Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry announced on Tuesday that the government had decided to set up a separate judicial system for overseas Pakistanis, an important support base of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).
He made this announcement while addressing a press conference after a federal cabinet meeting in Islamabad.
"We [cabinet] have given approval for a separate judicial system for overseas Pakistanis, continuing our tradition to think about and work for their benefit," he said, adding that under this system, summary trials would be held for the cases of overseas Pakistanis.
The minister said an act for the implementation of this system in Islamabad had been sent to the Council of Common Interests and later, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa would adopt the same law.
After this, he said, the system would be installed everywhere there was a PTI government, including Gilgit-Baltistan and Kashmir.
In this connection, he acknowledged that principally, expeditious trials were the right of every citizen.
"But overseas Pakistanis come from abroad ... They can't stay here for long and so this has been done for them," he explained.
'Cabinet concerned over numerous stay orders'
Earlier in his address, Chaudhry told media persons that the cabinet had also expressed concerns over the large number of stay orders, which he said contributed to preventing the Federal Board of Revenue from collecting revenue of over Rs3 million.
He said the country was facing an "administrative crisis" due to the large number of stay orders and the law ministry had been asked to take up this matter with the chief justice of Pakistan and chief justices of high courts.
"It has been recommended that there should be a separate forum to resolve such policy issues and the cabinet hopes that the chief justice of Pakistan will present a serious point of view of the judiciary over this matter," he added.
The minister said setting up the forum would not be a "political decision" but a means to address an "administrative need".
'Vaccine doses worth more than $2.5bn administered in Pakistan'
Chaudhry further shared with media persons that Covid-19 vaccine doses worth over $2.5 billion had been administered in Pakistan.
Saying so, he recalled that Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah was the first one to announce in the country that his provincial government would be procuring vaccines to inoculate citizens against the coronavirus.
"But according to records shared by the Economic Affairs Division, the Sindh government has not spent even a single dollar on procuring the vaccines and it is the federal government that has been providing the province vaccines," he said, regretting that the vaccination rate in Karachi, when compared to that of other cities, was not impressive.
'Repolls again show need for EVMs'
The minister also spoke about re-polling in the first phase of the local body elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which concluded recently with the opposition Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) in the lead.
The JUI-F emerged on top by securing 24 slots of the mayor/chairperson of tehsil councils followed by the ruling PTI that secured 17 seats.
Independent candidates won 10 such seats, the Awami National Party seven, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz three, Jamaat-i-Islami and Tehreek-i-Islahat Pakistan two each and Pakistan Peoples Party-Parliamentarians one.
While Chaudhry expressed pleasure over the results today, he maintained that the results once again showed why there was a need for electronic voting machines (EVMs) — an issue that remains to be a bone of contention between the government and opposition and for which the former bulldozed amendments to the Elections Act, 2017 in a joint session of parliament in November last year.
The information minister pointed out today that the number of rejected votes in the recent repolls in Peshawar and Dera Ismail Khan was more than the "margin between the votes of winners and losers".
"And when using EVMs, votes will not be rejected," he said.
Chaudhry said the government had been insisting on the use of EVMs as it would address such issues.
"We have urged the election commission before and we ask them again to issue a tender for procuring EVMs ... We don't understand why the election commission is not making progress on this front," he said.
Laws to address 'derogatory language, propaganda campaigns'
Moreover, Chaudhry said the cabinet had decided to address the issue of "derogatory language" being used on social media and some television channels.
The government, he said, intended to frame laws in this regard and take strict measures.
Without specifying what he was referring to, the minister said this issue was "not just about individuals but also institutions and Pakistan's security".
"Propaganda campaigns are launched on such kind of issues and they pose a threat to Pakistan's national security," he said, not elaborating on this comment.
But no action could be taken against those involved in such activities as these were bailable offences, he regretted, adding that the law ministry had been asked to improve laws pertaining to such matters and frame laws under which strict measures could be taken.
Sharing other decisions taken by the cabinet, he said it had approved the country's first ever digital cloud policy, export of 34,500 metric tonnes of pulses to Afghanistan under the World Food Programme and reduction in the price of Remdesivir injection from Rs3,967 to Rs2,308 for the treatment of Covid-19 patients.
He further said the repayment of loans worth $821.80m to Saudi Arabia had been rescheduled and deferred. Moreover, the repayment of $4bn to creditor countries part of the Paris club and those not part of the club had also been deferred to 2027, he added.
The minister said the cabinet had also approved a 15 per cent increase in the salaries of civil armed forces, which was announced by Prime Minister Imran Khan last week, as well as disparity reduction allowance for federal government employees of grade one to 19.
Answering a question, the minister said petroleum prices in the country were bound to increase as the prices had shot up in the international market in the aftermath of Ukraine crisis.
With additional input from Radio Pakistan