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January 11, 2019

Cabinet throws ECL ball in court’s court

Top Story

January 11, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet Thursday deferred a decision on whether or not to remove the names of the PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah from the Exit Control List (ECL), hinting at moving the apex court for a review in this context.

The cabinet, which met here with Prime Minister Imran Khan in the chair, deliberated upon the issue of mega scandal of fake accounts and money laundering, and decided to wait for the Supreme Court’s written order, as it was informed by the Law Ministry that the order in writing was yet to be received.

While briefing the media about the cabinet decisions, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry contended that the PPP leaders Asif Ali Zardari, Murad Ali Shah and Faryal Talpur had major role in the alleged fake accounts and money laundering case.

“These people used to transfer billions of dollars abroad through benami accounts, the wealth belonged to the poor people of Sindh,” he alleged.

The minister said the cabinet decided not to accept the recommendations of the Interior Ministry for removal of the names of 20 individuals from the ECL, alleging that they were involved in transfer of billions abroad through benami accounts. He noted that a cabinet committee, including Minister for Law and Justice Barrister Farogh Naseem, Minister of State for Interior Shaharyar Afridi, Prime Minister's Special Assistant on Accountability Shahzad Akbar and Interior Secretary Azam Suleman Khan, was constituted to review the issues pertaining to 172 names, looking at the role of each person, following which it will present its recommendations to the cabinet.

Fawad noted that once the written orders of the SC were issued, the cabinet would also seek the committee's guidance regarding whether a review appeal of the court order should be submitted or not.

According to the information minister, the government's economic policy was bearing fruit as the import deficit had decreased by $540 million in just one month. He noted the prime minister had also ordered the Law Ministry to compile a 'negative category list' in the next 48 hours: the list would include the jobs, which could not be given to Pakistani nationals having dual nationality.

The minister said the premier took notice of the gas crisis and increase in the prices of LPG. He said the prime minister directed the Petroleum Ministry to formulate a comprehensive policy on the usage of gas. “A large part of the population is still deprived of gas and relies on LPG,” he said.

He alleged that former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi left a burden of Rs157 billion loans to be paid by the gas sector. He claimed that there was no loan at all when Shahid Khaqan had joined the ministry during the tenure of the PML-N government. He charged that Shahaid Khaqan considered himself Einstein of gas, but he left the gas sector with huge debt.

Every year, he pointed out, there was gas theft, amounting to Rs50 billion. He alleged the corruption was unearthed from each department, where the PML-N ministers were in-charge.

Fawad Chaudhry said the cabinet noted with satisfaction that Pakistan’s exports increased by 4.5 percent during December, while the trade deficit reduced up to $540 million, having a very pleasant impact on the national economy. Likewise, he noted that imports had decreased by 8.5 percent. The minister said that it was the outcome of the prime minister and his economic team's extensive and prudent efforts to deal with the current account and fiscal deficit issues with the active support of friendly countries.

Fawad said the government was also endeavouring to provide ease of doing business to the foreign and local investors to promote economic activities and create jobs.

On the news item regarding massive electricity bill of the Prime Minister House, the minister explained that when Nawaz Sharif was Prime Minister, 88,000 to 95,000 units used to be consumed, but these were now around 44,000 units. He noted that Imran Khan was astonished that while he was not living there and had no set-up as well, then why so much electricity was consumed and he ordered audit of the staff present in the PM House.

Minister for Planning, Development, Reforms and Statistics Division Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar rejected what he called the opposition parties' baseless propaganda about the price hike of different essential commodities. He said briefing was given to the cabinet on inflation and rates of commodities.

Quoting the data of the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, the minster said inflation in the PPP's first five months rule was registered at 11.2 percent and in PML-N's tenure it was four percent, while in PTI's first five months, the inflation rate remained just at point four percent.

Khusro Bakhtiar said the prime minster directed to evolve a coordinated price control mechanism at the federal and provincial levels to check profiteering and hoarding. He said the prime minister also directed to provide all possible relief to the low income segments of the society as per PTI's election manifesto.

Fawad said the cabinet decided to give acting charge of the PIA’s chief executive officer to Air Marshal Arshad Malik, while advertisement for the slot has also been given in newspapers. He noted the prime minister also decided that new CDA chairman would be from private sector and till that time, Chief Commissioner Amir Ali Ahmad was given additional charge of the CDA chairman.

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