ISLAMABAD: Three days after the federal cabinet decided that the government would use electronic voting machines for the 2023 next general elections in consultation with the opposition, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday directed the authorities concerned to launch a campaign to apprise the public and all stakeholders of the benefits of EVMs and check undue criticism by presenting a factual review.
He issued the directive while presiding over a review meeting on use of EVMs in the elections. Federal ministers Fawad Chaudhry and Shibli Faraz, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan, PM’s special assistant Shehbaz Gill and senior officers of the National Database and Registration Authority and the Ministry of Science and Technology attended the meeting.
The prime minister was apprised of the Judicial Commission’s proposed legal amendments regarding the use of EVMs. The measures were aimed at making the process of elections transparent.
Presiding over a meeting of the cabinet on Tuesday, Prime Minister Khan had invited the opposition to sit with the government for making electoral reforms in the country, including the use of EVMs. However, the opposition parties categorically rejected the offer and said they would never allow the government to use EVMs in the elections.
‘Pakistan is open for investment’
Welcoming the recent investment worth $85 million by the world’s leading venture capitals (VCs) in Pakistani tech start-up Airlift, Prime Minister Khan said Pakistan was open for investment and business opportunities.
“We welcome the recent investment of 85 million USD by leading VCs of the world in Airlift, a company led by young Pakistanis,” he said in a tweet.
According to the Prime Minister Office, Airlift, a Lahore-based online shopping delivery service, has raised $85m in Series B financing, the largest single private funding round in Pakistan’s history. The financing is about twice the size of the largest private company IPO in the country’s history and the highest in the Middle East and North Africa region.
“Pakistan has huge potential as the country is open for business,” PM Khan said, adding that the government is committed to creating opportunities for foreign investors.
Mr Khan said: “My government is fully committed to creating opportunities.”
Hunger elimination programme
Prime Minister Khan expanded ‘Ehsaas Koi Bhooka Na Soye’ initiative to Gujranwala, Lahore and Multan and directed the authorities concerned not to compromise on quality of food served to the needy people.
He inaugurated four food trucks that will serve free cooked meal to daily-wage earners across the cities. With addition of four trucks under the expansion plan, the total number of such vehicles reaches 16.
Under the programme, 12 food trucks are already being run in five cities, including Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Lahore, Faisalabad and Peshawar. Each truck feeds 1,000-1,500 people twice a day on specified service points.
Special Assistant to the PM (SAPM) on Social Welfare Senator Dr Sania Nishtar and Managing Director of Pakistan Baitul Mal Malik Zaheer Abbas Khokhar briefed the prime minister on the expansion plan of free food service. SAPM Shahbaz Gill and Senator Faisal Javed were also present on the occasion.
During the briefing, when the prime minister asked if there was any mechanism for quality audit, Sania Nishtar said they had received some complaints from Peshawar regarding the quality of food, which were addressed later.
The prime minister directed that there should be no compromise on quality of food, both at trucks as well as Panagahs (shelter homes), because the poor, who felt contented only for getting free food, would never complain about its quality.
Reiterating his government’s commitment to serve the poor without hurting their dignity, the prime minister said such initiatives were the reflection of ‘State of Madina’ which had taken the responsibility of its poor people.
The prime minister was informed that by October this year, “Ehsaas Koi Bhooka Na Soye” operations would be expanded to all the four provinces and Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan with an overall fleet of 40 food trucks in 29 cities that would feed 40,000 people every day and 1.46 million people annually.
To date, 831,625 meals have been served across Lahore, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi, Peshawar and Islamabad.
The initiative was officially launched by the prime minister on March 10 this year to serve free meals to the deserving people in Rawalpindi and Islamabad. Under the Ehsaas umbrella, this programme is run through a public-private partnership whereby Pakistan Baitul Mal was responsible for the operation of food trucks and Saylani Welfare International Trust for provision of meals.
Evacuation from Afghanistan
The prime minister was given a detailed briefing at meeting on the steps taken by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting regarding the evacuation of foreign journalists from Afghanistan.
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry informed the prime minister that in view of the situation in Afghanistan, a special cell had been set up at his ministry to facilitate journalists by ensuring prompt processing of their visa applications.
The meeting, presided over by PM Khan, was also attended by Minister of State for Information Farrukh Habib, Information Secretary Shaheera Shahid and other senior officials.
The prime minister appreciated the initiatives taken by the information ministry, particularly its external publicity wing, in facilitating foreign journalists. He said promoting impartial, independent and responsible journalism in the country was top priority of his government.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mehmood Khan called on Prime Minister Kahn and informed the latter that the province had generated Rs66 billion through tourism during the current fiscal year.
According to the PM Office, the chief minister said that more than 2.7m tourists had visited different places in the province.
The prime minister was informed that KP’s two mega irrigation projects — Zim Dam and CRBC Kanal — would enhance irrigation to 460,000 acres of land.
PM Khan directed early completion of the two projects.
Meanwhile, in a separate meeting on economic reforms in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Prime Minister Khan was informed that a reform package has been prepared, which has two phases.
The first phase envisages cleaning of nullahs and lake, anti-encroachments, provision of health and education and electricity supply. It will be completed in six months.
Under the second phase, tourism, business and industrialisation will be improved. Besides this, all stalled projects will be completed, tax system improved and rule of law will be ensured.
Published in Dawn, August 21st, 2021