Action against corruption in PML-N era road projects on cards: Fawad

ISLAMABAD, Sep 28 (APP):Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain on Tuesday announced action against those who were involved in corruption committed through the expensive road infrastructure projects executed during the previous tenure of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government.

The decision to this effect was taken during the Federal Cabinet meeting which was chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, Fawad Hussain told the media persons here.

He said Minister for Communications and Postal Services Murad Saeed briefed the forum about the ‘hair-raising’ corruption scandal in the National Highway Authority (NHA) which executed road projects worth Rs 1 trillion at the most expensive rates during the previous tenure of PML-N government (2013-2018).

Fawad said it had been observed that the rates on which the contracts for building road infrastructure were signed in 2013 was almost double than the agreements inked by the present government for the purpose.

He said the Federal Cabinet was told that the roads being constructed by the NHA today were almost Rs 100 million per kilometer cheaper than the roads built during the PML-N previous tenure.

“It’s all happening despite the increase in price of all the material for road construction,” he added.

Murad Saeed apprised the forum about the plan being worked out to take action against those who were involved in this corruption, Fawad noted.

On the last weekend, both the ministers told the media about the massive corruption committed by the PML-N through motorway projects, besides sharing a comparative analysis of the expenses made by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government and the PML-N’s.

Fawad, on the occasion, also asserted that the Sharif family had purchased Avenfield flats in London after committing massive corruption in the Lahore-Islamabad Motorway (M-1) project.
Giving details of the Federal Cabinet meeting, he said the electoral reforms had become a routine agenda of the forum which started its proceeding with discussion on introduction of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and i-voting in the election.

There had not been a single sitting government in the past which laid emphasize on the electoral reforms as being given by the PTI government which wanted to take this issue forward, he noted, adding it was the present one which had launched campaigns to highlight the importance of EVMs in curbing rigging in the polls for once and all.

The minister welcomed the initiation of dialogue between the treasury and opposition benches in the Parliament on the electoral reforms and said the government wanted them to move forward.
“The use of EVMs and i-voting in the polls is our top priority,” he said while describing the remittances sent by the overseas Pakistanis to the country as an important part of the national economy.

He said Prime Minister Imran Khan had directed his Adviser on Parliamentary Affairs Dr Babar Awan and Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan to discuss use of EVMs and i-voting as basics of the electoral reforms.

Ruling out the possibility of excluding the expats from the political system, he made it clear that introduction of i-voting and EVMs would be a mandatory part of the electoral reforms.

Explaining as to why the EVMs are crucial for electoral reforms, he said around 70 per cent disputes pertaining to the elections used to evolve during the time of vote count, adding the gadget would reduce that time to the minutes.

The minister also cited report of Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk led judicial commission on rigging to justify his claim that most of the polls related disputes occurred during the time of vote count.
Fawad said it was reported in a study on the elections of Philippine which was also shared with Election Commission of Pakistan that its 300 Returning Officers and other staff were killed in such disputes in 2007 polls.

“The EVM gives solution to such problems,” he maintained.

The minister said currently, around 20 [types] of EVMs from different private companies were giving demonstration on its working.

“From this month, I hope that we will be able to shift major polls on the EVM so that you people can see that what actually the electronic voting mechanism is and the matter [electoral reforms] will eventually move forward,” he added.

Fawad expressed the hope that the dialogue initiated between the government and opposition would produce concrete result instead of a time consuming exercise.

On the one hand, he said the government was ready to take its electoral reforms agenda in the joint session of the Parliament, while on the other, it was ready to consult the opposition on the matter.

The minister said the Federal Cabinet had decided in its one of the previous meetings that the people should be encouraged to build high-rise building by abolishing condition of the No Objection Certificate in those cities where the airports were operational.

The initiative was aimed at discouraging haphazard expansion of the cities and creating the vertical ones, he added.

During the today’s meeting, Fawad said it was noted that the initiative could not be implemented in true letter and spirit despite massive efforts of the government.

The Federal Cabinet had set up a committee to determine the practical challenges coming into the way of its implementation, he said, adding it would include Minister for Planning, Development & Special Initiatives Asad Umar and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan.

The cabinet approved the transfer of Telephone Industry of Pakistan (TIP) to National Institute of Retail Technology and Commerce (NIRTC).

The property worth billions of rupee were lying vacant, he said, adding
Minister for Economic Affaris Omar Ayub and Minister for Defence Production Zubaida Jalal had played vital role in that regard. The NIRTC situated near Haripur in Khyber Pakhtunhwa province would become a hub of technology. 

The services of 158 employees of TIP have been protected and NIRTC would look after them.
The minister said that the Pakistan had become the first Asian country to implement national action plan for businesses and human rights.

All businesses would have to comply with all the treaties signed by Pakistan, he added.

The minister said there would be no discrimination and equal opportunities would be provided to all workers and labour standards on health and safety would be maintained and child labour would be completely eliminated.

He said that e-visa faculty had been extended to 191 countries which would help promote business and tourism sector in the country. The cabinet approved sending humanitarian aid to Indonesia in connection with Covid-19 pandemic, he added.

During the briefing on economic indicators, the cabinet was informed that foreign remittances had increased $ 5.4 billion and in two months tax revenue collection had shown an increase of 42.3 per cent.

He said that in agriculture and services sectors, marked improvement had been noticed and exports had registered 35 per cent increase.

The minister said that due to rise in petroleum products and edible oil in the international market, prices of these commodities had increased in local markets.

However, he said that income levels of the people also witnessed a marked increase especially in agriculture sector in which yields of various crops including cotton had been improved.

Fawad said that impact of “imported inflation” was high in the cities where imported stuff was used.

Replying to a question, he said that misreporting was being done on the case related to Sharifs’ assets, in London.

He said that Offcom had been approached and a case would also be filed in this regard.

The minister expressed the hope that proceedings of the case in accountability court against Shehbaz Sharif would be held on day to day basis and he would be awarded
punishment soon.

He said that time for celebrations and distribution of sweets for the Sharif family had been over as the masses wanted return of looted money.

About quorum issue in ongoing National Assembly session, he said the Speaker should suspend the quorum rule as senior members were not coming due to coronavirus threat.

He cited the example of House of Commons where proceedings continued with the presence of only half a dozen of members.

Answering another question, he said that various companies were giving demonstrations of electronic voting machines free of cost so far.

The minister said that the matter of Services Hotel had been referred to Cabinet Committee on Privatization after some objection raised by Senate.

He said that salaried class was feeling more impact of inflation whereas people affiliated with agriculture sector living in rural areas had received Rs 1100 billion in that sector.

He said that the media workers were also feeling the pinch as the media house owners had not paid them their due salaries despite the government had issued
Rs 75 billion to them in past few months.

The minister said that use of agricultural lands for building housing societies should be stopped but it was a provincial matter.