LAHORE: Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said on Saturday that Pakistan faced a severe economic crisis due to the wrong policies of the government of Pakistan Muslim League (N) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) but the economy had started to recover now.
Talking to media persons at the launch of a clothing brand in Lahore, he said the upcoming budget would be reflective of the incumbent government’s performance over the past years. According to him, the budget will be easily approved “as is aimed at the welfare of people.” He further said that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI’s) allies had pledged their support for the budget and that the budget would sail through the National Assembly.
Asked about the PTI’s estranged Jahangir Khan Tareen group backing the party on the budget, Chaudhry said his party had their support as well and members of ‘Tareen's group’, like other party members, had full confidence in Prime Minister Imran Khan’s vision. “They know that Imran Khan will not allow any injustice and whether the final decision is in their favour or against them, their stance [with respect to supporting the PTI] will not change,” he asserted.
To a question about the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) improving Pakistan’s rating, he said it was Pakistan’s success and congratulated Energy Minister Hammad Azhar and the Ministry of Law.
Asked about government’s willingness to initiate negotiations with the opposition, he said that Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif may appoint a focal person for the purpose.
“Though he [Shehbaz] hasn’t sent us a written request [for negotiations], we have sent him one,” the minister said. “We want to improve relations with the opposition. We wanted to talk to them on reforms previously, and we want to talk to them on the matter now,” he said.
Chaudhry also stressed the significance of the PML-N and the PPP resolving differences within their respective parties.
“Maryam and Shehbaz need to settle their dispute so that they [the PML-N] have a clear policy. Similarly, Bilawal and Faryal [Talpur] need to have the same policy so that the PPP’s policy becomes clearer."
He went on to say that the three major players in the opposition — PPP, PML-N and Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman — had divergent policies, which resulted in the shape of a weak opposition.
However, he added, the government acknowledged that the opposition had an important role in Pakistan to paly, and he personally was of the opinion that the opposition needed to support measures taken by the government on important matters such as electoral reforms.
The government had invited the opposition to sit with it to resolve all controversial issues and initiate the process of much-needed electoral reforms for the larger interest of the country earlier as well.
“We are ready to sit separately with the three main opposition parties — Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Pakistan Peoples Party and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl — and initiate talks on electoral reforms and also on other issues,” Chaudhry had said in March, while addressing a post-cabinet meeting press conference. The government had extended the olive branch to the opposition a few days after Prime Minister Imran Khan had directed his media team not to criticise the opposition and focus on highlighting the government’s achievements.
Chaudhry had said back then that the prime minister had already written a letter to National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaisar to involve the opposition in the process of electoral reforms.
The minister announced that a PTI delegation would be meeting the Chief Election Commissioner on Wednesday to discuss electoral reforms, with a particular focus on electronic voting machines (EVMs).
“We have urged the ECP to adopt the [EVM] technology. We have asked them to test it and inform us if it has a fault,” he said.
However, the minister clarified that it was the government’s discretion to make policy decisions pertaining to voting in elections and election rules, procedures and regulations.
“The ECP [Election Commission of Pakistan] will execute [the policy] only,” he added.
Chaudhry also denied reports of the ECP having reservations on the use of EVMs, adding that the government wanted the technology to be adopted at the earliest.
Asked about curbs on the media, the minister maintained that there was complete freedom of the press in Pakistan and the impression that there was no freedom of expression in the country was promoted by the “Indian lobby”.
He claimed that not even developed countries could match Pakistan in terms of freedom of expression, acknowledging though that there were some “red lines”, such as blasphemy.
To a question about the audit of funds for Covid-19, he said the Ministry of Finance had submitted a detailed report on the matter to the Accountant General of Pakistan Revenue.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021