SLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday directed the authorities concerned to take all possible measures to curb hoarding and profiteering besides devising a time-based mechanism to provide relief to the masses against the price hike.
Chairing a meeting to review steps to control the prices of commodities and measures for the common man’s relief, the prime minister said the government realized that the people, particularly the low-income class, had been facing difficulties amid the course of economic reforms.
Planning Minister Asad Umar, Food Security Minister Khusro Bakhtiar, Adviser on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood, Adviser on Finance Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, special assistants to the PM Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan and Nadeem Afzal Chan and former finance minister Shaukat Tareen also attended the meeting.
The prime minster said the government was striving to provide maximum relief to the people despite difficult economic conditions. He informed the meeting that the government had allocated Rs190 billion for Ehsaas Programme and the poor were also being given health insurance cover of Rs720,000.
The government had also provided Rs7 billion to the Utility Stores Corporation to reduce the eatables’ prices. He asked the provincial governments to point out other relief measures and also devise a time-based mechanism, which should also define the role of all ministries.
He directed the authority concerned to immediately finalise the proposal for increasing the monthly cash grant under the Benazir Income Support Programme. He also instructed his commerce adviser to finalize proposals for reducing fertilizers price by Rs400 for relief of the small farmers.
The prime minister said as the common man’s relief was among the government’s priorities, so all the ministries concerned should furnish a detailed report with him within two days, containing the measures and their status of their implementations in this regard.
Meanwhile, the country’s top leadership under PrimeMinister Imran Khan Thursday welcomed the consideration of Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) situation in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on January 15, noting that it reflected the international community’s recognition of the seriousness of the situation.
To this effect, Prime Minister Imran Khan chaired a high level meeting here that reviewed all aspects of the situation in the Indian Occupied (IOK). It was also decided to observe the Kashmir Solidarity Day on February 5 in a befitting manner.
The meeting was attended by SAPM Dr. Moeed Yousaf, Foreign Secretary Sohail Mehmood, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Director General ISI Lt. Gen. Faiz Hamid, and other senior military and civilian officials.
Imran also welcomed the UNSC’s discussion on Jammu and Kashmir, through tweets and wrote, “Pakistan welcomes UN Security Council discussing the situation in Jammu & Kashmir again. An internationally recognized dispute, J&K remains on the Security Council’s agenda & its consideration by the Council reflects a recognition of the seriousness of the prevailing situation”.
“J&K dispute must be resolved in accordance with relevant UN Security Council resolutions & the will of the Kashmiri people. We will continue to provide moral, political and diplomatic support to the Kashmiri people until they secure their inalienable right to self-determination,” he emphasised.
The participants condemned India’s inhuman lockdown of 8 million Kashmiris for over 165 days, the egregious human rights violations of Kashmiris by over 900,000 Indian occupation forces, and the threat posed to peace and security by the BJP government’s belligerent rhetoric and aggressive actions on the ground.
It was underlined during the meeting that the RSS-inspired BJP government’s ‘Hindutva’ mindset, with its anti-Muslim and anti-Kashmiri obsession was responsible for creating a perilous situation for regional peace and stability.
The prime minister reaffirmed Pakistan’s unshakable political, diplomatic and moral support and solidarity with the Kashmiri people until realisation of their inalienable right to self-determination.
Indian civil and military leadership’s recent statements were also analysed and posturing of Indian forces was also discussed. Well-placed sources told The News that the leadership attending the huddle expressed resolve that any aggression would be thwarted, and the aggressor would be taught a lesson.
The positioning of Indian forces across the LoC was also reviewed. It has been observed that the LoC and adjoining areas have experienced harshest snowfall of forty years in recent days and that has virtually made impossible for Indian forces to commit any misadventure in the area.
Despite the ground situation, Pakistan would be fully ready to deal with any eventuality and it wouldn’t lower its guards, the meeting was assured. India wouldn’t be allowed to transgress in any manner.
The sources said Pakistan wouldn’t become party to escalation but would not permit the other side to disrespect the sanctity of the borders.
Meanwhile, in an interview with Editor-in-Chief of DW News Asia Ines Paul, aired on Thursday evening, Imran Khan said with eight million people in a state of siege in the IOK, India’s racially extremist ideology of Hindutva poses a threat to peace in the region and the world.
“…And I am afraid this is going to pose a threat to not just to Pakistan and the neighbouring countries or to the Indian minorities, but eventually this will be a threat to world peace,” he said.
The prime minister said he was the first political leader to warn the world about what had happened in India. “India has been taken over by a racially extremist exclusive ideology, which is called Hindutva,” he said.
He said the ideology of Hindutva took strength from RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) that was born in 1925 and its inspiration was from Nazi party of Germany.
He said India, which was a nuclear armed country of 1.3 billion people, was in the hands of extremists. Not only the people of India were going to suffer, which were already suffering, but of the people of IOK also, he added. He also mentioned the current situation in India, including the ongoing riots and demonstrations after the introduction of a new citizenship law by the Modi government. He pointed out that eight million people of IOK had been in a state of siege for over five months.
“And it is because of the RSS ideology, which believes that India only belongs to Hindus and the minorities are inferior.”
To a question about the human rights situation in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), the prime minister invited the world to visit and see the situation in AJK. “We invite the world and anybody can come and see the Pakistani part of Kashmir, then they go and see the Indian side of Kashmir,” he remarked.
To another question, Prime Minister Imran Khan said the silence of world on Kashmir was due to commercial interests because India was a big market. Secondly, he viewed that in the strategic Western mind, India was supposed to be a counterbalance to China.
“Therefore you see a completely different approach…,” he remarked. Imran said a military conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran would be "disastrous" for Pakistan and it was for this reason that his government was making efforts to defuse regional tensions.
He also shed light on the balancing act that Islamabad often finds itself in while maintaining ties with its neighbours.
"It's true that we live in a difficult neighbourhood and we have to balance our actions. For instance, Saudi Arabia is one of Pakistan's greatest friends and has always been there for us. Then we have Iran, with which we have always maintained a good relationship," he said in response to a question.
"Therefore, a military conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran would be disastrous for Pakistan. We are trying our best to make sure that ties between these two countries do not deteriorate. It is a region that cannot afford another conflict."
He said Pakistan was also doing its best to bring peace to Afghanistan. "It is a country that has suffered so much in the past 40 years. We pray that the Taliban, the Americans and the Afghan government achieve peace," he added.
Taking note of the dangerously high tensions, Prime Minister Imran sent Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi to Tehran and Riyadh to encourage exercising of "maximum restraint" in the dispute.
Qureshi is currently in Washington as part of his efforts to reduce tensions between Iran and the United States.
He once again justified not speaking out publicly against China's treatment of its Muslim Uighur population, saying the scale of what is happening in India "is not comparable to what is supposedly happening to the Uighurs in China".
"Second, China has been our great friend. It has helped us in our most difficult times because of the economic crisis my government inherited. Therefore, we do talk about things with China privately, not publicly, as these are sensitive issues."
Talking about the current status of the Afghan peace talks, Imran said in his view they were "heading towards a ceasefire".
"Peace in Afghanistan would open up trading opportunities in Central Asia. It [Afghanistan] would also become an economic corridor for us. If there is peace in Afghanistan, our people in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which borders Afghanistan, will also benefit," the premier said.
Asked how much influence Pakistan still wields over the Afghan Taliban, he replied: "Pakistan has played its part in peace talks. There was a hostage situation and with Pakistan's efforts, two out of three Western hostages were released. So, we are doing our best with whatever influence we have."
The prime minister was also asked for his thoughts on Britain's Prince Harry and his wife Meghan's decision to step back from senior roles in the royal family.
Prime Minister Imran, who was a friend of Harry's late mother Princess Diana, responded: "I have so many issues in Pakistan to deal with. It doesn't seem to be a huge issue to me. I think, it's their life. If that's how they want to lead it, then why should people interfere?
"I think they are a young couple who want to lead their own life, so it's up to them," he added.
Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar called on Prime Minister Imran Khan. It is understood that matters pertaining to Pakistan’s population-wise largest province came under discussion.
The Prime Minister’s Office issued a two-line statement on the meeting. However, it is widely believed that the working relationship of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led government with its allies, particularly the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid, came under the radar.
This could be in relation to a high-profile meeting of PTI-led delegation, led by Minister of Defence Pervaiz Khattak and Jahangir Tareen, which met PML leaders, including Federal Minister Tariq Bashir Cheema and Moonis Elahi with focus on the PTI-PML alliance in the Centre as well as in Punjab.
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