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ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Shibli Faraz Tuesday said the federal cabinet had approved constitution of a commission of inquiry on the Broadsheet issue, under the chairmanship of Justice (retd) Azmat Saeed, to bring the truth before the nation.
Briefing the media about the federal cabinet decisions and replying to their questions, he said the commission was set up under the Commission of Inquiry Act 2017, instead of a committee, to investigate the Broadsheet case. The minister said that besides the Broadsheet issue, Hudaibiya Sugar Mills scam and Surrey Palace of the PPP leaders would also be investigated in future.
The inquiry commission, he explained, would submit its findings on the Broadsheet issue within 45 days and expose those who had played key role in destroying country’s economy. The commission, as per its terms of reference (ToRs), could summon any institution or individual or seek documents. Shibli said the Broadsheet case had exposed as to how the past regimes had put political expediency over morality to give safe passage to the corrupt people, which eventually led to acceptance of corruption in society.
Replying to questions, Shibli clarified that the Broadsheet issue investigation was not against the government rivals but those, who were criminals and had a role in causing massive financial and moral loss to the nation.
To a query, the minister contended that hopefully Justice (retd) Azmat Saeed Sheikh would conduct the Broadsheet investigation; otherwise, there might have been a statement from him by now. He described him the best and most competent person for the job, having vast experience of NAB as well as the Supreme Court.
The minister claimed that the opposition was raising hue and cry over his name, as they knew he was an honest person and was capable of taking the matter to its logical end.
The minister said the government’s objective was to let the nation know, how certain characters, resorted to political expediency and got an NRO [deal]. “Please, don’t give it a political colour,” he said. He continued that again these very characters touted 34 amendments to the NAB law, which itself was an NRO, they wanted and even Shahid Khaqan Abbasi demanded pack-up of the anti-graft body.
Shibli noted that this was the only government, which opted for this difficult path to eradicate corruption and Prime Minister waged a 22-year struggle against it and wanted open hearing of the foreign funding case. He added today, those who had tried to trap the PTI, had themselves got trapped in the foreign funding case.
“Imran is the only person, who launched a genuine political struggle while all these are hierarchical leaders and when a prime minister indulges in corruption, then his ministers and advisors and bureaucrats follow suit and this goes down in the entire system,” he added.
He said the past regimes decriminalised corruption that seriously damaged the moral fabric of society, where an honest person was regarded as a ‘loser’.
He said it was only Imran Khan, who literally had challenged the status quo for the first time in the history of Pakistan to purge the country of corruption. The agreement with Broadsheet was signed by the previous governments and the country might have suffered losses in case of non-payment to the Broadsheet.
The minister made it clear that contrary to previous practices, Prime Minister Imran Khan would not bow down to any pressure and hold all the corrupt elements accountable.
The information minister said the government could go to the Parliament for a constitutional amendment for open balloting for the Senate polls. He said if it was necessary, they could go to the Parliament and those, who would oppose it, would stand exposed and would have to tell the nation why they would oppose the bid for transparency.
He noted that in order to discourage those who buy Senate seats, Prime Minister Imran Khan had been supporting the open ballot, and the opposition parties, which had been demanding the same thing before, were making speeches against it today. He said Prime Minister Imran Khan wanted transparency in Senate polls and the government was striving to restore sanctity of the Senate as sale and purchase of votes in the Senate elections had been quite common in the past. A constitutional amendment bill to make the Upper House of the Parliament elections transparent was already in the National Assembly.
Shibli said that this was the change that was the manifestation of the new Pakistan and the change was not the name of an event, but the process of better work at the institutional level. He noted that the process of sukuk bond had been going on since 2018, and steps would have to be taken to get rid of interest-based loans.
He explained that Islamic banking had to be promoted in the country. Islamic banking had been in practice for 15 years and money was also coming, but due to interest they were subject to restrictions. He added that F-9 Park transaction was taking place to meet the requirements of Islamic banking which would promote Islamic banking.
The minister continued that the park had neither been mortgaged nor someone would be in charge of it; otherwise, the government of Pakistan could give its guarantee. He quoted Prime Minister Imran Khan as saying that Islamabad Club or any building could be used in such a case.
About the economic situation, Shibli said the opposition was misleading the people, adding that the previous government had kept the dollar at an artificial level due to which loans were reduced, imports were seen to be cheap and business was ruined. He added that all economic indicators were going positive; exports were increasing while imports have increased a little. He said there had been a significant difference in remittances.
Shibli said economic indicators were showing a positive trajectory as exports of the country were increasing swiftly due to prudent policies of the government, while the previous government had left the national economy in a fragile situation, but the incumbent government put it back on the right track.
He said that the government wanted t to rid the country's economy of interest, and under the condition of Islamic banking, it was necessary to mortgage an asset in order to take a loan. Shibli said that the PM issued directives that some other building should be mortgaged in place of F-9 Park for Sukuk bonds.
Replying to another question, he said that the government was opposed to any rise in cost of production for export industry with regards to supply of gas even for a short period of one or two months.
About the import of Covid-19 vaccine, Shibli said the government would regulate its price and it would start pouring in next few days. All the related details, he explained, would be shared with the media by the Ministry of Health within next 2-3 days.
A briefing was given on institutional reforms from the Adviser on Institutional Reforms and Austerity to the Federal Cabinet Institutional Reforms to Eliminate 70,000 vacancies in ministries and divisions by the Government Task Force on Austerity and Organisations.
The cabinet was informed that the expenditure of ministries and agencies had not been increased in the last two years.
The cabinet was informed that recommendations based on reforms in the restructuring of 7 institutions have been submitted to the ministries concerned for implementation. Progress on the implementation of the reforms was constantly being reviewed.
The federal cabinet reiterated its commitment to celebrate Kashmir Solidarity Day on February 5. Detailed briefing was given on constitutional amendment regarding open voting in Senate elections.
A detailed briefing was also given on the increase in the release limit of funds under the PSDP schemes. The meeting was also briefed on the roadmap regarding the implementation of these reforms and the expected results.
The cabinet was briefed by the Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives on the significant improvement in economic indicators from July to December 2020. Participants were informed that the last six months saw an increase in exports over several years while remittances Foreign exchange reserves increased by 22 billion compared to the previous year. Tax revenue increased by 7.9% in December alone. Funds utilised under the Public Sector Development Program (PSDP) increased by 92.8 billion. It was 7.4 per cent higher than the previous year. The use of PSDP funds in the first 6 months of the last 8 years was the highest recorded.
The meeting was informed that the revenue was higher than the expenditure, while in the agriculture sector, rice production increased by 10%, sugarcane production by 13% and maize production increased by 9%. The manufacturing sector recorded a welcome increase. Large-scale manufacturing grew 7.4 percent this year, with large-scale manufacturing growing 14.5 per cent in December alone, the highest in 12 years.
Regarding inflation, the cabinet was told that last year's inflation rate averaged 11 per cent. In the first six months of this year, the rate was 8.6 per cent. In December alone, the inflation rate was 6.4 per cent. Inflation is expected to decline further in the coming months.
The participants were informed that the exchange rate is stable while the stock market is at a high level after April 2018.
The cabinet approved the recommendations of the Cabinet Committee on the National Disaster Management Fund to be brought under the purview of the Ministry of Planning, Development and Reforms and Special Initiatives and on the future organisational structure of the institution.
The federal cabinet approved the accession document regarding Pakistan's International Network on Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) membership.
The cabinet approved the reconstitution of the committee to make the daily-wage and contract employees permanent in the light of the decision of the Islamabad High Court. The federal cabinet approved extension for 6 months in the application of Pakistan Essential Services (Maintenance) Act, 1952 to all levels of employment administered by National Institutional Facilitation Technologies.
The cabinet approved extension for six months in the application of Pakistan Essential Services (Maintenance) Act, 1952 to the employees of Pakistan Security Printing Corporation and Security Papers Limited, Karachi.
The cabinet approved the appointment of a chartered accountant firm for the audit of NADRA accounts for the financial year 2019-20.
The federal cabinet approved recommendations from the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination regarding the importation of the corona vaccine.
The cabinet approved the draft of the Workers Welfare Fund Housing Allocation Policy 2020 and the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Workers Welfare Fund and the New Pakistan Housing Authority under this policy.
The cabinet ratified the decisions taken at the meetings of the Committee on Institutional Reforms held on January 7, 2021 and January 14, 2021. The federal cabinet ratified the decisions taken at the meetings of the cabinet committee on energy held on January 18, 2021 and January 21, 2021.
The cabinet ratified the decisions taken at the meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee held on January 20, 2021 in the light of some guidelines.
The federal cabinet ratified the decisions of the Cabinet Committee on State-Owned Institutions held on January 20, 2021.
The federal cabinet approved the appointment of Secretary Workers Welfare Fund. The cabinet approved the nominations for the Board of Directors of Oil and Gas Development Company Limited, including Syed Khalid Siraj, Zafar Masood, Mohammad Riaz Khan, Shama Til Amber Arbab, Jahanzeb Durrani, Akbar Ayub Khan.