• Cabinet gives go-ahead to talks with Baloch tribals having no links to India
• Camps to be set up on border for Afghan refugees
• PM not to go to private functions with protocol, security
ISLAMABAD: The government on Tuesday said the second biggest Indian-sponsored terrorist network was unearthed which was involved in the recent blast in Lahore. It also decided to hold talks with the angry Baloch tribals who had never sided with India during the insurgency in Balochistan.
It also decided to establish camps on the border with Afghanistan in anticipation of an influx of refugees due to the ongoing violence in the country.
These decisions were taken in a federal cabinet meeting presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday.
“This is the second biggest Indian terrorist network after Kulbhushan Jadhav (Indian spy in Pakistan’s custody); we have also managed to control the insurgency in Balochistan,” Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry announced in his post-cabinet meeting press conference.
He said security forces had traced links of the terrorists and their handlers involved in the recent bomb blast in Lahore with India. Three lives were lost and 22 people were injured in the explosion on June 23 in Johar Town area of Lahore outside the residence of Jamaatud Dawa chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed.
The minister said Punjab police and the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) had jointly “exposed the network”, adding that more details, including bank accounts, names of people involved and the banks in New Delhi through which money was transferred would soon be shared.
Insurgency in Balochistan
The minister said the government was ready to hold talks with the annoyed Baloch tribes to address their grievances and achieve permanent peace and progress in the province.
“But those having links with India and involved in unrest in the province will not be considered for negotiations,” he added.
During his visit to Gwadar on Monday, Prime Minister Imran Khan had said he was considering holding talks with insurgents in Balochistan, adding that he had always planned that whenever his party came to power, it would pay attention to the province.
“When the province progresses and there is peace, the people of Balochistan will understand that Pakistan is also theirs and will say that we will fight for the country because it has thought about their basic needs and problems. If development work had been carried out in the province, we would never have had to worry about insurgents,” he had said.
“It may be that they had grievances in the old times and may have been used by other countries [...] India may have used them to spread chaos but the situation [now] is not the same,” the prime minister had said in his address at an event.
PM Khan said the federal government had planned to execute 131projects worth Rs731 billion in Balochistan while the provincial government’s development programme for this year was Rs180bn.
“Balochistan is close to Imran Khan’s heart,” Fawad Chaudhry said in the press conference.
Afghan refugee camps
The information minister said the cabinet feared an influx of Afghan refugees into Pakistan and had therefore decided to set up camps on Pak-Afghan border areas.
“Due to international obligations we have to accommodate Afghan refugees if they seek refuge in Pakistan due to war in their country,” the minister said, adding that however this time they would not be allowed to sneak into other parts of the country.
Mr Chaudhry said Prime Minister Khan had announced that he would no longer go to any private function with protocol and security to save taxpayers’ money and avoid inconvenience to the public.
The prime minister had also tweeted that he was reviewing the protocol and security available to ministers, governors and chief ministers belonging to the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) “to decide how we can minimise expenditure and end public inconvenience”.
He said the federal cabinet would decide on a comprehensive policy in this regard next week.
“We will put an end to the colonial legacy of pomp and glory used to overwhelm the people,” the prime minister tweeted.
The minister further said a four-member ministerial committee had been constituted to ensure appropriate testing mechanism for new recruitments on vacant posts in public-sector departments.
“The existing testing system was faulty, and there was a need to have a better and transparent system,” he added.
No account deficit
Fawad Chaudhry said Pakistan would get a relief of $3.7bn in repayment of foreign loans.
According to the latest index issued by the Bureau of Statistics, prices of daily-use items were stabilising, the minister said, adding that in the last 10 years, the current account was surplus for the first time.
He said the textile sector was working to its full capacity which showed that it had revived while forex reserves of the State Bank had reached $5.7bn.
“An amount of Rs300bn is being invested in the construction of new factories and tax collection has touched Rs4.6 trillion mark, which would further increase by next year,” he added.
Mr Chaudhry said there would be good news soon with regard to reduction in prices of small cars.
He said since coming to power in 2018, the federal cabinet held 141 meetings during which 3,776 decisions were taken.
He said 3,444 decisions had been enforced while 66 were in the process of implementation, adding that the ratio of implementation of cabinet decisions was 91 per cent.
The cabinet also decided to expand and upgrade Skardu and Gilgit airports to make them all-weather facility for tourists.
In a major development, the minister said the cabinet accorded approval to the proposal of converting the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) into a regulatory body and setting up of a new institution to handle services at airports.
He said the prime minister also issued directives that 3G and 4G Internet services be provided to A-category districts of erstwhile Fata as the population of those areas could not be deprived of such facilities due to security issues.
During the meeting, the minister for religious affairs and interfaith harmony proposed that prayer leaders (Imam) of mosques in the federal capital be given monthly stipends on the pattern of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar informed the meeting that an international magazine, The Economist, had rated Pakistan among the top three countries along with New Zealand and Hong Kong for apt handling of coronavirus.
The cabinet congratulated the National Command and Operation Centre for the “landmark achievement”, Fawad Chaudhry added.
He said Minister for Science and Technology Shibli Faraz briefed the cabinet about the progress on Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), adding that it would be ready by July 15.
Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2021