Cabinet okays formation of special unit, whistle-blower law to recover embezzled public money

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APP14-05 ISLAMABAD: September 05 - Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Ahmed Chaudhry and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability, Mirza Shahzad Akbar addressing a press conference. APP photo by Saleem Rana

ISLAMABAD, Sep 5 (APP):The Federal Cabinet Wednesday decided to constitute a special unit at the Prime Minister House and promulgate a whistle-blower law for early recovery of the public money embezzled through corruption and the wealth stashed abroad illegally.
Briefing newsmen here after the Cabinet meeting, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussian and Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar said the landmark whistle blower law would be enforced immediately through an ordinance envisaging reward of 20 per cent of the recovered amount for those who would help recover the embezzled money. They names of the informers would also be kept confidential.
The special assistant said another ordinance on mutual legal assistance was also being issued which would help remove bottlenecks in the way of seeking information from foreign countries on the wealth illegally stashed by the Pakistanis there.
He said the prime minister had directed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to dispatch a high powered delegation to Switzerland to expedite ratification of the treaty on exchange of information on bank accounts. The treaty, which was signed in 2013, had not been ratified as yet due to ulterior motives, he added.
Shahzad Akbar said the government would also hire firms that would detect and help recover illegal money stashed by Pakistanis abroad and in the case of recovery the firm would get an agreed share of the recovered amount.
He said the prime minister would get reports on the implementation of measures on fortnightly basis, which would also be submitted to the Supreme Court.
The information minister said Rs 80 billion saved due to abolishing of the prime minister’s discretionary funds had been returned to the Finance Ministry. Schemes like the Prime Minister’s Laptop Scheme had been abolished and the money returned to the Finance Ministry, he added.
Fawad said the prime minister had taken notice of a media report about premature commissioning of Tarbela Extension-4 Project causing loss of Rs 25 billion to the national exchequer and ordered an inquiry into the matter. The previous government staged the drama of its inauguration for the sake of point scoring, he added.
He said the cabinet also decided that education, health and water sectors would be looked after by the Federation. A task force headed by Minister for Education Shafqat Mehmood and comprising prominent educationists, representatives of seminaries and skill development experts, had been constituted on education. The government’s main objective was to bring 250 million out of school children into the education network, he added.
He said that a uniform school education and certification system would be enforced throughout the country. It was decided to take the provinces on board regarding raising of school fee by the private schools. It was also decided to allocate funds for establishing centers for street children and women, he added.
On the recommendations of Ministry of Human Rights, the cabinet issued instructions for provision of easy access for disabled people in all buildings, both at federal and provincial levels.
The cabinet directed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ask its staff in foreign missions to improve their attitude with overseas Pakistanis. Strict action would be taken if complaints were received regarding the attitude of staff deputed at foreign missions and embassies worldwide, he warned.
The cabinet also directed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to collect data of over 10,000 Pakistanis incarcerated in various countries. Some 3,000 of them were jailed in Iran mostly on drug related offences, he said and hoped that a large number of Pakistanis would get relief as Iran had amended its anti-drug law in recent days.
To a question about naming internationally acclaimed academic Atif Mian to the government’s Economic Advisory Council, Chaudhry Fawad said it was the responsibility of an Islamic republic to uphold the rights of its minorities. Protecting minorities was a religious duty of each Muslim, not just the government, he stressed.
Replying to media questions, Shahzad Akbar said the Federal Investigation Agency had detected properties of thousands of Pakistanis in a foreign country made from the stolen money. Around one hundred big fish would be focused and misappropriated money would be recovered from them, he added.