Cabinet asks Navy, PAF to vacate state land

Published August 4, 2021
Prime Minister Imran Khan presides over a cabinet meeting on Tuesday. — Photo courtesy: Prime Minister's Office/Twitter
Prime Minister Imran Khan presides over a cabinet meeting on Tuesday. — Photo courtesy: Prime Minister's Office/Twitter

ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet on Tuesday directed Pakistan’s navy and air force to vacate state land that they had “encroached on”, especially in the federal capital’s National Park area.

The cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, once again invited the opposition to sit with the government to discuss important national issues, but said talks would not be held with Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Maryam Nawaz and Altaf Hussain.

“They have no right to even lead their parties as they are not part of the parliament,” the meeting said.

The prime minister, however, decided to write a letter to the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif for consultation on the appointment of two members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

“Prime Minister Imran Khan has directed that action be taken against the influential and powerful people as well as organisations that had encroached state land and asked the naval and air force authorities to re-demarcate their boundaries,” Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said in a press conference after the cabinet meeting.

He said that Islamabad Capital Police had also been asked to remove their check-posts from green areas.

“The prime minister wants action to be taken against the powerful who have encroached upon state land,” he added.

The minister said even the Centaurus Mall management had been asked to remove encroachments.

It may be mentioned here that the building is owned by Sardar Tanveer Ilyas, who is a leader of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and a hopeful for the slot of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) prime minister.

PM’s letter to Shehbaz

Fawad Chaudhry said as the process of open and backdoor talks between the government and opposition had started, the prime minister would shortly write a letter to Shehbaz Sharif to seek his consent on the appointment of two ECP members.

“However, the government would not discuss electoral reforms with fugitives like Nawaz Sharif and Altaf Hussain,” he added.

Mr Chaudhry said many PML-N and PPP leaders were part of the parliamentary system and wanted its improvement, whereas Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Safdar, Fazlur Rehman and others sought to disrupt it for personal benefits.

The minister said for continuation of democracy, the government and the opposition would have to agree on certain basic issues and electoral reforms were vital in this regard.

He said the cabinet was briefed on the electronic voting machines (EVMs) by PM’s Adviser on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan, Minister for Information Technology Syed Aminul Haque and Minister for Science and Technology Shibli Faraz.

He further said the PTI had presented 49 proposals for electoral reforms and if the opposition had any objection on EVMs, it should come up with suggestions.

The minister said the PTI had lost 10 by-elections, whereas the PML-N started levelling allegations of rigging after losing just one provincial assembly seat.

“The PML-N has its government in the Azad Jammu and Kashmir with police and administration under its control, and had also appointed the chief election commissioner, but when it got a drubbing in the elections, its leadership cried foul,” he said, adding that this was not the way a democratic system was run.

The minister said vaccination drive was in full swing in different cities of the country, but Karachi and Hyderabad were lagging behind, calling on the Sindh government to improve its performance to control the pandemic in mega cities.

“The federal government can only draw the attention of provincial governments to their governance problems for the betterment of the people,” he added.

Mr Chaudhry said the cabinet meeting was also informed that 23 more Pakistani prisoners arrived from Saudi Arabia today, adding that so far hundreds of citizens languishing in jails abroad for involvement in petty crime were repatriated due to personal efforts of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

“It showed how much the prime minister cared for overseas Pakistanis, especially the labour class,” he added.

The minister said in the eyes of the prime minister, the criteria for judging the performance of Pakistani missions was their treatment of compatriots.

“The officials posted at the missions should not only respect overseas Pakistanis like their own family members, but also help resolve their problems,” he added.

He said the cabinet approved the appointment of Mohammad Jabbar Khan as chief executive officer of Peshawar Electric Supply Company, adding that the issue of loadshedding was also taken up.

“Minister for Energy Hammad Azhar had informed the cabinet that the current power supply in the country was between 24,000 and 26,000MW and no loadshedding was being carried out,” Mr Chaudhry said.

About the current economic indicators, the information minister said the cabinet was told that despite the coronavirus pandemic, the economy was moving in the right direction, with inflation showing a downward trend.

The current account deficit was $1.9 billion, which was $20bn in 2018, he said, adding that exports and foreign reserves had reached a record level, which was a manifestation of the prudent policies of the government.

He said the private sector was given Rs489bn loans by banks during the last fiscal year compared to Rs75bn in the previous year.

The industrial sector was booming and duties on 61 items had been abolished to deal with the pandemic, he added.

The minister said the cabinet also approved grant of loans amounting to Rs315bn to youth under the Kamyab Jawan Programme.

He said the support price of cotton had been fixed at Rs5,000 per 40kg, which would attract farmers, adding that the cabinet had rejected a proposal to increase salaries of ministers and ministers of state.

Mr Chaudhry said the cabinet had also approved extradition of Mujahid Pervez to the US after he was found guilty of corruption in an investigation conducted in Pakistan.

“We have an old extradition treaty with the US under which a wanted man, Hamesh Khan, was handed over to Pakistan,” he added.

Published in Dawn, August 4th, 2021

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