Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain on Tuesday reiterated the government’s resolve for holding the next general election through Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) at all cost.
Addressing the media persons about decisions taken in the Federal Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, he said a ministerial committee had been constituted to liaise with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for ensuring implementation of the recently passed laws on electoral reforms.
The committee would finalize all the nitty-gritty on use of the EVMs in the next election such as cost, numbers of machines, and others, he added.
The minister said the committee would comprise Adviser on Parliamentary Affairs Dr. Babar Awan, Minister for Railway Azam Swati, Minister for Science and Technology Shibli Faraz, Minister for Information Technology Aminul Haq, and Attorney General.
The minister said it was imperative that the next general election should be and would be held with help of EVMs at all the cost and 9 million overseas Pakistanis would exercise their right of franchise.
To a query, the minister said the government had reached out to the opposition many a time and asked them to share their suggestions on the electoral reforms as it wanted consensus on the matter.
The entire nation including government, opposition, and the public had consensus over reforming the existing electoral system, he said, stressing the need for use of the EVMs to end rigging for once and all.
He said it had been observed that a series of seminars were held in Lahore and Islamabad during the last week and funded from abroad.
Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said the issue of conferences also came under discussion during the cabinet meeting. The Foreign Office would finalize a policy to take up the issue under the Geneva Convention.
He said the Supreme Court Bar Association, in its press release, distanced itself from the speeches made against the judiciary at a conference at Lahore.
The minister welcomed the step taken by the bar association and said he had already advised them to show impartiality in this matter, besides playing their role as defined in the Constitution.
Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) has strongly defended agenda of 3rd Asma Jahangir Conference. SCBA firmly rejects allegations made by some of furthering any agenda other than of a democratic and progressive Pakistan. pic.twitter.com/BWE20fsb6L
— Hasnaat Malik (@HasnaatMalik) November 23, 2021
Fawad Chaudhry lambasts PML-N
He appreciated a leading television news channel for releasing a video that exposed the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) ploy against the judiciary. It was not the first time that the PML-N had released such a video that solely aimed at pressurizing the judiciary, he added.
Whenever the courts took up cases against the Sharif family, such tactics were opted to pressurize the government and courts, he said, expressing the hope that the judiciary would reject such pressure.
“This issue should not stop here and those involved in this activity should be taken to task,” he added.
Pointing to the negative role of Maryam Nawaz in politics, the minister said she had remained involved in producing fake videos and formed a special team for the purpose. He said she might have prepared videos of some PML-N leaders to keep them under her control.
In Pakistan’s history, no political party had indulged in any such ‘unholy’ activities like Maryam Nawaz group of the PML-N, Fawad noted.
He said the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) strongly condemned this act and hoped that the issue would reach its logical conclusion and the government would follow the court’s directives on such a matter.
Taking a jibe at the PML-N, he said its leadership should thank the government that now sons of Nawaz Sharif would be able to cast their votes in Pakistan’s elections.
The issue of high prices in Sindh
About the role of media, he said it was unfortunate that the news was splashed on an increase in rates of sugar and tomatoes, but no coverage was given when their prices fell.
He said sugar was being sold at Rs 90 to 95 and it was expected that in coming weeks, the price of sweetener might come down to Rs 80 to 85 per kg. The minister said prices of tomato, onion, and garlic had decreased substantially with the food basket witnessed balance.
He said the government had launched two programs to provide relief to the masses. The biggest issue right now was the high prices of commodities in Sindh, especially in Karachi, he added.
Fawad said after the 18th amendment, the federal government could only give policy on certain matters which the provinces had to implement.
He said Sindh was asked to release wheat and start sugarcane crushing in time but they did not follow the directives.
40 percent of inflation data of Sensitive Price Index issued was consist of Karachi figures, he added.
He said in Lahore, a wheat flour bag of 20 kg was available at Rs 1,100, whereas the same was available in Karachi at Rs 1460.
Sugar price in Karachi was Rs 107, whereas in major cities of Punjab and KPK, the commodity was being sold at Rs 90 per kg.
He urged the media to pressurize the Sindh government so that it could take action for providing relief to the people.
He said the federal government had been importing wheat worth $ 700 million, while on the other hand, the Sindh government said that the wheat was stolen from the province.
He said if the Sindh government failed to take any action then the federal government had to take the matter in its own hands.
A word of advice to the media
Fawad Hussain said the cabinet was briefed on vacant seats in the ministries of Federal Education and Professional Training, and Industries and Production.
Approval for establishing Gems and Jewelry Development Authority had also been given to earn precious foreign exchange by boosting its export, he added.
The cabinet had accorded approval for a framework between Civil Aviation Authorities of Pakistan and the United Kingdom, he said, adding the agreement would be for three years to improve standards of commercial air lines.
The minister advised the media to abstain from issuing stories on the cabinet’s agendas without confirmation.
He said the cabinet okayed appointments of the Electronic Certification Accreditation Council’s members for a period of three years.
Shehzad Sami Abdul Wahid Khan and Advocate Ghulam Mustafa were appointed members of the National Telecom Corporation, he said, adding Mian Muhammad Ahmed was appointed member of the Port Qasim Authority on a temporary basis.
Fawad said the cabinet had given approval for the inclusion of Pakistan into Riyadh MoU on Port State Control. It would enable direct communication between Karachi and Riyadh ports, he added.
He said the cabinet gave approval for determining prices of 38 new medicines.
The pharma sector of Pakistan had posted substantial growth after price adjustments in medicine prices.
The minister said he had requested Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan to inform the public as to how the present government uplifted the pharma sector.
Govt making major improvements in Pakistan
The Federal Cabinet, he said approved the appointment of Saeed Ahmed as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Sukkur Electric Power Company for three years. The CEO of Hyderabad Electric Supply Company had been removed, while Noor Ahmed Soomro was appointed in his place, he added.
He said Jameel Akhtar had been appointed as member power of the WAPDA, whereas approval for Javed Akhtar Latif as its Member Water had been given by the cabinet.
The decisions taken by the Cabinet Committee on Energy (CCoE) on November 4 and 11 were approved by the cabinet, said Fawad, adding the government had ordered two inquiries one against sugar, while other on hoarding of fuel products by some Oil marketing companies (OMCs).
He said the inquiry against OMCs had been concluded. The details would be shared shortly, he added.
The minister said the government had taken various measures to strengthen Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA).
The government has sealed over 2,000 petrol pumps during the campaign. ORGA has stopped the issuance of licenses to more oil marketing companies.
He said a system had been devised to determine exact amount of oil reserves in the country and including its location.
Sharing brief detail of the inquiry committee, he said the OMCs had illegally earned Rs 5.52 billion by hoarding the oil.
After the inquiry, he said one CEO of an OMC had been apprehended, while four senior officers including Director General (Oil), OGRA were in jail. OMCs assets worth Rs one billion had been frozen, he said, adding in second phase, the cases of seven OMC would be taken to logical conclusion.
Fawad said the cabinet okayed the decisions taken by the Economic Coordination Committee on November 15. He said the cabinet green-lighted the payment of Rs 134 billion to Independent Power Producers as a second installment.
Likewise, it had been decided to release funds worth Rs 10 billion for completing sustainable development goals initiatives, he added. He said the cabinet okayed the release of funds for establishing ‘Rehmatulil Alamin’ Authority in the country.
Public Procurement Regulatory Authority’s rules for urea had been relaxed to avoid creating any dearth of fertilizer in the country, he added.
A sum of Rs 4.7 billion was being released to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for conducting Local Government elections in the country, he said, adding Islamabad Capital Territory Local Government Ordinance 2021 also got approval to pave way for holding LG elections in the federal capital.
He said the cabinet approved the appointment of members for the board of governor of the Federal Government Properties Management Authority’s (FGPMA).
Its members included BOI Chairman, Naya Pakistan Housing Authority Chairman, Finance Secretary, and Secretary Housing or their representatives.
About cadastral mapping of the state land, he said the Sindh government had refused to share data in that regard.
The reason of refusal was that the state’s forest land worth over Rs 5,000 billion was in illegal occupation in Sindh province, he added. The state land worth Rs 5.6 trillion had been retrieved and forest would be grown on that land, he said.
To another query, the minister said Minister for Economic Affairs Omar Ayub Khan had informed the State Bank of Pakistan through a letter that funding of a program recently held in a local hotel in Islamabad was ‘illegal’.
He reiterated that a thorough investigation would be conducted in the funding of that programme. To another query, he said the PTI was the only party that had submitted a complete record on foreign funding in the ECP.
Likewise, PM Imran Khan had also presented his money trail in the court, he added.
He said the ECP should also seek details of foreign funding from other political parties.
The minister said the federal cabinet had allowed transportation of Indian food assistance to Afghanistan via Pakistan.