ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has invited the opposition to hold talks with the government on electoral reforms as the government has finally decided to use electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the next general elections in 2023.
“The prime minister has categorically told the cabinet that all stakeholders should be consulted for finalising electoral reforms as the use of EVMs is imperative for holding free, fair, transparent and dispute-free elections. The cabinet was also told that a final decision on the use of EVMs in next elections would be made within the next fortnight,” Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said at a press conference after a meeting of the cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Khan.
However, talking to Dawn later, the minister said it had been decided that EVMs would be used in the next polls but its implementation would start over the next 15 days.
Interestingly, if the government has decided to use EVMs in the next general elections, any talks with the opposition will be useless as the latter has already rejected the option.
Mr Chaudhry said that at the outset of the cabinet meeting, the prime minister felicitated the cabinet on completion of three years of the PTI government and emphasised transforming the country on the pattern of state of Madina.
Govt decides to use EVMs in next general elections
The functions to be held to highlight the three-year performance of the government had been postponed due to Ashura, he added.
The cabinet approved changes in the new laws for local bodies election in Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) to be held within the next 120 days, under which the number of union councils would be increased in proportion to the population and a union council would be constituted in an area having the population of 20,000, he said.
The cabinet agreed, in principle, to the proposed amendment to the local government act under which mayor of Islamabad would be elected directly.
The prime minister also directed the authorities concerned to expedite finalisation of Islamabad master plan, Mr Chaudhry added.
The cabinet expressed its indignation over declining standards of sports in the country and empowered Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination Fehmida Mirza for changing infrastructure of sports in the country, besides preparing a new sports policy, he said. Prime Minister Khan directed the authorities concerned to change the sports system altogether.
“The government has no control over sports associations and their elections are not held usually on the basis of merit,” Mr Chaudhry said.
The prime minister apprised the cabinet about the decisions taken in National Security Council’s meeting held on Sunday.
The cabinet lauded the efforts of Federal Minister for Education and Professional Training Shafqat Mehmood for introducing uniform curriculum in the country and noted that the uniform curriculum would help eliminate class differences in the society.
The prime minister stressed that the Seerat of the Holy Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) should be taught to the students of grade eight and nine.
The cabinet was told that billions of rupees were being spent on security and protocol of various personalities.
“The government is reducing the protocol expenditures and the prime minister has reduced the expenditures of Prime Minister House,” Mr Chaudhry said.
The cabinet was told that Islamabad police were spending Rs954 million per year on security of VIPs and Rs304m on security of the judiciary. An amount Rs454m is being spent on security and protocol of minister and others in Islamabad. Similarly, in Punjab about 2,509m is being spent on security of VIPs and Rs427m on security of the chief minister and ministers of Punjab. A sum of Rs105.87m is being spent on security of former chief ministers and bureaucrats and Rs1,143m on security of judiciary in Punjab.
The cabinet was apprised that the National Assembly speaker had saved Rs1.57 billion by returning it to the government while billions of rupees were being saved by reducing expenditures of the president and prime minister under austerity measures. “Prime Minister Khan bears the expenses of his Bani Gala home,” Mr Chaudhry added.
The federal cabinet was also briefed about the anti-Covid vaccination of government employees, he said.
The cabinet was told that some 86 per cent of teachers and staff of educational institutes and over 97pc staff of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting had been vaccinated.
The cabinet approved lease and maintenance policy of Pakistan Post and was told that Pakistan Post had some 4,257 properties.
Under the Postal Service Lease Policy, 21 properties would be leased out in first phase.
The cabinet approved appointment of Shazia Adnan as director general of the Intellectual Property Organisation.
The cabinet reappointed Wapda Chairman retired Lt Gen Muzammil Hussain for another term.
The cabinet was of the opinion that Mr Hussain was supervising the construction of 10 dams and at this critical juncture his leadership must not be changed.
Responding to a question, Mr Chaudhry invited concrete suggestions from stakeholders for improving the Pakistan Media Development Authority.
Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2021