• Hardcore terrorists to be dealt with iron hand
• Cabinet urges international community to help Afghans
• Subsidy for industrial units on RLNG withdrawn
• Pakistan plans to host OIC foreign ministers’ conference next month
• PTDC assets to be leased out to private sector
ISLAMABAD: The government will give a chance to those factions of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan that are not directly involved in terrorism and are ready to honour Pakistan’s Constitution and law, whereas the hardcore TTP terrorists involved in the killing of innocent people and still wanting to continue their nefarious activities will be dealt with an iron hand.
The decision was taken at a meeting of the federal cabinet presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday.
The meeting also decided to withdraw subsidy on re-gasified liquefied natural gas (RLNG) being extended to industrial units and lease out billions of rupees of assets (hotels and motels) of the defunct Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) to the private sector. It was decided that an internationally recognised single nationwide emergency helpline 911 would be set up and all other helplines merged into it.
The cabinet also lashed out at the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), claiming that it lacked vision and leadership.
Speaking at a post-cabinet meeting press conference, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said: “If all of them or some of them or part of them want to come back and express their allegiance to the Constitution of Pakistan and undertake to respect the law of the country, obviously, we will give them a chance.”
He was referring to the recent ceasefire announced by the banned TTP and its talks with the government.
A source told Dawn that the government wanted to engage with those TTP members who were not against Pakistan but worked with hardcore terrorists under compulsions. He said the meeting was informed that hardcore TTP members numbered around 2,200, out of whom 500 to 600 were those who joined the TTP under specific circumstances. “The government wants to detach these 600 TTP members from hardcore terrorists,” the source added.
On the other hand, Mr Chaudhry said he had made it clear on Monday that negotiations were being held with the group under the purview of the Constitution. “All the groups, who we are talking to, have to respect Pakistan’s Constitution and its legal framework,” he said, adding that as far as the nature of talks was concerned, “we are very clear about that as well”.
The TTP had issued a proclamation through which it announced ceasefire, the minister said. “Ultimately, wars are fought primarily to bring peace, wars are not there for an indefinite time period; you have to conclude the wars,” he added.
When asked whether the government would give a chance to those who had remained involved in terrorism and were facing cases, the minister told Dawn that the government could not provide them any relief and they had to face justice.
Responding to a question, Mr Chaudhry said the locals, especially those affected by the presence of the TTP, had been made part of the negotiations. People from the tribal areas and Pakistan Army soldiers had actually borne the brunt of the war against terrorism, he added.
Situation in Afghanistan
The information minister said the economic condition in Afghanistan was depleting fast and people were compelled to sell their children for wheat and grain. “We are asking the international community to help the people in Afghanistan.”
He said Pakistan had so far not recognised the new Afghan government but wanted an inclusive government there, having representation of the Uzbeks, Tajiks and others.
The federal cabinet, he said, had appealed to the global community, especially the Muslim world, to rally support to avert humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. He said a formal approval to establish a special fund to support the Afghan people during these turbulent times had also been given in the meeting.
Fawad Chaudhry said Pakistan was planning to host a conference of foreign ministers of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) next month to discuss ways and means to extend maximum support to Afghanistan at this critical juncture.
Islamabad is working closely with the interim government in Kabul, he said, adding that the Afghan foreign minister’s visit is due on Thursday during which efforts for humanitarian assistance would be discussed at length to avert any catastrophic situation in the neighbouring country.
“Afghanistan was on the brink of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, and the United Nations had on Oct 25 feared that it might even exceed the miseries in Syria and Yemen,” the minister said, adding that the cabinet had decided to dispatch sufficient amount of wheat and rice to Kabul.
He said this situation had emerged because Afghanistan’s foreign assets remained frozen and the entire aid was suspended.
Gas subsidy withdrawn
Keeping in view the recent increase in oil and gas prices in the international market and illegal use of gas in some sectors, the information minister said the cabinet had increased gas prices for captive power plants to $9 per unit (million British thermal unit) from $6.5. On the other hand, the RLNG rate for different units of the exports sector will remain unchanged ($6.5 per unit).
Prices would come into effect on Nov 15 and remain intact till March 31 next year, he said. “To avoid misuse of the scheme, the government had decided to take the subsidy back from the industrial sector till March 31, 2022 as the gas crisis was likely to ease after March,” he added.
The minister clarified that this had nothing to do with domestic consumers as only 27 per cent used local gas while 77pc relied on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).
He said sensational reporting had somewhat become a norm which eventually hurt the market sentiment. “This issue does not damage us but also the country… we will resolve this soon,” he added.
The cabinet gave approval to include fans in the mandatory list of recommendations of the Pakistan Quality Control Authority. The initiative would not only improve standards of local fans, but also make them energy efficient which would eventually enable its export to foreign countries.
Mr Chaudhry said the cabinet had also given consent to lease out PTDC’s properties in Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir to the private sector in a transparent manner to promote domestic tourism, adding that this initiative would also be implemented in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
“There has been a tourist influx in the country, but unfortunately the areas were facing paucity of accommodations,” he said.
Mr Chaudhry said the cabinet also decided that Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance Shaukat Tarin would head the committee on wheat and sugar exports.
The minister said the cabinet gave a six-month extension to ‘Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement 2010’ and appointed Dr Saifuddin Junejo as chairman of the Export Processing Zone Authority. A new director general of the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency had also been named, he added.
Fawad Chaudhry said the opposition had tried hard to send the government packing in its first two years, but all its efforts were in vain. “They have to wait for another two years or may be five years more afterward,” he added.
Published in Dawn, November 10th, 2021