Monday May 23, 2022

Budget 2021-22: Relief on the way, says Imran

The premier said this while chairing the federal cabinet meeting which approved two important ordinances as part of the electoral reforms process to ensure transparency in elections and grant right of vote to the overseas Pakistanis by introduction of modern technology.

By Mumtaz Alvi & News Report
May 05, 2021

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan Tuesday said maximum relief would be given to people in the upcoming budget 2021-22. He said special emphasis would be made on development projects keeping in view the public needs.

The premier said this while chairing the federal cabinet meeting which approved two important ordinances as part of the electoral reforms process to ensure transparency in elections and grant right of vote to the overseas Pakistanis by introduction of modern technology.

A private news channel reported that the meeting also discussed proposals for the upcoming budget. Briefing the media about the decisions taken in the cabinet meeting, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry said one ordinance would enable the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to use electronic voting machines (EVMs) in elections and the other would empower it to take steps to give voting right to overseas Pakistanis.

The minister said the government's electoral reforms consisted of four parts, including use of EVMs, e-voting for overseas Pakistanis, biometric verification and legislation. He said EVMs had been developed and the government has unveiled its legislation agenda for the purpose, while work was underway on biometric and e-voting mechanism.

In the cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Imran Khan said in categorical terms that the honour of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) was above everything for every Muslim and there would be no compromise on the blasphemy law.

The cabinet members discussed in detail the recent resolution of the European Parliament in the meeting. It was learnt that Minister of State Ali Mohammad Khan was one of the ministers who insisted that the European Parliament's resolution should be given a strong response.

The prime minister said there would be no compromise on blasphemy laws and asserted that "we do not make decisions under any pressure, as the Holy Prophet (Peace Bu Upon Him) is above all for every Muslim".

However, at the same time, the prime minister cautioned the cabinet members to be careful while discussing the issue as the government was looking into the matter on its own and independently.

It was also learnt that Adviser on Trade Abdul Razak Dawood objected to the six holidays announced for Eidul Fitr, explaining that it would cause problems for the exporters. He called for reducing the holidays to three days. To this, Imran Khan gave direction to solve the problems of the exporters.

Fawad Chaudhry, while referring to the recent European Parliament's resolution, said a similar resolution was adopted against India as well but unfortunately the local media only highlighted the one against Pakistan.

Replying to questions from reporters at the briefing, Fawad also categorically said there would no compromise on the issue of blasphemy as the respect and honour of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) was close to the heart of every Muslim.

However, he pointed out that a proscribed party had tried to force the government on gunpoint and tortured the police and security agencies' personnel and some precious lives were also lost. He added that the government took action against that party on its own without any foreign pressure because whatever they did was against Islamic teachings, the Constitution and law of the land. The minister emphasised that the government attached no importance to the EU resolution on its internal matters.

Regarding the proposed electoral reforms, the minister explained that out of 49 points, there was consensus of all political parties on 40 points, whereas the opposition raised the objection that while the draft had been forwarded, the prime minister had not invited them for discussion on it.

To this, the prime minister wrote a letter to the National Assembly speaker, asking him to start a formal dialogue with the opposition on electoral reforms. A few days ago, he again in a tweet called for dialogue over the electoral reforms agenda but the opposition was not interested, Fawad Chaudhry said.

The minister said unfortunately the two major opposition parties were handed over to politically immature persons who do not understand things and the importance of the Parliament. However, the minister added that the government would involve civil society, media persons and bar councils to evolve a broader consensus on the matter.

He said the PPP and PMLN were involved in a mud-slinging match and were not interested in electoral reforms. Quoting the words of Khawaja Asif -- 'Koi sharam hoti hai, koi haya hoti hai', he advised both parties not to cross their limits as only recently they were allies in the PDM.

He also mentioned Shahbaz Sharif and Ahsan Iqbal and said they have now made the Election Commission to lead. He said PPP and PMLN were reluctant in giving voting right to overseas Pakistanis and if they did not support the reforms, even then the government would move ahead in ensuring their participation in the election process. He questioned how could the Parliament be made irrelevant and departments like NAB be allowed to do legislation on their own. But Prime Minister Imran Khan, he said, was leading the initiative through the Parliament with reference to the electoral reforms as well.

Replying to a question, the minister said Imran Khan will leave for Saudi Arabia on 25th of Ramazan, adding that besides performing Umrah, he will hold meetings with top Saudi leadership including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Fawad said the process of COVID-19 vaccination of over 40-year-olds started on Monday and more than 164,000 people got vaccinated on the first day while so far overall over 2 million people have been vaccinated. The government has set a target of vaccinating 25 million people by the end of July.

The minister said there was an anti-vaccination lobby in the entire world and it was the choice of the people if they wanted to get vaccinated or not, but those who would get vaccinated would be safe.

Fawad said Dr Ishrat Hussain's committee on institutional reforms had done a tremendous job for reformation of institutions, as heads of 58 departments were appointed in the past three years on merit through a transparent manner and no one went to court against these appointments. He said perhaps the biggest achievement of the present government is that not a single corruption scandal has been unearthed.

Regarding banning Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, the minister said the government has initiated the process of proscribing a party, which has 30 days to go for appeal. After that, the case is sent to the Supreme Court, which makes the final decision.

He said this was a very good and balanced law as it does not give the government the power to proscribe any party unilaterally. He said the national institutions have to play their due role in such cases. He questioned how the TLP was registered by the Election Commission of Pakistan as it was receiving funds from many questionable sources.

Fawad Chaudhry said the federal cabinet was informed that the lowest implementation of the SOPs related to the coronavirus was recorded in Sindh, especially in Karachi.

The minister said Islamabad was at the forefront in the implementation of the SOPs. However, due to better SOP compliance, there was stability and decrease in virus cases in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He noted that implementation of the standard operating procedures had significantly improved with the involvement of the military personnel.

Fawad Chaudhry said the situation in Sindh -- particularly in Karachi -- was a matter of concern because if SOPs are not followed and the situation persists, this could affect the supply chain upcountry.

The cabinet, he said, approved the deployment of Army personnel in Sindh, accepting the provincial government's request. He said the lockdown during Eid holidays was aimed at curbing the rise in COVID-19 cases and hoped that the Sindh government would pay special attention to implementation of the SOPs and with the deployment of Army personnel things would improve there.

The cabinet was also given a briefing by Minister for Science and Technology Shibli Faraz and IT Minister Syed Aminul Haq with reference to electronic voting machines and E-voting.

The cabinet endorsed the decision to set up a committee to deal with IPPs. Payments to the IPPs have not yet been decided. The forum also endorsed decisions taken by the ECC on April 28.

Referring to the Election Commission's decision of a recount of votes in NA-249, Fawad Chaudhry said the PTI demanded a re-poll instead. He said it was a universal truth that rigging had happened in the by-election and the fact that anyone reaching an assembly after pocketing just five percent votes was a matter to ponder.

Citing the example of the Election Commission of India, he said the Election Commission of Pakistan should ensure implementation of SOPs.

"I don't want to criticise them, but there is a need for greater attention," he said while holding the Indian election commission responsible for the massive spread of coronavirus cases there, as despite a rise in number of cases it went ahead with allowing election campaigns.

He said initially 24 desks were being set up at the foreign embassies for issuance of inheritance certificates, for which the overseas Pakistanis had to come to Pakistan.

The minister said the cabinet approved establishment of the Pak-Saudi Supreme Coordination Council for which an MoU was signed during the visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman to Pakistan. He said the launching of the billion tree drive in Saudi Arabia would help Pakistani labour.

The forum, he said, approved the issuance of a commemorative coin on the completion of 100 years of NED University.

Fawad Chaudhry said a 90-day remission has been given to prisoners on the occasion of Eidul Fitr while this concession will not be given to the prisoners involved in serious crimes like terrorism or spying.