly, in China, separate desks will be set up in Pakistani missions for considering CPEC visas,” he added.

Cabinet meetings

He said since 2008, the cabinet had held met 226 times. Some 67 meetings were held during the entire tenure of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) government, while the cabinet met only 23 times from May 5, 2013 to June 30, 2016 during the government of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), which ironically claimed of honouring the sanctity of vote (Vote Ko Izzat Do).

Similarly, he said only six meetings of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) were held on privatisation during the PPP’s tenure, 21 during the PML-N regime, and 16 in less than three years of PTI government.

Not even a single meeting of cabinet committees on institutional reforms, state-owned enterprises, CPEC and national economic reforms was held during the PPP and PML-N governments, he added.

PTV Board

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the cabinet accorded its consent to the constitution of Pakistan Television’s Board of Directors with Information Secretary Shahera Shahid as its chairperson.

The Radio Pakistan director general and the principal information officer have also been included among its members.

The cabinet also approved sending Covid-19-related medicines to Bosnia Herzegovina.

Shehbaz Sharif

Mr Chaudhry said the name of Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif had been placed on the Exit Control List (ECL) by the cabinet.

About the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), the minister said its leaders had no ideology or common agenda. The alliance was totally scattered, and neither Shehbaz Sharif nor Nawaz Sharif could bring the disintegrated parties together, he added.

Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2021

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