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February 14, 2020

PM’s direction to provinces: Treat hoarding, profiteering as emergency

Top Story

February 14, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan Thursday warned that those involved in adulteration of edibles would not be allowed to play with the lives of people and gave one-week deadline to the provinces to deal with the issue as an emergency and number one priority.

The prime minister was chairing a high-level meeting here that reviewed various steps taken by the government to check adulteration, hoarding of essential commodities and inflation in the country.

The meeting was also briefed on the implementation of instructions passed by the prime minister recently to the provincial governments to deal with the profiteers and hoarders with an iron hand.

Briefing the reporters about the high-level meeting, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Firdous Ashiq Awan said a National Demand Supply Cell (NDSC) was being established to maintain the prices of essential commodities and avert a crisis-like situation in future.

The prime minister was told that the prices of basic items, including flour, sugar, rice, pulses and vegetables, were stable, barring Sindh and Karachi with regard to the flour prices on which the prime minister expressed serious concern.

The prime minister directed the chief secretary Sindh to take steps for controlling the flour prices.

The federal government has already released 0.4 million tons of wheat to Sindh from the Passco’s strategic reserves, while the province has demanded additional 0.1 million tons [of wheat].

Prior to sending the matter to the ECC, the Sindh Food Department informed the forum about dispatching the commodity to the districts and its utility.

The meeting was told that from March this year, Sindh had fixed wheat target of 1.4 million tons, as it could not purchase the commodity during the current season thus leading to the crisis.

Firdous said chief secretary Balochistan told the prime minister that there was no laboratory in the province for testing quality of water and other commodities.

The prime minister passed immediate orders for establishment of a food testing lab in the province.

The meeting noted that the profiteers and hoarders had held the entire nation hostage.

To break this mafia network, she said the prime minister directed the Ministry of National Food Security and the Ministry of Planning to establish a National Demand and Supply Cell, as after the 18th Amendment agriculture was devolved to the provinces, leading to the absence of a proper connectivity between the Centre and the provinces, which created issues for the provinces.

The NDSC, she pointed out, was being established to ensure if a province faced any issue, the other provinces would help it out. No such mechanism existed earlier.

Firdous said the provinces would create awareness among the public of adulteration and the factories and mills indulging in such heinous activity would be raided and punished under an effective legislation.

The centre as well as the provinces, the meeting emphasised, would also work out a line of action for the relevant legislation. Replying to a question, she said the government was taking special measures to stop misuse of social media and protect citizens from online harm under the Citizen Protection (against Online Harm) Rules-2020, envisaging changes in laws relating to dealing with social media.

She noted that there no mechanism to protect citizens’ interests or national security and that after the enactment of the new policy, social media companies would be mindful of hurting Pakistan’s national interests.

The rules, she explained, had been framed keeping in view the Pakistani masses and their sentiments as well as other issues at the global level and the laws in practice already in other countries.

Under the amended rules, the social media companies would be bound to remove controversial content within 24 hours and in case of emergency, implementation would be made within six hours.

The social media companies would have to establish registered offices with a physical address located in Islamabad within the next three months and appoint a focal person, as while sitting abroad they were earning millions of dollars from Pakistanis. The move would also provide job opportunities to the local youth.

With their registration here, there would be a formal way of payment and in next 12 months, these social media companies would have to set up one or more centres and they would share their data-bank with Pakistan.

She believed that the social media users were increasing constantly, particularly the youth was turning to it and some sections in the social media were spreading disorder by projecting pornography, sexual abuse, child abuse, sectarian content and hate speech.

She revealed that some 73 per cent of Pakistanis were today internet users, holding out an assurance that the government would not take any measure against the interests of these users.

The social media companies, she noted, would have the right to challenge the related authority’s decision, if they believed, it would harm their interests while the forum for appeals would be high courts.

Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Hussain, separately put aside perceptions that the new rules made to regulate the social media content in the country were for political control.

Speaking to the media outside the Parliament House, he emphasized that the new rules were made to regulate advertisements and harmful content on social media.

The minister said, “The keyword here is harmful content, as the social media is used for maligning women, blasphemy and defaming people and anyone on social media knows there are groups that for Rs20,000 to Rs30,000 will run trends against you and defame you”.

He pointed out that the digital media had taken the space of formal media and there had been an exponential increase in digital advertising adding that if it was not regulated, it would further harm the already suffering journalists and people and cause damage to the formal media.