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ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet has decided to form a commission under the Pakistan Commission of Inquiry Act, 2017, to investigate the Broadsheet issue; and acknowledged that dearness was an issue in the country and the government was striving to bring down the prices of essential commodities. This was stated by the Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Shibli Faraz, at a press conference after a cabinet meeting presided over by the prime minister on Tuesday.

He further stated that the opposition is making a hue and cry because it knows that an honest person would be heading the commission to investigate the whole cycle of Broadsheet case spread over 20 years. The terms of reference of the commission have been finalised.

The minister said that a number of issues were discussed in the cabinet, including “the most important issue” of Broadsheet that has proven the stance of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) with respect to corruption.

The minister said the Broadsheet issue simply reflects that how the corrupt people were given a safe passage for political expediency.

The minister said the corrupt people got facilitated through an NRO which the law did not permit.

The ‘NRO culture’ had destroyed the moral fabric of society, and corruption is no longer being considered as something bad as its effects trickle down from top to bottom in society, he said.

“The prime minister challenged the corruption and the Broadsheet case has proved how the people were given a safe passage for political expediency,” the minister continued. The opposition is again asking for the same ‘NRO’ and this was evident from amendments proposed by them in the NAB law, the minister added.

The minister said the inquiry commission formed under the Inquiry Commission Act 2017 would expose all those who were involved the Broadsheet scam from contract to beneficiaries whether it was a “Surrey Palace” or any other asset.

Stolen money was not recovered, and the government was compelled to make payment to the company because the contract was signed by the government of Pakistan, 5,000 pounds sterling fine each day.

The minister said that everything would become clear within 45 days.

On the economy, the minister said the economy is moving in the right direction with growth in exports and remittances as well as in the large scale manufacturing despite challenging situation due to the Covid pandemic. He described dearness as the primary challenge.

The minister maintained the government is fully aware of dearness in the country and clarified that during the last two years the present government has added a total debt of Rs11.5 trillion and some major components of it were debt servicing and debt repayment of Rs6 trillion, devaluation added Rs3.5 trillion, and Rs1.2 trillion stimulus package was given during the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to him, the government is also working to increase the productivity of the agriculture sector and there is an increase of 10 percent in rice production, 13 percent in sugarcane production, and nine percent in maize production.

The minister said credit to private sector increased from Rs130 billion to Rs216 billion.

He said circular debt would have increased if the government had not increased electricity tariff and accused the opposition of “misguiding” the people on the economy by blaming the present government for everything.

The present government inherited a broken economy from them with stagnant export and growing imports due to their policy to maintain exchange rate artificially at a certain level. As a result, the current account deficit was over $20 billion and food import bill was of over $4 billion, he added.

The federal cabinet reportedly decided to issue Ijara Sukuk bonds against the Islamabad Club instead of F-9 Park, and directed the Ministry of Finance to prepare and submit a summary in this regard to the cabinet after expressing displeasure over proposal to pledge the park constructed for the general public.

The prime minister, who chaired the meeting of the federal cabinet was displeased with the Secretary Finance for moving a proposal to pledge the unencumbered land of a public park, and inquired why the proposal was moved.

The prime minister was told that the park was being pledged as token, “and practically it does not make any difference”.

Upon this, the prime minister reportedly stated that then Prime Minister’s Office should have been pledged instead of a public park.

Shibli Faraz said that Sukuk are not being issued for the first time as it was a continuing process from the previous government and to fulfill the conditions of Islamic banking, an underlying asset has to be shown as token.

The minister said the government was trying to promote Islamic banking in the country.

About the Senate election, the minister said if a need arises to achieve transparency in the senate election, the government will move a constitutional amendment as a bill to this effect is already in the parliament and will place it before the opposition.

The government wants transparency in elections as it is an “open truth” that in senate elections votes are sold and purchased, he said, and added that those who are opposing it tooth and nail today do not remember that they had agreed in the “charter of democracy” that senate election would be held through an open ballot.

About a Covid-19 vaccine, he said that private sector has been allowed the import of vaccine and the price limit has been fixed to regulate the profit.

He said details in this regard would be shared by the Health Ministry in the next few days.

About the captive power, he said that under a system some industries were provided some facilities to produce electricity through natural gas but now the quantity of gas in the country was not adequate.

The government does not want to increase the cost of export sector, therefore, the ministry was asked that it was not appropriate to disconnect gas at a short notice and some other way could be explored.

The meeting was also briefed by the adviser to the prime minister on institutional reforms Dr Ishrat Husain regarding progress to reduce the number of divisions/departments to 324, and with regard to abolishment of 70,000 vacant posts in various ministries and divisions.

The federal cabinet reconstituted a committee for regularisation of daily wagers in the light of the Islamabad High Court’s decision, and extended the Services Maintenance Act on employees of National Institutional Facilitation Technologies, Pakistan Security Printing Corporation and Security Papers Karachi for six month.

The federal cabinet also approved the appointment of a chartered accountant firm for the financial audit of the NADRA for fiscal year 2019-20, and approved recommendations of the Ministry of Health for the import of Covid vaccine.

It also approved nominations of Syed Khalid Siraj, Zafar Masood, Riaz Khan, Shamama Amber Arbab, Jehanzeb Durrani, and Akbar Ayub in the election of board of directors of the Oil and Gas Development Company Limited.

APP adds: The Federal Cabinet on Tuesday approved constitution of the commission of inquiry on Broadsheet issue under the chairmanship of former Justice Azmat Saeed.

Briefing the media about the decisions of Federal Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Shibli Faraz said the inquiry commission had been tasked to submit its findings on the Broadsheet issue within 45 days and expose those who had played key role in destroying country’s economy.

He said Broadsheet case had exposed as to how the past regimes had put political expediency over morality to give safe passage to the corrupt people, which eventually led to acceptance of corruption in the society.

He said the past regimes had decriminalized the corruption.

He said it was only Imran Khan, who literally had challenged the status quo for the first time in the history of Pakistan to nod the country of corruption. The agreement with Broadsheet was signed by previous governments and the country might suffer losses in case of non-payment to Broadsheet, he added.

He said the government could resort to present the bill in the National Assembly for ensuring “open ballot” in the Senate elections.

Replying to questions from media persons, Senator Shibli Faraz stated that the Broadsheet issue investigation was not against the government rivals but criminals who had a role in causing massive financial and moral loss to the nation.

Appealing to the media not to give Broadsheet issue a political touch, he said that the government’s objective through the Broadsheet inquiry commission was to let the nation know how certain characters, resorted to political expediency and got an NRO. To a query, the minister expressed the hope that justice retired Azmat Saeed Shiekh would conduct the Broadsheet investigation, otherwise, there might have been a statement from him by now. He described him the best and most competent person for the job, having vast experience of NAB as well as the Supreme Court.

The minister said the opposition was raising a hue and cry over his name, as they knew “he is an honest person and is capable of taking the matter to its logical end”. He added TORs of the commission envisaged that any institution, individual or document could be summoned and sought.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021