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ISLAMABAD: The government has decided to appoint Dr Muhammad Ashfaq Ahmed as new chairman Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), said Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry after a cabinet meeting on Tuesday. Fawad was speaking during a media briefing on the decisions taken by the cabinet presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday.

However, when asked about the resignation of Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue Dr Waqar Masood, Fawad said he was not aware of any development in this regard. He said that economic indicators are improving and there is growth in exports and a decline in the sensitive price index.

SAPM Dr Waqar Masood's resignation accepted

The debt-to-GDP ratio is declining and business confidence has improved. The federal cabinet has decided to issue Ordinance to annul membership of those elected members of senate and National Assembly who had not taken oath within 60 days after the election.

Now all those members who had not taken oath would lose their membership, the minister added. The minister said that Pakistan is a partner in peace in Afghanistan and does not want any country, including India, to sabotage this process.

He said that Pakistan expects from the international community to take note of the kind of euphoria that India is trying to create in Afghanistan. India should stay away from Afghanistan, he added. About electoral reforms, the minister said that Dr Babar Awan and Minister for Science and Technology Shibli Faraz gave a briefing to the federal cabinet on electronic voting machine and on the issue of giving right of vote to the overseas Pakistanis.

The minister deplored that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) wanted to maintain the status quo and does not want electoral reforms "because fake votes benefit them".

He said that reforms are an integral part of the judicial commission's recommendations, which was formed after the protest by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf after the 2013 general election.

The minister said that the government wants to give right of vote to the overseas Pakistanis who have been an asset of the country and provide immense support to the economy through remittances but regretted that the PML-N and the Pakistan Peoples Party are trying to deprive them of the right of vote.

About the Covid-19 situation, the minister said that the health systems of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab are being overburdened and if the situation worsens the government may have to cut down oxygen to the industry to provide oxygen to hospitals.

The cabinet also discussed the issues related to women, and the prime minister stated that the incident at Minar-e-Pakistan has been a matter of grave concern for all the segments of society.

The minister said that there is reaction on social media, therefore, the government has decided to initiate a grand debate wherein people of different walks of life would be invited to debate on social media trends and provide guidance to the government as to what kind of regulation should be introduced.

A high-level committee of renowned regional scholars, intellectuals and representatives of civil society is being constituted, he added. He said that manufacturing of 37 medicines would start in Pakistan for the first time, adding that the federal cabinet has approved the changes in the prices of 12 medicines.

The minister said that chief statistician of the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) has been appointed. The minister said that the cabinet was also given a briefing on the situation in Afghanistan.

Replying to a question, he said that US Secretary of State Blinken and foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi spoke to each other three times. Moreover, army chief and the US Central Command Chief spoke to each other, adding that close consultations are underway with the Pentagon.

The minister said that there are two 'tracks' in relation to regional countries-Turkey, Iran and Central Asian States- while the other 'track' is in action in Doha where the US, China, as well as Pakistan and Russia are involved. The minister said that both the 'tracks' are moving forward.

He further stated that Pakistan is a big regional power and its advice would be important in any decision-making with regard to Afghanistan. The minister said that the TTP is in total disarray after its funding from India was blocked.

As far as the TTP activities inside Pakistan are concerned, Pakistan is not a weak country and the country's forces are capable to deal with the challenges inside Pakistan, he added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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