ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet on Tuesday categorically rejected the option of obtaining services of two Indian TV channels to telecast the forthcoming Pakistan-England cricket series in the UK.

Following rejection of the proposal, state-run Pakistan Television (PTV) is in a fix on how to show the matches to local viewers and cricket fans.

The decision not to sign a contract with two Indian channels (Star TV and Sony TV) was taken in the federal cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The Pakistan-England series is starting next month and the national squad is set to depart for Manchester on June 25.

“A crisis-like situation has arisen for the PTV with regard to broadcasting the cricket series,” Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry told Dawn after the cabinet meeting.

Earlier, in a post-cabinet meeting press conference, the minister said: “The federal cabinet has rejected PTV’s request to sign an agreement with the Indian channels to telecast the cricket matches.”

However, he added that the government was working on an alternative plan.

“Ties with India cannot improve until it reverses its August 5, 2019 action in occupied Kashmir,” he said while citing the reason behind rejecting PTV’s request.

Responding to a query whether the remaining Pakistan Super League (PSL) cricket matches being played in the United Arab Emirates would also be affected by the cabinet’s decision, Mr Chaudhry said the series would be shown in the country as it was being presented through a UAE-based firm.

No airbase for US

Responding to another question, the minister ruled out the possibility of providing an airbase to the US in Pakistan.

“It was Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) which, after coming to power, ended ‘drone surveillance’ facility (given to the US in the past),” he said.

“All airbases are in the use of Pakistan. Right now, there are no negotiations underway as we cannot give any airbase [to any country],” he said while recalling the policy statement given by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in the Senate.

Train accident

The minister said details of the preliminary inquiry into the Ghotki train accident would be made public.

He said the cabinet members offered Fateha for the martyrs of the tragedy.

“Unfortunately national institutions like Pakistan Railways are in a shambles due to illegal appointments, mismanagement and zero investment by previous governments. It is the PTI government which launched the mega project of ML-I (Main Line-1) to improve the railway infrastructure,” he said.

The minister held previous governments responsible for the tragedy as they had left behind an ‘inefficient’ railways department, saying that accidents like the one in Ghotki took place due to their (previous governments) decades-long negligence.

Mr Chaudhry said the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government spent Rs300 billion on the Orange Line Train in Lahore, adding that railways would not have faced such a situation if this amount was spent on its betterment.

He said both the PML-N and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) plundered national wealth with impunity during their tenures.

“They did not let any institution flourish, and instead ruined them by making illegal and political appointments,” he said, citing examples of Pakistan Steel Mills and Pakistan International Airlines.

On the contrary, he said the PTI government had so far appointed heads of some 60 organisations on merit and apolitical basis, and not a single appointment had been challenged.

“All appointments were made in line with the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan who believes in meritocracy and transparency,” he added.

Electoral Reforms

The minister urged the opposition to cooperate with the government in carrying out electoral reforms, advising it to refrain from using the parliament for seeking relief for their leaders facing corruption cases.

He said the PTI had emerged as the only federal party in the country, whereas the PPP and PML-N had been relegated to Sindh and central Punjab respectively, adding that their vote bank would further diminish in the next general elections.

Responding to a query about the use of electronic voting machine (EVM) in the next general elections, he said the government had presented the electoral reforms bill in the parliament in October last year with 49 amendments to the existing election laws.

“We want legislation on these amendments in consultation with the opposition parties so that we can have elections that are acceptable to all,” he added.

Highlighting the importance of EVMs for fast and accurate compiling of results, the minister said it was a general observation that rigging allegations were mostly leveled during the time gap between the end of polling and announcement of results, adding that EVMs would help plug any loophole in this regard.

Commenting on I-voting, Mr Chaudhry said giving voting rights to overseas Pakistanis was one of the top priorities of the PTI-led government, adding that I-voting would allow around eight to nine million expatriates to exercise their right to vote.

“Accordingly, we have presented a comprehensive report to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). Besides, the ECP has also received a report on I-voting from an independent consultant,” he added.

He said the information ministry had also ordered purchase of 500 EVMs to conduct elections of press clubs and bar associations.

The minister said it was unfortunate that the PML-N had filed a petition in the court against giving voting rights to overseas Pakistanis while the PPP’s response on the matter was still awaited.

He said the opposition’s narrative on inflation and economic deterioration had fizzled out as all economic indicators were showing an upward trajectory due to prudent policies of Prime Minister Khan.

He said about Rs1,100 billion had been given to farmers, GDP growth was projected at 3.9pc while remittances had reached record level.

Mr Chaudhry said the cabinet was informed that around 17 million people were benefitting from the Ehsaas Programme, which was being digitised to make it more transparent.

Meanwhile, the federal cabinet approved appointment of Aamir Mohiuddin, an officer of BS-20 Secretariat Group, as chief executive officer of Pakistan Housing Authority Foundation.

The appointment of retired justice Zia Pervaiz as member of the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances was also approved.

The cabinet also consented to the re-appointment of Umer Hameed Lodhi as managing director of the Utility Stores Corporation of Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, June 9th, 2021

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