PRIME Minister Imran Khan chairing the meeting.—APP
PRIME Minister Imran Khan chairing the meeting.—APP

• 1m cyberattacks on Pakistani websites thwarted
• PM unhappy over delay in wheat procurement
• Reforms to be introduced in criminal justice system
• Reduction in additional customs duty on auto parts approved

ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet on Tuesday rejected the proposed 10 per cent increase in the basic salaries of parliamentarians, including the Senate chairman, the National Assembly speaker and their deputies, saying the proposal negated the prime minister’s austerity measures being taken to reduce government expense.

The meeting, which was presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan, was also informed that more than one million cyberattacks were attempted on Pakistani websites and that India, with the help of Israel, had made an abortive attempt to hack the mobile phone of Prime Minister Khan.

PM Khan expressed his disappointment over the delay in procurement of wheat and asked the Punjab government for its immediate release to keep prices of the commodity and flour stable.

The cabinet made a significant decision of introducing comprehensive reforms in the obsolete criminal justice system to ensure “provision of timely and inexpensive justice”.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the decision on the proposed 10pc increase in the salaries of parliamentarians was taken keeping in view the austerity drive of the prime minister which was being implemented from day one.

“The Prime Minister’s House made huge savings and the National Assembly saved Rs1.54 billion, which was returned to the national kitty,” Mr Chaudhry said in a statement televised by the state-run Pakistan Television (PTV).

It was unusual for the minister not to hold a post-cabinet meeting press conference and opt to run his statement on PTV.

Regarding the proposed raise in the salaries of parliamentarians, Mr Chaudhry said: “The cabinet opined that it was a violation of this principle of austerity keeping in mind the present economic situation.”

Criminal justice system

The information minister said the meeting took a landmark decision to introduce reforms in the outdated criminal justice system in line with Prime Minister Imran Khan’s vision to provide timely and inexpensive justice.

He said the focus of the reforms would be to end delays in trials and remove hurdles in the registration of the First Information Report (FIR).

“The matter will now be discussed in the Cabinet Committee on Law and Justice and after that the reforms will be implemented,” he added.

Cyber attacks

Fawad Chaudhry said The Guardian newspaper had reported that India, along with an Israeli company, tried to hack mobile phones of important personalities of Pakistan, including that of the prime minister.

He said the cabinet allowed the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to hire services (of experts) to make its data more secure following a cyber-attack on Aug 14.

“Hackers attacked the website of Federal Board of Revenue, however, most of its data remained safe and an operational emergency was declared to secure its data,” he added.

“This year, about a million cyber-attacks were made on Pakistani websites which were thwarted by the National Telecom Company and a comprehensive framework of cyber security which was already in place,” the minister said.

He said the Ministry of Science and Technology briefed the cabinet on the electronic voting machines and voting rights of overseas Pakistanis, adding the Ministry of Information Technology would be launching 5G technology in the country next year and multiple companies had already shown their interest.

“Prime Minister Imran Khan directed the Pakistan Telecom Authority to ensure good telecommunication services in all parts of the country so that everyone could benefit from the revolution in the sector,” he added.

The minister said the cabinet also gave a go-ahead to the establishment of Quaid-i-Azam Foundation.

Wheat procurement

Fawad Chaudhry said PM Khan was disappointed with the delay in procurement of wheat despite his clear instructions that the commodity be purchased early.

He said Punjab was directed to immediately release wheat to ensure a gradual reduction in wheat and flour prices in the market.

On the proposal of the Tariff Policy Board, the cabinet agreed to reduce additional customs duty on auto parts from seven to two per cent to promote indigenous production of vehicles.

The minister said additional customs duty on heavy commercial vehicles had also been brought down from seven to two per cent. Moreover, he said, prices of cars up to 1,000CC would fall after the additional duty on their equipment was abolished.

Meanwhile, the minister said appointment and transfer in the Bureau of Immigration and Overseas Employment Protector of Immigrants had been approved.

Mr Chaudhry said keeping in view the situation arising from coronavirus restrictions, the cabinet decided to waive off the one per cent penalty imposed on imported goods which were in warehouses and had not been cleared on time.

“The surcharge would be waived off provided the goods are cleared by Sept 30,” he added.

The cabinet allowed the reorganisation of the Board of Directors of Diamer Bhasha Development Company (Pvt) Limited and consented to amending the decision on Pakistan Steel Mills taken in the meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Privatisation on Aug 10.

It also ratified the decisions of the Cabinet Committee on Institutional Reforms on Aug 12 and Sept 2 as well as those made at the meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee on Sept 9.

The Cabinet Committee on Legislation’s decision on automation of the power of attorney system for overseas Pakistanis was also ratified.

“The decisions included tariffs on the White Oil Pipeline Multigrade Movement Project, transactions of various companies of Pakistan National Shipping Corporation, import of auto-disabled syringes and their raw materials, track and trace formulated by Inland Revenue Enforcement Network, decisions on the monitoring of the system, the supply of goods from the erstwhile federally administered tribal areas, the point of sale integration and the third international tender for wheat imports,” the minister said.

The cabinet allowed PIA and Kyrgyz airlines Avia to operate flights between Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan and also consented to the proposal of PSO and Pak LNG to reduce the timelines on procurement of LNG as per PPRA rules.

Published in Dawn, September 15th, 2021

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