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May 8, 2021

Opposition opposes govt’s good action: Fawad

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain Friday strongly defended Prime Minister Imran Khan on his recent address to the Pakistan ambassadors, saying that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government and the prime minister stand with the weaker sections of society against the powerful ones.

Speaking here at a news conference along with Trade Minister Abdul Razak Dawood on the heels of premier’s rare virtual address to the ambassadors, Fawad emphasised, “If our prime minister cannot talk on this issue and cannot stand with the weak Pakistanis, then we have no right to stay in government”.

He said the powerful sections of society had to realise that the weaker section was their responsibility and added that he was surprised at the reaction of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) leadership over PM's address to the ambassadors. He said the prime minister spoke on the rights of Pakistanis living abroad. Shouldn’t he have talked about the overseas Pakistanis’ problems, he asked.

Fawad said the opposition was opposed to every good action of the government aimed at facilitating the countrymen.

Fawad questioned why action should not be taken against the ‘foreign service’ officials for instances of blocking labour access to embassies. He explained there were incidents wherein embassy officials placed rocks and blocked routes to (Pakistani) embassies so that labour could not enter. “Should proceedings not be initiated against them,” he asked.

He said the details of events, which had caused Prime Minister Imran Khan to address the country's ambassadors and pointed out their ‘mistakes’ should be examined. He added that he could not go into details, but in one instance, an embassy which was currently under investigation, had mishandled the case of a woman being continuously raped while working at someone's home.

Fawad noted that the victim had approached the embassy to seek help; however, an officer there told her, “You have already been given three divorces before. Why shouldn’t I hand you over to the police?” he noted and the response terrified her that much that she went back to the same house, where she was facing sexual crime. He said that if the PM would not talk on that behaviour, then who would stand with such weak segments and labour?

He argued that the criticism of Pakistani government’s labour-friendly policy proposal was beyond comprehension while PML-N had adopted an anti-labour stance. The minister said that there should not be point scoring on every issue. He regretted that they were not even ready for giving voting rights to overseas Pakistanis.

He also made it clear that the role of certain embassies was highly appreciable when the historic repatriation of overseas Pakistanis was managed in the backdrop of Covid-19 and how they were helped, and there were so many other things done but wrong things could not be overlooked.

He noted the government and prime minister had always appreciated the diplomats, who were working for Pakistan.

He wondered how it was an embarrassment, as alleged by Shahbaz Sharif. He contended that if Pakistan was to be taken forward, then the media and the political forces would have to stand by the labour class.

He said the PM was leaving for Saudi Arabia and both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia had very strong relations and God willing, there would be a new dimension to be witnessed in the wake of the current visit. He said Prime Minister Imran Khan was the first Muslim ruler, who expressed his desire to seeing good relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran and lately Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS) had talked about good relations with Iran.

Fawad said the PM’s Inspection Commission was tasked to investigate the Saudi Arabia-based Pakistani embassy and it will submit its initial report to the PM within 15 days.

The minister explained that Commission Chairman Ahmad Yar Hiraj would submit the initial report within 15 days and then the next phase would be initiated on the matter.

Regarding the PTI and Prime Minister Imran Khan’s promise of provision of 10 million jobs and 5 million houses, Fawad made it clear that these two major promises were not election promises but the PTI and its government meant it.

He continued that he was compiling the data on job provision, but over one million Pakistanis had got employment abroad during the last two-and-a-half years, whereas thousands were employed in government and private departments.

The minister pointed out that Prime Minister Housing Scheme initiative had received applications for provision of Rs52 billion loans and so far, Rs12 billion had already been released under this programme.

Fawad claimed that this year, a large number of houses would be constructed while the construction sector had already been showing promising turnaround and rising continuously. He added that the production of cement had been doubled and the related sectors had also shown promising growth.

He said that overseas Pakistanis had shown great trust in the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan as remittances from Pakistanis abroad had touched record high and they play an important role in the national economy.

Fawad again invited the opposition for dialogue on the proposed reforms and said that the government was ready to talk and for the purpose, the opposition should adopt serious approach for electoral reforms. He insisted that the cases should be fought in the courts of law. Other than that, the government was prepared for talks with the opposition on all matters.

He said that he had already said that re-election should be conducted in NA-249, Karachi, and yesterday's events proved that it was a case of re-polling, not recounting and seals of the ballot bags were broken and form 46 were missing. He said all this controversy was due to opposition parties’ refusal to adopt a serious approach for reformation of electoral processes.

About the visit, he said Prime Minister Imran Khan was going to Saudi Arabia, with which the relations between the two countries would be further strengthened and deepened and a new dimension would be seen in them.

He said that the Saudi Crown Prince was welcome to improve relations with Iran, adding that Prime Minister Imran Khan was the first Muslim ruler to speak of good relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran and had offered mediation.

PM Imran Khan, during his visit to Saudi Arabia, would discuss economic cooperation including strategic partnership, Supreme Coordination Council and media partnership between the two countries.

Meanwhile, in an interview with Saudi Arabian television channel Al-Akhbariya, the minister said this would be Prime Minister Imran Khan's third visit to Saudi Arabia and added Prime Minister Imran Khan enjoyed good personal relations with the Saudi leadership as well, based on mutual love and brotherhood.

The minister remarked, “We are looking towards the Saudi leadership on the Kashmir issue. Saudi Arabia can play an important role in resolving the Kashmir issue”.

The minister told the media that the federal cabinet had given approval to the Journalist Protection Act, which would prove a landmark legislation for the welfare and better working environment for working journalists. He said a new institution would be set up for redressing grievances of journalists. He said that government had released Rs400 million to media houses and hopefully they would pay salaries to their employees before Eidul Fitr. He added that a program for support of media houses was being launched and a Media Development Authority would be constituted this year.

With reference to the bill, he said the media organisations would be bound to provide safety equipment to journalists covering conflict zones while the media owners would be responsible for any damage or loss incurred, source protection would be given and a new institution would be formed to resolve the complaints of journalists.

Separately, the minister for information and broadcasting said that allowing PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif to go abroad was a joke with the law.

He said Shahbaz was involved in money laundering of billons of rupees. He said the government would avail all legal options against the court decision. Showing his reaction, in a series of tweets, on the court order, Fawad said such hasty decisions were not taken even in the ‘Panchayat’. “It was a joke with the law because Shahbaz Sharif was involved in money laundering of billions of rupees. It would be unfortunate if the PML-N leader escaped from law in such a manner,” he remarked.

He pointed out that Shahbaz Sharif had earlier given a guarantee that his elder brother Nawaz Sharif would return from England after medical treatment and asked what had happened to that guarantee. The minister also uploaded a copy of the affidavit submitted by Shahbaz Sharif in the Lahore High Court, and said it was the guarantee he had given for Nawaz Sharif's visit abroad.

“Instead of giving notice to Shahbaz Sharif for giving a fake guarantee and recalling Nawaz Sharif back to the country, he himself was now being sent abroad,” he tweeted.

Fawad noted that Prime Minister Imran Khan had pointed out weaknesses in the justice system many times, but the opposition parties were not ready for reforms. “The main reason for their refusal was that their interests were linked to the present rotten system,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Federal Cabinet Thursday approved the Protection of Journalists and Media Professionals Bill 2021, which consists of five sections, including the rights of beginners, journalists and media professionals, training and insurance of journalists, investigation and redress, and miscellaneous.

The bill proposes the rights of journalists and media professionals. Every journalist and media professional enshrined in Article 9 of the Constitution has the right to life and security of the individual. Journalists and media professionals have the right to carry out their duties in the conflict-affected areas of the country without fear of intimidation, threat, harassment or oppression. Journalists and media professionals have the right to keep their sources secret.

The government will take steps to protect journalists and media professionals from any form of abuse, violence or exploitation by any person, institution (public or private) or authority. The bill aims at launching the Journalists Welfare Scheme, under which media owners will develop a comprehensive, written safety policy and protocols for journalists and media professionals.

The bill provides for the establishment of a commission to protect journalists and media professionals, which will include representatives from the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and the National Press Club and the Ministry of Human Rights and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

The bill empowers the commission to investigate allegations of intimidation, violence, murder, violent attacks, arbitrary arrests, detentions and harassment of journalists and to determine cases that are eligible for compensation from federal and provincial funds.