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Saturday May 18, 2024

Threat letters to judges: PM promises credible probe into sensitive matter

PM Shehbaz Sharif says the issue should not be mixed with politics

By Muhammad Anis & Shakeel Anjum
April 05, 2024
PM Shehbaz Sharif presides over the federal cabinet meeting in Islamabad on April 4, 2024. — Screengrab/X/@PTVNewsOfficial
PM Shehbaz Sharif presides over the federal cabinet meeting in Islamabad on April 4, 2024. — Screengrab/X/@PTVNewsOfficial

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif Thursday promised the government would probe the matter of threat letters received by judges with suspicious powder, with a sense of responsibility to uncover the reality.

Addressing the federal cabinet, the prime minister observed that the sensitive matter should not be given a political colour. He pointed out the government had fulfilled its responsibility with respect to the formation of an inquiry commission, led by former chief justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani to probe the issue of the letter written by the Islamabad High Court (IHC) judges. When the former CJ refused to head the commission, the Supreme Court took suo moto notice of the issue, he said.

The PM said the new programme with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was crucial and important to consolidate the country’s economy. “The government is planning to enter into a new programme with the IMF, which is crucial and very important to consolidate the country’s economy,” he added. Shehbaz said the new IMF programme would enhance international financial institutions’ trust in Pakistan, help it move towards the agenda of development and prosperity.

The PM, however, said although the terms of the new deal would not be so easy, the government would certainly shift the burden of tough conditions from the less privileged to privileged and wealthier sections of the society. He informed the cabinet members that the finance minister would discuss details of the new programme at the IMF spring meetings as head of the Pakistani delegation later this month. The PM was hopeful that after the IMF board meeting, the last tranche of existing standby agreement of $1.1 billion would be disbursed to Pakistan this month.

PM Shehbaz said he recently chaired a meeting of Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) in which details of various sectors including finance, investment, exports, information technology (IT), agriculture, power and petroleum were discussed. He said after the meeting, it was decided that he would personally review the sector-wise performance to solve the problems being faced by the said sectors and to streamline the country’s economy.

Regarding the PIA divestment, he said the privatisation process of Pakistan Airlines was on track and the schedule set for the process would be fully implemented. For the outsourcing of airports, a Turkish company was arriving in Islamabad on April 6, which would negotiate the outsourcing process with the Pakistani authorities.

About digitalisation of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), the PM said consultants for the digitalisation process would be appointed by the end of the current month.

Regarding security of Chinese workers and engineers, he said the government was evolving a fool-proof system.

The prime minister said the cabinet presented the Finance Division’s fiscal policy statement for the financial year 2022-23, debt policy statement for the financial year 2022-23 and year-end government performance monitoring report in the meeting. The federal cabinet approved submission of the above statements/ report to the National Assembly under the laws, he said.

The meeting of the cabinet, on the recommendation of Foreign Affairs Division, allowed former chief of naval staff Admiral Muhammad Amjad Khan Niazi to receive the “King Abdul Aziz Medal Badge of Honour of Excellent Class” on behalf of the Government of Saudi Arabia and “Darjah Kepahlawan Angkatan Tentera” on behalf of the Government of Malaysia.

On the recommendation of Human Rights Division, the cabinet approved the appointment of members of National Commission for Status of Women.

On the recommendation of Ministry of Human Rights, it approved abolition of the National Commission for Child Welfare and Development, National Child Protection Centre and Implementation of National Line of Action for Children, which are offices working under the Ministry of Human Rights. All employees of these departments, who are civil servants, would be included in the surplus pool.

Meanwhile, the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) received forensic report of the mysterious white powder claimed to be anthrax initially, the CTD said on Thursday night.

Sources disclosed that arsenic mixed in white powder was found from the letters; a small quantity of 10 per cent ratio of arsenic poison was mixed in white paper, which is not very harmful compared to powder carrying 70pc arsenic that can affect nerves, added sources.

The anthrax-type white powder was recovered from the mysterious intimidating letters posted to judges of high courts and the Supreme Court of Pakistan, including chief justices of high courts and the apex court the other day.

The CTD lodged two FIRs against unknown people involved in creating fear in the judiciary.

The CTD made some headway on Thursday as the officials engaged in the investigation discovered the location of miscreants and places of mailbox where the letters were dropped. The investigators are heading in the right direction, the CTD claimed.

Earlier, the law enforcement agencies (LEAs) investigating the matter had said that most of the closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras around the post boxes were found out of order.

On March 3, the IHC chief justice among eight judges had received the mysterious letters.

According to sources, a report on the progress made so far had been communicated to the registrars of the Supreme Court and IHC.

Sources said an examination of post boxes located within the Satellite Town, Rawalpindi, is under way. The Islamabad police expanded the scope of investigation, using alternative means, including questioning individuals working in shops and offices in the area of post boxes. Furthermore, all staff at the Satellite Town post office were included in the investigation process.

SABAH adds: Minister for Information and Broadcasting Ataullah Tarar has said economy is showing positive indicators as a result of prudent policies introduced by the government. He warned that no politics should be done on national economy, adding that all should have to play role for strengthening the country.

Talking to the media along with Prime Minister’s Coordinator Romina Khurshid Alam in Islamabad on Thursday, Tarar said the Pak Rupee was gaining strength and exchange rate was now more stable. He said the nation today witnessed an upward trajectory in the stock exchange with an increase of record points.

The information minister said the FBR was being digitalised as per the vision of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to improve revenue collection. He said the government was committed to youth empowerment and it would soon launch a comprehensive programme in that regard.

Tarar said international leading financial rating agency Bloomberg had predicted 15 per cent reduction in inflation rate next year. He commended the role of media for positively reporting the privatisation of PIA, as there was no other option to avoid the loss of Rs80 billion being incurred by the airline annually. He said the process of PIA privatisation was moving forward.