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Special Assistant to the PM on Information and Broadcasting Firdous Ashiq Awan said on Tuesday that Prime Minister Imran Khan has constituted a commission to probe and recommend a proposal to the cabinet on the verdict of an arbitration tribunal of the World Bank's International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) in the Reko Diq case. At the post-cabinet press briefing, Dr Awan along with Communication Minister Murad Saeed and Adviser to Prime Minister on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam said that the commission will investigate which elements are responsible for making Pakistan suffer such a massive loss.
The commission will be led by Federal Minister for Law Farogh Naseem, and its members included attorney general for Pakistan, Minister for Economic Affairs Hammad Azhar, Advisor to the Prime Minister for Institutional Reforms & Austerity Dr Ishrat Hussain, Special Assistant to the PM on Accountability Shahzad Akbar, and Special Assistant to the PM Shahzad Syed Qasim.
She said the Cabinet approved institutionalisation of capital market transactions, under which the issuance of euro bonds and Sukuk will be institutionalised and medium-term notes (euro bonds and sukuk) will be issued. She said the cabinet also approved E-Commerce Policy framework.
She said the cabinet has been appraised about an investigative report published by British's tabloid Daily Mail on Sunday last that alleged that Shehbaz Sharif and his family embezzled millions of pounds from £500 million given in aid to his government in Punjab during his tenure as the chief minister of the province.
She said the cabinet has discussed the mechanism to fill in the vacancies within three months where people with additional charge have been posted. The PM directed the cabinet to fill in the posts by adopting proper recruitment procedures, she added.
The Special Assistant said it has been decided that a mechanism will be devised to keep an eye on the prices of items of daily use like pulses and wheat flour.
She said it has been decided that tax on import of edible oil will be reduced from seven percent to two percent, 'which will break the backbone of hoarders'.
She said the cabinet discussed the possible measures needed for improvement in the management of land record by the revenue department. She said that the matter will be taken up in the next cabinet meeting.
She said the cabinet approved appointment of Muhammad Shahbaz Jameel as President Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited, Tauseef H Farooq's as Chairman National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) and Dr Nasir Khan's as Executive Director National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA). She said the cabinet also approved the Islamabad Healthcare Facilities Management Bill, 2019.
She said the former ruling families had adopted the lifestyle of 'Mughal emperors' and plundered national wealth on account of setting up camp offices, security arrangements and entertainment. Giving details of former ruling families' lifestyle, Federal Minister for Communications and Postal Services Murad Saeed said the public money was wasted by former rulers. He said ex-prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had spent Rs 245 million on his camp offices.
Similarly, he said, Asif Ali Zardari had wasted over Rs 3,164 million from the tax payers' money on his security arrangements and camp offices during the period of 2013-2018 when he was not even president of the country.
He said former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had 'wasted' $ 460,000 on his visit to the United States in 2015 and spent 327,000 sterling pounds from the public exchequer on his treatment in the United Kingdom.
Murad Saeed said Shehbaz Sharif had spent Rs 8,726 million on his security as chief minister. He also 'wasted' Rs 1,300 million by using the special plane of prime minister 526 times, despite having his own helicopter. Former president Mamnoon Hussain, he said, spent Rs 303 million on security of his camp office in Karachi.
On the contrary, the minister said, Prime Minister Imran Khan would save public money by staying in the Pakistan embassy in Washington during his forthcoming visit to the United States. Likewise, he said, the security expenditure of Punjab chief minister had also been reduced by 86 per cent and travel expenses by 60 per cent after Usman Buzdar took over charge of the office last year.
Adviser to Prime Minister on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam said the federal cabinet has approved the statutory regulatory order (SRO) to ban plastic bags in the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT). "The federal capital would celebrate its freedom from polythene bags on August 14," he said.
He said plastic bags have become a menace for the society. "Around 80 per cent of the drains across the country are choked due to plastic bags and these are a potential cause of urban flooding and various diseases among the masses. Every city and even the villages have the same issue where plastic bags are proliferating. It will remain in our ecosystem for 1000 years as polythene bags do not decompose," he added.
Aslam underscored that the legislation has been devised after thoroughly studying global models implemented to end plastic bags use.
"This [ban on plastic bags] had been practiced earlier in 1994, 1995, 2001 and 2013 but could not help achieve the set targets due to lacunas in the legislation. However, this time we have taken the initiative from the federal capital and will wholeheartedly enforce the law to get rid of plastic bags," the adviser said.
While stating the salient features of the SRO approved, he said this was the model being adopted across the world whereas the ban would be enforced in the ICT. It would enable to impose a fine of Rs 50,000 to Rs 500,000 on the manufacturers of plastic bags, the traders of polythene or plastic bags would be fined Rs 10,000 to Rs 500,000 and people found using it would have to pay a fine of Rs 5,000, he noted.
"The magnitude of fine has been kept high to make the people realise that we want to get ourselves free from plastic bags," Aslam said.
The adviser mentioned that the current population of the country is over 220 million where every individual is using 275 to 300 plastic bags per year.
"We [the ministry of climate change] are also offering alternates for plastic bags which are cotton bags and recyclable, reusable polypropylene plastic bag (which is biodegradable and decomposable)," he said, adding, "The ministry has made 100,000 such bags which will be distributed free of cost among the masses across the ICT."
Aslam said the nation would be made free from plastic bags with Clean Green Pakistan under the Prime Minister Imran Khan's vision. Under the Clean Green idea of Prime Minister Imran Khan, he said, "We are going to launch our monsoon plantation by the end of this month and it would continue for one-and-a-half-month. Almost 140 million plants will be planted across the country during this monsoon plantation season whereas 400 events and activities would be held all over the country in this regard."

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019


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