ISLAMABAD: Federal Information Minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain has said that 23 million people in Afghanistan are suffering from malnutrition and so far eight children have died due to lack of food. The federal cabinet has decided to send wheat and rice to Afghanistan in large quantities and abolish tax on all imports of Afghanistan.
The minister told a media briefing, following the federal cabinet meeting presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan here, that Pakistan Democratic Movement’s planned march was a winter activity and asserted that they would have to wait till the 2023 elections and then for five years.
Fawad said that a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) would be held in Islamabad next month where Muslim countries would be called upon to resolve Afghanistan’s food issues.
“We have already expressed our concerns to the world but we will now take all possible steps that would be appropriate for the Afghan people, so we have set up a fund so that the people can make donations,” he noted.
The minister added extremely disappointing reports are coming from Afghanistan that children are being sold for food. The minister cautioned that if Afghanistan was not saved from the food crisis, the situation would worsen unbelievably and they had expressed their concerns at every forum and level.
He said that the cabinet had decided that the country would dispatch sufficient amount of wheat and rice to Afghanistan to save its people from starvation in winter. “Measures are being taken so that exports from Afghanistan can be eased out. We have slashed all taxes on exports from Afghanistan,” he added.
He said that Pakistan would also discuss the humanitarian tragedy with the Afghan delegation visiting Pakistan in the next few days.
He said that due to the freezing of Afghanistan’s assets, a humanitarian catastrophe was brewing there and they did not receive any foreign aid due to which Afghanistan's economy was ruined. He said, “We are not recognising the Afghan government.”
Replying to questions, the minister said that the opposition had tried its best to dislodge the government in the last two years but the government proved strong now two years of the incumbent government were remaining and the opposition should still wait for one and half years or two years. “And, after that, they would have wait for another five years. The reason is PDM is a platform of parties with diverse ideologies, having no programme or leader,” he noted.
Addressing the opposition, he emphasised that ‘you can’t succeed by hatching conspiracies. I will give you an advice to first learn to stand on your own feet, as through conspiracies, you neither succeeded nor will in future’.
Asked for his comment on reports that former premier Nawaz Sharif might return in December, he remarked that why should not he stage comeback this month instead. “We want him to fulfill any commitment, which Shehbaz Sharif had made that he would bring him back. PDM has been holding march every year. Now, again they have started crying,” he maintained. He added that it was not the decade of 90s that the opposition was all the time making moves against the government. On an optimistic note, the minister said that the opposition’s created agitation would die down, as the price hike issue would settle down within two-three months.
In view of rising global market gas and RLNG prices and to curb illegal use of gas, the federal cabinet, he noted, has increased the price of gas for captive power plants from 6.5 to 9 per MMBTU. He added that the prices will be applicable from November 15, 2021 to March 31, 2022, this increase has nothing to do with domestic consumers. He said that the power plants would be provided gas for six months on higher rate.
The oil and gas prices are connected with the international market and the country will not uplift if we continue to give subsidies on different commodities to a certain portion of the population”, he added.
The minister said that the role of media has been controversial, as whatever thing comes up, it is exaggerated three times more and this is causing harm to the country. “This is also an issue which will be dealt with very soon,” he remarked.
He said that in order to promote local tourism, the leasing of PTDC properties in Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir to the private sector has been approved in a transparent manner. Fawad said that the federal cabinet has decided that the same project will be for Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, at present the trend of tourism is spreading very fast.
The minister said that leasing of PTDC properties in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab has been approved while Balochistan, he said that it would take a final decision and inform. He added they wanted to hand over the properties of PTDC to the provinces so that they can lease them themselves and this is the offer we have made to the Sindh government.
The Cabinet approved in principle the Securities and Futures Markets Bill, 2021. The forum approved the transfer of PTDC’s property, employees and liabilities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab to the respective provinces.
Responding to a question about the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), he said that the process of dialogue with the banned organisation would be under the constitution, therefore all warring groups must respect the constitution of Pakistan. “There are all Pakistanis in the TTP and the state wants to give them a chance. If they show their loyalty to Pakistan, we will definitely give them a chance. At this time Pakistan should talk to the TTP with a strong position, we believe that Afghanistan had asked us to negotiate with the warring group, the TTP has good ideas towards Pakistan. Afghanistan’s new leadership wants peace in Pakistan,” he said. He said locals and war victims would also be included in the talks.
Fawad said that the prime minister has directed to ensure the attendance of cabinet members and party members in the National Assembly to approve important laws and give answers. He said that the vacancies of CEO and MD in the Ministry of Science and Technology and National Food Security have been reviewed. He said that similarly there are five vacancies in the Ministry of Security and both the ministries have been directed to take steps to fill these vacancies as soon as possible.
He said that the federal cabinet has approved the inclusion in the mandatory list of Pakistan Standards and Quality to maintain the quality of locally made fans. He added that the production of quality fans would be beneficial in reducing the power consumption and thus the locally made feathers would be able to be sold in the world market. It was decided to set up 911 helpline in collaboration with the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Information after which all other helplines would be merged into 911.
To increase exports, the Ministry of Commerce has recommended the adoption of the Strategic Trade Policy Framework 25-2020. In view of the state of emergency under the World Food Programme, it was recommended to export flour to Afghanistan.
The Cabinet also approved the appointment of Dr Saifuddin Junejo as chairman, Export Processing Zones Authority. The Cabinet approved appointment of Director General of Pakistan Maritime Security Agency. The Cabinet also approved the extension of the Afghan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement 2010 for six months to enhance trade relations with Afghanistan.
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