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Thursday February 29, 2024

Cabinet meeting: Youth volunteer force to be raised to combat corona, says PM

March 26, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to PM on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said Wednesday Prime Minister Imran Khan told the federal cabinet that a youth volunteer force will be raised and special fund set up to deal with the situation arising out of the coronavirus pandemic.

The prime minister laid emphasis on engaging the youth and the overseas Pakistanis in the given crisis and added that the youth volunteer force and the overseas Pakistanis would be made strength for Pakistan and the government. He called them Pakistan’s potential assets.

The prime minister would soon announce roadmap with regard to the volunteers force, which would play a lead role in provision of important food supplies to the poor and deserving people and also another roadmap on overseas Pakistanis’ fund at national and international level on judicious use of fund and the targeted areas. “Overseas Pakistanis have always supported Pakistan at every difficult time and prime minister has decided to make them Pakistan and his strength,” she said.

She said this while giving a briefing to the media persons about the decisions taken at the federal cabinet meeting, which was presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan while several cabinet members attended the meeting via video link.

The prime minister took the forum into confidence on the measures being taken to combat the virus and reiterated his resolve to successfully dealing with the unprecedented challenge with the support and cooperation of the masses. He noted that the pandemic was being closely monitored round the clock and the federal government was taking best possible decisions in the masses interest and betterment and trying to take along the provinces.

He emphasised efforts were afoot for provision of protection gear to doctors and other related staffers, who were fighting the virus on the frontline. He spoke highly of China’s cooperation in the fight against the virus.

She noted that the prime minister said he and his team was constantly monitoring the virus-related situation at the global and regional level and at the national level and working closely with the provinces for timely related measures. He also explained that the relief package would lessen the people’s problems as well as other sectors concerned. She noted that the package was also a part of the prime minister’s initiatives.

The cabinet appreciated the prime minister for this package and laid emphasis on its early implementation, involving the provinces. The cabinet was also apprised of the prime minister’s discussions with the global and regional leadership in relation to the virus challenge.

Dr Firdous said that Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi also spoke on Prime Minister Imran Khan’s lead in demanding lifting of sanctions on Iran and shaking the world conscience on this count. “Such a country is facing medical emergency and the virus has become a challenge for it, being an epicenter. The prime minister has raised his voice for better and modern facilities to Iran and the world community’s responsibility, particularly the United Nations should play its role,” she said.

She said that Iran had highly appreciated the statement of prime minister and the International Court of Justice also gave its decision in support of it. Moreover, the foreign minister briefed the meeting about Prime Minister’s Debt Relief Plan vis-à-vis the virus and that the government’s endeavours to raise the plan at Saarc, G-20 and G-77 fora was also being appreciated by the world.

The Ministry of Finance briefed the cabinet about the foreign commercial loans and profit payments and the forum approved waiving off tax on profit payments. The meeting also accorded approval to reorganizstion of SME board. The National Electric Vehicle Policy was referred to the ECC, as there was a need for consultations with the related ministries prior to its approval.

The meeting was told that as per the statistics till February last, the current account deficit recorded improvement by 71 percent while the trade balance was registered at 34 percent. There was improvement by 5.4 percent in foreign remittances flow and these stood at $15.1 billion. Inflation stood at 11.7 percent, whereas over all foreign investment was at $3,988 million. In fiscal sector till February, Rs2,725 billion collections were made and spending under PSDP stood at Rs237 billion.

Referring to Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif’s media conference a day earlier, she said that he presented a roadmap and directed the government to follow it with reference to the virus and poured charges on the government. But, she noted, he forgot to recall his ten-year stint as Punjab chief minister as the health sector in particular exposed his performance as chief executive of the province, as he failed to reform the sector and introduce latest technology in it.

As a leader of opposition, she emphasised, he must start the good initiative from his own person and family and bring back his wealth and the family members’ to lend support to the people of Pakistan at this critical juncture. She added the government wanted the opposition parties and their leadership to be a partner in dealing with the challenge and unite on one-point targeted agenda of fighting the virus.

She insisted that it was not the time to do politics and resort to opposition for the sake of opposition and indulge in politics for personal reasons. She regretted that both Shahbaz and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had stayed from the parliamentary parties huddle, whereas it was time to forge unity to rid the nation of difficult time. She pointed out that oneness and consensus was also vital in view of PPP having government in Sindh and PML-N in GB and AJK.

Meanwhile, Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said the government’s multi-billion economic package is reflective of its compassion for the poor as well as the nation.

In a series of tweets, she explained the package is comprehensive and the best one to deal with challenge posed by the coronavirus pandemic, keeping in view the problems of different segments of the society.

She pointed out that under this package, Rs200 billion have been allocated for the labour class and another Rs150 billion for the poor segments of the society.

Dr Firdous maintained that Rs100 billion refund to exporters would help the export industry and it will have positive impact on the economy. Another Rs100 billion for the agriculture and small and medium enterprise would help improve their productivity.

She noted the allocation of Rs50 billion to the Utility Stores is aimed at providing quality items to the people at reduced rates, whereas Rs280 billion has been earmarked for the wheat procurement. She added petroleum prices have been reduced by Rs15 to provide relief to the people.