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ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Shibli Faraz on Tuesday said the federal government had decided to rationalise prices of 94 life-saving drugs, including Remdesivir being used for treatment of Covid-19.

In a post cabinet briefing, Prime Minister's Special Assistant on National Health Services Dr Faisal Sultan said price of Remdesivir was being reduced from over 10,000 rupees to 8,400 rupees. Besides, the prices of 94 medicines have been rationalised to ensure availability of quality medicine at reasonable rates. The special assistant said it would also ensure availability of sufficient stock of those medicines and to end their shortage.

The prices of 94 life-saving drugs were rationalised under the 2018 Drug Pricing Policy to avoid shortages and smuggling, and to maintain quality, he noted. He said no employee of the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council would be removed from his or her job.

A Federal Cabinet meeting was held in Islamabad, under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Imran Khan, in which a 17-point agenda was discussed.

Speaking on the occasion, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Syed Shibli Faraz said the cabinet held detailed discussion on Anti-Rape Investigation and the Prosecution Bill in view of growing incidents of rape.

He said the bill suggests exemplary punishments for rapists, use of modern technology in investigating such cases and protection of rape victims.

He said the bill would cover the loopholes in the existing laws. He said final draft of the bill would be presented in the next cabinet meeting.

The information minister said a detailed briefing was given on rising circular debt in the power sector that was cancerous to the country's economy.

He said the cabinet was told that practical steps were being taken to reduce the circular debt and to bring down power tariff.

Babar Awan and Shahzad Akbar briefed the meeting on the draft of Women and Children Protection Bill.

The prime minister directed that the bill should immediately be brought before the Cabinet Committee on Legislation.

Adviser to the Prime Minister Shehzad Akbar, Shibli said, would come up with a law to effectively stop the crime of rape, ensure punishment, protect identity of the victim(s) and undertake use of the latest technology. Shibli Faraz said the Cabinet had reviewed the laws on sexual abuse and work was under way on strengthening those laws. Criminals in rape cases should be severely punished unlike in current laws, where they find space to save themselves. The minister said for the prime minister, the energy sector and tax collection were priority issues. Different presentations were given to the cabinet on the energy sector and purchase of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) by power plants, he said, adding negotiations were undertaken for the privatisation of regasified liquefied natural gas (RLNG)-based power plants.

The minister said the circular debt had risen to Rs2.1 trillion and different sectors of economy suffered due to it.

He said the electricity prices rose due to the agreements done by the past governments.

Serious and practical negotiations were held with power companies to review the agreements and give relief to electricity consumers, he added.

He said briefings would be given to the media on the issues of power projects and reasons for the current energy prices in the coming days.

Shibli said the cabinet endorsed the decisions of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) on wheat import and import of cars for disabled persons during its meetings held on September 9 and 16.

The minister said the prime minister believed in balanced development and steps would be taken for the provincial finance commission awards.

The previous government generated electricity but neglected the issues related to distribution, transmission, line losses and expensive energy, he observed.

The previous government did not pass on the cost of electricity to consumers to avoid its political cost, he added.

However, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government paid the political cost by regularising the power sector, and making recoveries in areas beset with electricity theft. He said that all considerations have to be made during legislation, if Abid Ali had been severely punished in 2013, he would not have committed such a crime again.

There are loopholes in the law but we are working to plug them, he added.

Moreover, Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda presented a proposal to lift the ban on import of vehicles, to which the prime minister agreed with.

Talking about the All Parties Conference, he said, "We are not concerned about it. The APC had the same old rhetoric, just more venomous". He said that Nawaz Sharif had been prime minister three times, but since this time he was rejected by the voters, he had been blaming the Election Commission.

"We did not create hurdles in the holding of the APC,” he said, adding Nawaz Sharif was now healthy and strong, and made a speech from London.

He said Nawaz Sharif was a three time prime minister but now he was talking against institutions like the Election Commission and the courts to destabilise the country.

He was a proclaimed offender and was involved in money laundering and corruption, he added. The minister said the opposition tried to blackmail the government on the legislation related to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and when it failed, Nawaz Sharif in a final attempt made the speech.

He said that Nawaz Sharif fled the country under the “fake” pretext of falling health, his money laundering had caused immense damage to Pakistan. Responding to a question, Special Assistant on National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination Dr Faisal Sultan said situation with regard to the Covid-19 was stable.

He said better compliance of the SOPs was being witnessed in schools. He stressed the need for wearing masks, observing social distancing and washing hands with short intervals to protect ourselves from the coronavirus.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020