Sunday July 14, 2024

No laxity in downsizing plan, PM warns ministries

He said the two-week time he had given for PWD’s closure was already over

By Muhammad Anis
July 11, 2024
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif addresses the federal cabinet on July 10, 2024. — PID
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif addresses the federal cabinet on July 10, 2024. — PID

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif Wednesday warned the ministries against any laxity in implementation of the government rightsizing agenda and asked all concerned to work hard for making a difference and coming up to the nation’s expectations.

Chairing a cabinet meeting here, he asked the officials concerned to roll up their sleeves as it was a matter of the country’s interests, its resources and solution to its problems. “I will not allow my time to be wasted and I hope that you will also not waste your time,” he thundered.

Commenting on the rightsizing agenda, he said that he would not listen anything against the closure of Pak-PWD, as the government had also found an alternative solution on the pattern of Punjab. He said the two-week time he had given for PWD’s closure was already over, saying that he would not tolerate if any ministry used delaying tactics. “Please make no mistake about it. It is okay if there is any valid reason for any subsidiary, but protecting any entity for the sake of perks and privileges is a thing of the past. It will not happen and it must not happen,” he warned.

The premier directed the federal cabinet for close coordination between the Centre and provincial governments to ensure peace and security during the holy month of Muharram.

Emphasizing the need for promoting national unity and harmony, he said institutions such as National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) should ensure timely flow of information and intelligence to the Centre and provinces.

He directed the interior ministry to extend every possible support to the provinces, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan during the holy month.

Shehbaz Sharif asked the commerce ministry to come up with a plan to achieve the export target of $60 billion. “We also have to enhance the IT exports to $25 billion in the next five years. Let us stand up and accept the challenge; move forward in unison and create a difference as the nation wants results,” he added.

Shehbaz said the project of solarizing 28,000 tube-wells in Balochistan was a significant step, underscoring that conversion of all tube-wells to solar energy would help the country save foreign exchange and ensure cheap electricity to farmers.

The PM pointed out that Rs50 billion have been deducted from development budget to provide relief for three months to electricity consumers using up to 200 units. He said during this period, he wants to have massive fiscal space through extra measures. He stressed that leakages including those of Rs1,200 billion at the Karachi Port needed to be plugged.

The PM ordered to operationalise all dysfunctional or incomplete boards of state institutions by appointing individuals of good professional repute within two weeks.

The prime minister also took the cabinet into confidence about his recent visits to Tajikistan and Kazakhstan. The cabinet members offered Fateha for the Pak Army officer and soldiers martyred in North Waziristan and South Waziristan on Tuesday and a DSP of Counter-Terrorism Department in Karachi.

Separately, PM Shehbaz Sharif told the National Assembly session on Wednesday that no decision had been taken to export wheat.

Amid sloganeering from the opposition benches, he recalled that during the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government, sugar and wheat were exported and then imported. “It is matter of record that in their tenure, wheat was exported and then imported, and sugar was exported and then imported. But there was no record where billions of rupees earned from the exercise had gone,” the PM said while responding to a point raised by the opposition leader on import of wheat by the interim government and the current government. He reiterated that no decision had been made by the present government on wheat import.

He remarked that Sardar Ayaz Sadiq was generous in giving floor to the opposition leader. “This is also on record as to how then speaker Asad Qaiser used to refuse time to the then opposition leader,” he said.

The PTI-backed members of Sunni Ittehad Council continued raising slogans in support of their party founder during the house proceedings and PM’s speech.

Asad Qaiser said Shehbaz Sharif used to speak for eight hours, while Khawaja Asif also used to deliver speeches for hours. Asad Qaiser said there used to be no interruption in speeches of the then opposition leader but, at present, speeches of opposition leader and other members were censored. “Angels are sitting there. This is matter of shame that there is censorship in parliament,” he added. He said residence of the opposition leader was raided but the speaker took no notice.

Earlier, opposition leader Omar Ayub, on a point of order, referred to import of heavy consignments of wheat while the government was reluctant to procure commodity saying Rs450 billion corruption was involved.

Speaker Ayaz Sadiq prorogued the session after brief proceedings on Wednesday after Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif strongly criticised former speaker Asad Qaiser and others. Khawaja said the whole House was ashamed of traditions set by Asad Qaiser. “You are becoming so pious. Have some ‘Sharam’ and ‘Haya’,” Khawaja Asif said.

Khawaja Asif said the NA speaker had intervened when the house of Omar Ayub was raided, but no production orders were issued by the then speaker Asad Qaiser for detained opposition MNAs. He said the speaker also did not take any notice when Shehbaz Sharif, Rana Sanaullah and other opposition members were arrested. He recalled that 52 bills were passed in a matter of an hour when no confidence motion was moved. “This House never faced such a humiliation than the tenure of then speaker,” he said.

Meanwhile, Minister for Law Azam Nazir Tarar introduced the Pakistan Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2024 which was referred to the standing committee concerned.

Giving salient features of the bill, which is aimed to amend the Pakistan Citizenship Act, 1951, the law minister said according to an amendment, for a child born in Pakistan to become citizen of the country, either husband or wife should be citizens of Pakistan.

The National Assembly also passed the State-Owned Enterprises (Governance and Operations) Bill, 2024. The legislation, according to its statement of objects and reasons, is aimed at reconstitution of boards of governors of SOEs to better align them with the reform initiatives aimed for restructuring and transformation as well as privatisation of certain entities.

According to the legislation, the federal government may remove a director or directors on the recommendation of the board nominations committee on the basis of evaluating the performance of such director or directors.

The opposition leader, objecting to the legislation, questioned as to how the members of the board of directors of an SOE would be appointed and removed. He also questioned as to what the matrix of board of directors would be. He said he had also submitted his vote of dissent with the bill but it would be hard for the government to digest his amendments. “Three members from my party and I have given note of dissent and will continue to oppose corruption of the government,” he added.

He said in the federal budget, the government had shown privatisation proceeds of Rs30 billion for the SOEs, which were worth Rs1,000 billion. During his speech, he referred to import of heavy consignments of wheat, while the government was reluctant to procure the commodity.

The House offered Fateha for the departed soul of Captain Osama bin Arshad and others, who embraced Shahadat in South Waziristan and also prayed for the victims of the Neelum Valley accident.