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Print Print 2021-12-01

Economic, other challenges: Government takes stock of situation

  • Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry says government may not be able to provide funds to ECP if it does not hold elections using Electronic Voting Machine
Published December 1, 2021

ISLAMABAD: Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Fawad Chaudhry Tuesday said the government may not be able to provide funds to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), if it does not hold elections using Electronic Voting Machine (EVM).

He stated this during a briefing about the Cabinet meeting presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan, wherein, detailed discussion was held on the EVM and suggestion was that the ECP should conduct by-election on EVM.

The minister said that one viewpoint was that if the ECP does not hold election on the EVM, the government may not be able to provide it funds.

The law minister’s opinion was also that prima facie, funds would be provided to the ECP, only if it conducts elections through EVM.

Therefore, he said that there was need for the ECP to immediately shift to EVM.

The minister said that the ECP should also take notice of the videos regarding votes ‘selling and buying’ in Lahore by-election and stated if action would have been taken in the Senate election, this would not have happened.

The minister also vehemently criticised the Sindh government and stated major issue is of Karachi and Hyderabad as 40 percent table of sensitive price index is affected due to Karachi.

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He said if the prices of commodities are higher in Karachi, the SPI also increases. And those who are ruling in Sindh for over 30 years are unable to control basic essential commodities and this was evident that 20kg flour and other commodities are higher in Sindh compared to the rest of the country.

The minister said that highest price of 20-kg flour bag is in Hyderabad with Rs1,443 and then in Karachi Rs1,404 compared to Rs1,100 in most of the cities of Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. He said that flour is also expensive in Khuzdar and Quetta because of being supplied from Karachi.

Likewise, he said that sugar is being sold at Rs90 per kg in most of the cities in Punjab and the KP, however, it is expensive in Karachi at Rs100 per kg and Rs96 in Khuzdar. He said pulse moong and gram is also being sold in most of the cities between Rs114-145 per kg, whiles its price in Karachi is Rs190 and Hyderabad Rs169.He said that sugar price has come down by Rs60 per kg during the one month and it had gone up primarily because the Sindh government was not starting crushing.

This simply reflects that the provincial government is not properly dealing with its affairs and consequently, overall SPI was affected.

The minister further stated that there was decline on price of 15.4 percent in tomatoes, 7.4 percent in onion, 6.6 percent in chicken price, one percent in wheat flour bag, 0.7 percent in LPG, and 0.6 percent in price due to bumper crops.

Rice this year in the country was nine million metric tons and there is a possibility that the country can earn $4.7 billion in foreign exchange through export of rice.

The minister maintained that prices of these items, if compared with India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are lower except for tea.

He said that per kg tea price in Pakistan is Rs1,309, while its price in Bangladesh is Rs897, in India Rs1,203, and in Sri Lanka its price is Rs1,170.

The information minister said that the gas load management plan has been approved and gas supply to CNG sector would be discontinued from December 1, 2021 to February 15, 2022 and the IPP and fertiliser plants would be provided 100 percent supply and exports sector would also be provided gas and those power plants operational at LNG would be provided five percent additional gas.

In winter, he said that people should use electricity instead of gas.

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He said that gas saved from CNG, captive power plants, and cement sectors would be provided to the domestic consumers.

He said that gas reserves are depleting very rapidly and the country was not getting successes in new reserves.

He further stated that nine percent reserves depleted last year and this year another nine percent would also deplete; therefore, there is need of an alternative strategy.

Only 28 percent people are getting gas and 78 percent population is in fact facilitating the 22 percent living in cities.

Dr Sania Nishtar, SAPM on poverty also updated about the audit paras of PM Covid relief funding and said that most of the people know how these audit paras are and all the agencies involved in it have been asked to give a detailed reply on it.

He said that over 1.6 million people have gone abroad during the last three years on various visas and the government formed a committee to determine whether visas were acquired through legal means.

He said that Muhammad Saleem has been appointed new chairman Privatization Commission, and the EOBI employment rules have been approved.

He said that the FIA has been directed to take action against those involved in human smuggling.

The minister also spoke about proceedings regarding former GB Chief Justice Rana Shamim Akhtar’s affidavit and termed the proceeding very surprising because as per his statement his affidavit was “locked”.

The question arises how this locked affidavit reached the news channel.

He said it seems that the affidavit reached the news channel through former premier Nawaz Sharif.

He said based on the affidavit, the PML-N launched an organised campaign against the judiciary and the armed forces.

He said that some media people were also part of it, expressing the hope that the judiciary would take notice of the matter and take it to the logical conclusion as the ruling party wanted the ECP to take rigging to the local conclusion.

He said that the urea price in Pakistan is Rs1,700 per bag as opposed to Rs8,500 in the global market and as the price in the country was low its consumption in the Sindh province was dramatically increased to 53 percent in the last six months, reflecting hoarding and smuggling of the urea and the provincial government did not act against it.

He said formalities of Saudi $3 billion deposit and $1.2 billion oil facility on deferred payment and ITFC $762 million have been finalised.

According to the Prime Minister’s Office, Federal Minister Asad Umar briefed the Cabinet on the new variant of COVID-19, Omicron and the meeting was informed that the new variant originated in Africa.

The meeting was told that as per initial reports, the rate of spread is very high. The cabinet called for the implementation of Covid SOPs such as use of mask in public places, social distancing and vaccinations for public safety.

The Cabinet was briefed regarding introduction of EVMs and empowerment of overseas Pakistanis to vote.

Federal Minister Shibli Faraz gave a briefing on procurement of EVMs, training of staff, responsibilities of concerned agencies, public awareness campaign, and timely delivery.

The Petroleum Division briefed the Cabinet on the vacancies of managing director (MD) and CEO in the organisations under the division.

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The Cabinet was informed that at present, four posts are vacant on which appointment process is in progress.

On the recommendation of the Ministry of Aviation, the Cabinet approved the renewal of aviation licences of M/s Serene Air, M/s Airblue, M/s PIACL, and M/s Princely Jets under the National Aviation Policy, 2019.

The Cabinet, on the recommendation of the Ministry of Aviation, approved the delimitation of high-rise buildings around airports under the Civil Aviation Authority Rules.

The height limit of buildings in Islamabad Blue Area has been fixed at 1,000 feet.

The decision will also help prevent the rampant spread of urban boundaries, save vegetables and preserve agricultural land.

On the recommendation of the Ministry of Commerce, the Cabinet allowed the staff stationed at the Pakistani Embassy in Tehran to import personal vehicles on repatriation under the Hardship Policy.

On the recommendation of the Ministry of Interior, the Cabinet approved to increase the visa period from 120 days to 150 days for those coming to Pakistan from Tablighi Jamaat from abroad.

The Cabinet also approved to grant 45 days visa on arrival for Tablighi Jamaat. Visas can be obtained through the online visa portal.

The Cabinet directed that a procedure be worked out within a week to review the work of these promoters. Special care should be taken that promoters should not be illegally charging extra money from those travelling abroad.

The Cabinet ratified the decisions taken at the meeting of the Committee on Institutional Reforms held on 12 November 2021. The meeting recommended reorganisation of Pakistan Gems and Jewellery Development Company.

The Cabinet ratified the decisions taken at the meeting of the Committee on Energy held on 18 November 2021. On the recommendation of the Ministry of Commerce, the Cabinet approved the import of Montanide Oil from France for the treatment of foot-and-mouth disease in cattle in Punjab.

On the recommendation of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, the Cabinet approved setting up of a selection board for the appointment of chairman ITNE and chairman Press Council of Pakistan.

The Selection Board for chairman ITNE will consist of the Minister of Information, Secretary Information, Additional Secretary Information, Grade 21 representatives of Establishment Division and Ministry of Law.

The Selection Board for the chairman Press Council of Pakistan will consist of the Minister of Information, Secretary Information, Additional Secretary Information, representatives of Establishment Division and Ministry of Law.

The Cabinet ratified the decisions taken at the meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee held on November 29, 2021.

Approval to hold a special meeting of OIC Foreign Ministers in Pakistan and approval of 50,000 tons of wheat aid to Afghanistan was also given.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021


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