APP38-21 LAHORE: July 21 - Caretaker Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Barrister Syed Ali Zafar addressing during the Media Conference Election 2018 and Freedom of Expression at Chamber of Commerece & Industry organised by Unified Media Club of Pakistan. APP Photo by Mustafa Lashari

LAHORE, Jul 21 (APP):Caretaker Federal Minister for Information, Broadcasting, National Heritage Syed Ali Zafar Saturday said the interim government was working as per its constitutional mandate and taking decisions of urgent nature only for the sake of country.
He was addressing the ‘Media Conference On Election-2018 and Freedom of Expression’ organized by the Unified Media Club of Pakistan (UMCP) here at Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Renowned journalists Mujeebur Rehman Shami, Sajjad Mir and Salman Ghani, Lahore Press Club President Azam Chaudhry, UMCP President Muhammad Hassan and General Secretary Haroon Akram Gill also spoke on the occasion.
Responding to reporters’ queries, the minister said the caretaker government was not going to make any long-term policy or agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), binding the upcoming elected government to adhere to it. Any discussion with the IMF would be non-binding as the interim government did not have the mandate to make long-term agreements with international donors, he added.
The federal government, however, could take urgent decisions, which were indispensable to protect the country from any sort of crisis, he said, adding the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) had included Pakistan in the gray list in February 2018 year, with a warning to black list it if the FATF’s objections were not removed till June.
Pakistan, he said, had removed most of the objections till June and the caretaker government took an urgent decision to give only a political commitment to the FATF regarding removal of the remaining ones, including legislation to curb terror financing, control money laundering and corruption. The government made that commitment just to save the country from being blacklisted, he maintained.
Regarding surge in dollar rate, Ali Zafar said normally, market forces played the role in that regard. There were two methods to control the rate of dollar, i.e., either let the market forces to decide or start withdrawing from the foreign reserves to artificially control the rupee’s devaluation. The second method affected the country’s exports. It had been in vogue for the last four to five years and reduced the foreign reserves up to 40 percent. The caretaker government had stopped the practice to save the foreign reserves, he added.
To a question about Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui’s remark, he said the matter should be probed by the judiciary, and there should be no comment on it from any other quarter.
To another query, he said the Punjab home minister had confirmed to him that facilities were being provided to Nawaz Sharif as per the Jail Manual and if anybody had the objection, he could approach courts in that regard.
About the merger of FATA into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa under a constitutional amendment in May 2018, he said five years were required for infrastructural development, putting in place proper administration and provision of other civic amenities there. Since people of FATA had yet to get facilities at par with the residents of other cities, therefore, the federal government had exempted the FATA people from taxes, he added.
The minister said the general election was a mega event and it was inevitable for continuation of democratic process in the country. While exercising their right of franchise, voters should take into account as to which candidate or party would prove to be responsible and resolve all their problems, besides the challenges faced by the country, he added.
He said all the objections raised by foreign observers in the last general election, had been removed in the Election Act 2017, which had also strengthened the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). As per election laws, all the institutions were bound to cooperate with the ECP in conducting the elections. The interim government was also completely adhering to the ECP’s directions, he added.
Syed Ali Zafar said the ECP had prepared the Code of Conduct for the polling day and it was also sharing arrangements with the public.
Keeping in view the recent wave of terrorism and threats to the political leaders and candidates, he said, the government was fully focused on putting an effective security apparatus in place, especially on the polling day.
He said some 450,000 policemen would be deployed on the polling day, while the Election Commission had also requisitioned the Pakistan Army to provide 300,000 personnel for deployment at the polling stations. About 20,000 polling stations were declared highly sensitive, he added.
The minister said security factor was a national issue, which needed national unity and any blame-game in that regard would be unfortunate. “Thanks to Allah Almighty; this time again, the nation is united on the security matter,” he added.
To a question, he said the government was making efforts to ensure local and foreign media’s access to the polling stations. Foreign election observers would also be facilitated, he added.
Ali Zafar said the next elected government would have mega challenges of terrorism, national security, water scarcity, economy and energy.
Talking on water issues, he stressed the need of building new water reservoirs. Some 90 percent of the available water was consumed by the agricultural sector, he said adding modern and efficient water usage techniques under the concept of ‘drop for a crop’ should be adopted to conserve maximum water. “Similarly, we also use drinking water for sewerage and other purposes as well, therefore, we should adopt sewerage water treatment methods to reuse that water for other purposes,” he maintained.