• Raise is in addition to 10pc increment given in budget
• Cabinet keeps ban on TLP intact
• Interior, law ministries told to devise strategy to handle Afghan refugees’ influx
• PM seeks report on protocol of VVIPs

ISLAMABAD: The cabinet on Tuesday approved 15 per cent increase in the salary of military personnel, which is in addition to 10pc raise announced in the federal budget.

In another significant development, the cabinet endorsed the ban on Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP).

Besides, the meeting, which was presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan, tasked the ministries of interior and law to chalk out a strategy to cope with the situation if Afghans sought refuge in Pakistan due to violence in their country.

The prime minister sought a detailed report on the security protocol accorded to cabinet members, legislators, former prime ministers and chief ministers, retired judges and bureaucrats.

Speaking at a press conference after the cabinet meeting, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said: “The cabinet has approved 15pc allowance (increase) in the salary of armed forces personnel to bring it at par with the pay of employees of the federal secretariat.”

“The 15pc allowance is in addition to the 10pc increase in the salaries of government employees announced in the federal budget 2021-22. Thus a total of 25pc increase has been made in the salaries of the armed forces personnel,” he added.

The minister said salaries of the federal secretariat employees had been raised by 25pc whereas there had been a cap on the pays of armed forces personnel for the last two years due to adverse impact of Covid-19 on the economy.

He said initially the 25pc increase was not applicable on Rangers and Frontier Constabulary, but the prime minister insisted that employees of both organisations should be given the additional 15pc increase.

TLP ban

The minister informed mediapersons that the federal cabinet had kept the ban on TLP intact.

“The cabinet reviewed the committee’s report and reached a conclusion that the banned outfit was involved in the killing of policemen and ransacking of public property, therefore, the ban should continue,” he said.

Mr Chaudhry said in the next step the government would approach the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for withdrawal of the TLP’s election symbol under the Anti-Terrorism Act.

Situation in Afghanistan

The information minister said the cabinet reviewed the situation in Afghanistan and feared that Pakistan could see an influx of Afghan refugees.

“The cabinet discussed a report of the Safron ministry on Afghan refugees in the country. In addition to the over three million Afghans already in Pakistan, more are expected if the situation in Afghanistan worsens,” he added.

“However, it is not the responsibility of Pakistan alone; the international community, especially the superpowers, should come forward to share the burden. Pakistan is making all possible efforts for a peaceful solution of the Afghan crisis,” he added.

The minister said Pakistan had learnt from past experiences and would now handle the refugee issue in a better way.

He informed mediapersons that the cabinet had paid tribute to the Kashmiri martyrs of July 13, 1931.

VIP protocol

Fawad Chaudhry said Prime Minister Khan had directed that the culture of VVIP clubs, where the entry of common man was banned, should be ended and all resources diverted for the welfare of the public.

On the security detail of VVIPs, the minister said politicians from the opposition and former bureaucrats seemed to have been enjoying more protocol than the cabinet members.

“Therefore, the standard operating procedures and rules on provision of official security and protocol to private individuals are being revisited,” he added.

Prime Minister Khan also expressed concern over a sharp increase in the capital’s population from the year 2010 to 2020 as well as encroachments on greenbelts, the minister added.

AJK elections

The information minister said PM Khan would address election rallies in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, adding that Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari had left for the US out of frustration on sensing that his party had no chance of winning the elections.

“Some eight or nine candidates are contesting the AJK elections on the PPP ticket,” he added.

Mr Chaudhry said same was the case with Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice President Maryam Nawaz, who herself had said that she was on a leisure trip to the region.

“Ultimately both leaders would have to confine themselves to their homes and enjoy life with the public money looted by their parents,” he added.

Govt-opposition talks

The minister hinted at a breakthrough in the government- opposition negotiations on electoral reforms.

The cabinet, he said, was informed that the two sides had reached an understanding on several points and there was a likelihood of further development.

Mr Chaudhry said the cabinet was given a detailed briefing on electronic voting machines (EVMs), Internet voting and biometric verification of voters.

The objective behind the introduction of EVMs was to bring transparency in the electoral system, he added.

The minister said the cabinet was informed that due to the efforts of Prime Minister Khan, 85 more prisoners in Saudi Arabia were being released and a special plane would be sent to bring them back.

Hundreds of prisoners had already been set free by the Saudi government as per the promise of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman which he made during his visit to Pakistan, he added.

Mr Chaudhry said efforts were also being made for the release of Pakistanis imprisoned in other countries who were not involved in serious crimes.

He said Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan told the meeting that a record 525,000 anti-Covid-19 vaccine jabs were administered in the country on Monday, adding that so far over 20 million people had been vaccinated, and the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) would give a detailed briefing in this regard on Wednesday.

The minister said at present, the number of coronavirus cases was increasing in Karachi and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa whereas the situation in Punjab and other areas was in control.

He urged the people to get themselves vaccinated and pay no heed to propaganda as over 1.5 billion people across the world had been inoculated.

He said the prime minister told the cabinet meeting that record 500 million trees would be planted in areas under the federal and provincial governments of the PTI during the ongoing monsoon season.

“The cabinet was also briefed about the encroachments in E-8 and E-9 sectors of Islamabad. All institutions, including Pakistan Air Force and Pakistan Navy, were directed to remove boundary walls built on greenbelts around the above-mentioned sectors,” he added.

The minister said it was a clear message to all that no encroachments would be tolerated anywhere in the federal capital, adding that the Capital Development Authority chairman had been directed to take steps required to make Islamabad an encroachment-free city.

Mr Chaudhry said at the request of Opposition Leader in the Sindh Assembly Haleem Adil Sheikh, the cabinet issued directives for inclusion of independent persons in the Joint Investigation Team to ensure transparency in investigations in cases instituted against him.

The cabinet also approved retail price of 49 medicines, he added.

Published in Dawn, July 14th, 2021

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