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Opposition to be paid back in their own coin

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June 19, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan Tuesday asked his ministers, advisers and special assistants to pay the opposition back in their own coin and stop worrying about the budget passage, as it would soon sail through the National Assembly.

Chairing a federal cabinet meeting here, the prime minister said there was no bar on the opposition to stage peaceful protests, but there would be zero tolerance if the law and order was disturbed.

“In that scenario, the long arm of the law will take care of those resorting to violence to achieve their selfish political motives,” warned the prime minister. This was announced in a joint news conference of SAPMs Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan and Mirza Shehzad Akbar after the federal cabinet meeting here.

The cabinet approved the appointment of National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Deputy Chairman Hussain Asghar as the head of the high-powered commission announced by Prime Minister Imran Khan last week to probe the debt accumulated by the country during the last 10 years. Hussain Asghar was appointed as the deputy chairman of NAB in April this year.

Addressing the nation on June 11, Prime Minister Imran Khan vowed to form a high-powered commission to probe the massive Rs24,000 billion debt piled up during the last 10 years. The NAB, Intelligence Bureau (IB), Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), FBR and other state institutions will be the part of the commission.

The commission can seek assistance from any state institution and private audit firm. The notification of appointment of the chairman would be issued today (Wednesday). The commission would also find out whether the public office-holders and their dependents were beneficiaries of the massive debt.

It will estimate as to how the debt of Rs24,000 billion increased during the last 10 years. The commission will also fix responsibility and will refer cases to departments concerned for further action.

The high-powered commission will complete the entire process within six months. It will also provide periodic reports to the government at the end of every month.

The SAPMs told the media that an agreement had been reached with the British authorities for extradition of former finance minister Ishaq Dar. “Extradition documents have yet to be signed.”

Following the ratification of document, Dar will be repatriated to Pakistan after being produced before a magistrate. The entire process will be completed soon.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran directed the cabinet members that austerity measures be implemented in letter and spirit. Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan said Prime Minister Imran Khan had explained to the cabinet all those initiatives that he had personally taken for austerity keeping in view the current economic challenges facing the country.

He impressed upon the cabinet members that they should set an example for others by adopting a simple lifestyle. Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan said the media did not accurately report the amount allocated for the Prime Minister’s House in the new budget. She said theprevious budget allocated for the Prime Minister’s House was Rs1.10 billion, while the PTI government had spent Rs750 million saving 32pc amount.

In budget 2019-20 there is already a cut of 13% for the PM House expenses. The incumbent government is even paying a sum of Rs280 million in terms of outstanding bills of electricity left by the previous government.

Criticizing the role of opposition in the National Assembly, she said the opposition’s undue criticism of budget was illogical. She also criticized the besieging of the National Assembly speaker in his chamber.

“Glorification of crime will not be allowed and the chief ministers have been directed to discourage giving protocols to criminals during the court hearings,” she said, adding that the prerogative of issuing production order lay with the National Assembly speaker and he should see the merit of it.

She recalled that no production order was issued for Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad during the tenure of previous government despite the fact that he had no criminal case against him.

The prime minister informed the cabinet that he along with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi will attend the UN General Assembly session in New York in September as part of austerity drive of the government. The cabinet was informed that 157 Rest Houses of various government departments in addition to the PTDC motels and the NHA rest houses will also be opened to the public.

The cabinet was informed that 88 per cent of its previous decisions had been implemented, while work on the rest was ongoing. It was decided that the Ministry of Agriculture would devise a course of action in cooperation with the provincial authorities regarding the situation of sugarcane crops in the country.

Minister for Food Security was directed to work on the National Agricultural Plan, presented in the budget, with the provincial governments to disseminate information to the farmers. In order to stop mobile phone smuggling of Rs150 billion, the cabinet directed the ministry concerned to take steps to check this trend.

The cabinet was informed that the Ministry of Finance had devised a mechanism under which rules will be amended regarding passenger baggage at airports, so that people do not misuse the facility of bringing mobile phones in the country without paying taxes.

The cabinet was also updated on new visa regime in order to attract more tourists to the country. The cabinet approved license renewal of Serene Air and Air Falcon. The MoU between a Chinese University and Pakistan Industrial Technical Assistance Centre was accorded approval by cabinet.

The issue of regularization of contract workers in various government departments also came under discussion. It was informed that a database of these employees was being prepared to further work with individual departments on the issue.

The prime minister took the cabinet into confidence on the upcoming visit of Emir Qatar to Pakistan who is undertaking the visit from Sunday. The cabinet was also informed on Amnesty and Asset Declaration Ordinance that is going to expire on 30th of this month.

It was apprised that the Nadra was setting up E-Facilitation Centers from 21st of the current month at its various counters with the information of all the financial records and assets of individuals. Anybody can check their records in order to avail themselves of the asset declaration scheme.

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