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ISLAMABAD: The federal government said on Wednesday that the prices of essential items have increased and the common man is adversely affected by price hike. This was stated by Minister for Information and Broadcasting Shibli Faraz, while speaking at a news conference after cabinet meeting presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The minister said that the tax rating is appallingly low in the country and the federal government within limited resources has allowed a 25 percent increase in government employees’ salaries.

The minister said there is a need to bring about structural reforms to deal with the disparity in salaries at the federal and the provincial levels, and added that some clauses of the 18th Constitutional amendment need “rectification”.

Shibli Faraz said the expenditure on Prime Minister’s Office and the Prime Minister’s House reduced by 40 percent and 49 percent, respectively, in 2020 compared to 2018, and the prime minister spent far less in foreign trips compared to his predecessors Nawaz Sharif, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, and Yousaf Raza Gilani, who had declared more than one residence as their camp offices. The government has been making efforts towards introducing an electronic voting system by the next general elections “to ensure transparency and impartiality in elections”.

He said a committee has been tasked to finalise the electronic voting system.

The minister said the credibility of general elections or senate has always been doubted and there is a need to find out a solution to the problem.

He said that in 2017 the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) wanted the electoral reforms committee to adopt electronic voting system in the country to make the electoral system transparent but the then finance minister Ishaq Dar as chairman of the electoral committee did not accept the proposal on “implausible grounds”.

He said that not only the election should be transparent but efforts aimed at enabling the overseas Pakistanis, who are the asset of the country and have been providing major support to the economy, to cast their votes should be made.

“The government wants the overseas Pakistanis to also take part in the next electoral process and cast votes,” he added.

He said the prime minister underscored the need for ensuring transparency in elections.

The Minister for Information further stated the ruling party’s efforts the relation to the upcoming Senate elections are clearly aimed at ensuring transparency in the process.

He said people are now fully aware of the elements who want use of money in the Senate elections.

The minister said the prime minister has directed the departments concerned to take effective steps towards checking the incidents of rape and sexual assault against women and children.

He said the prime minister was of the view that such incidents have not substantially decreased.

The meeting also reviewed progress on recently passed Inheritance Bill for acquiring succession certificates within 15 days to facilitate the legal heirs of deceased persons.

While talking about the missing persons, he said the Prime Minister has his cabinet colleagues to speed up the work on a legislation on missing persons.

He said the PM directed the Minister for Law to immediately reactivate the bill on the issue of missing persons, “as now after a drastic fall in terrorist acts, the issue ought to be redressed”.

He said the issue was raised in the meeting by Federal Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari, who gave her perspective on the proposed legislation.

"Prime Minister Imran Khan said that he has gone to such protests and sit-ins himself and expressed solidarity with the relatives of the missing persons," he said.

The cabinet was briefed on Covid-19 outbreak. It was told that the number of daily infections has decreased.

The cabinet was informed that the Covid-19 vaccine doses have been administered to around 50,000 frontline workers.

The cabinet was further informed that a dedicated helpline 1166 has been given to the people above 65 years of age through which they can get themselves registered for the vaccine.

The cabinet was also told that all commercial activities will be restored from March 1.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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