ISLAMABAD, Dec 5 (APP):Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan Thursday said the availability of Internet would be ensured in every nook and cranny of the country under the ‘Digital Pakistan’ launched by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

“The prime minister has laid the foundation of a new digital Pakistan, which will be equipped with the latest technology to meet the pace of development in the world,” she said while talking to the media here.

Under the new “Digital Pakistan,” she said five parameters had been determined as per the vision of prime minister which would help ensure increased “access and connectivity” between the public and government.

.:Dr Firdous said through the Digital Pakistan, the Internet access would be provided across the country. The ‘right to access to information’ and the ‘right of freedom of expression and speech,’ which were the right of every Pakistani, had been ensured under the programme.

With the digitalization of Pakistan’s infrastructure, the special assistant said the country would become more strong, developed and prosperous.

Under the e-governance, she said transparency would be ensured in the purchase mechanism as around Rs 3 trillion was spent annually in the country through the manual tendering process. “Including the e-governance system, when paperless government will be in place, there will be no further loopholes and manouevring in the future system of automation.”

She said Pakistan had the second highest ‘youth potential’ in the world, and the government was going to connect them with digital skills and literacy so that they could become useful citizens.

Unfortunately, she said around 25,000 Information Technology experts were being produced every year in the country, but out of those only 6,000 succeeded in getting jobs due to their non-compatibility with the needs of contemporary world.

Dr Firdous said there was a demand of 600,000 IT experts annually in the world. Under the Digital Pakistan programme, the capacity building of “our youth will be ensured so that they can compete and get their share in the country as well as international market”, she added.

The special assistant said another pillar of the Digital Pakistan was the “Innovation and Entrepreneurship,” under which the 72-year old system would be revamped by engaging the youth, developing skilled human resource, empowering women and introducing modern techniques in diverse fields, including agro-based industry, cottage industries, and small and medium enterprises.

“This programme will be helpful in making the young entrepreneurs active, prosperous and self-reliant,” she said.

Sharing the details of a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, she said all the four chief secretaries and relevant ministries had apprised the prime minister about the rates of basic commodities like flour, ghee, sugar and pulses in their respective provinces.

All the provincial governments, she said, informed the prime minister about the measures they had taken to control price hike and ensure smooth supply of edibles.
The prime minister, she said, had directed to set up a Price Control Authority at the federal level so that the there should be a uniformed mechanism to ensure smooth provision of the basic commodities at prescribed rates across the country.

Dr Firdous said the prime minister had also formed a committee, comprising ministers for Planning, Food and Agriculture, and Commerce, with the task to develop a data bank about the country’s demand and supply of the basic commodities.

“Prices always shoot up when the commodities are short against their high demand. The hoarders and black marketeers get benefit of this situation,” she said.

So as a ‘strategic reserve’, she said, the provincial government would ensure back-up supply of all those commodities that would be in high demand and facing scarcity. “It will discourage hoarders and profiteers.”

The SAPM said the prime minister stressed the need for promoting the culture of farm marketing. He assigned the Minister for Food and Agriculture to look into the issue of adulteration in edibles, especially dairy products and pesticides, so that the ‘mafia’ involved in this heinous crime could be curbed in an effective manner.

Dr Firdous said National Tourism Coordination Board Chairman Sayed Zulfikar Abbas Bukhari apprised the prime minister that a conference of D-8 countries would be arranged soon in Pakistan to get expertise from its member states to flourish the tourism industry here.

The representatives of D-8 countries, including Singapore, Malaysia and Turkey, would be invited to take first hand information about creation of job opportunities and revenue generation through tourism promotion, she added.

Chairing another meeting with regard to the construction industry, she said said Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed his firm resolve to provide affordable housing units to the poor.

She said the Federal Board of Revenue had been directed by the prime minister for withdrawal of sales tax from the construction sector in the country, and immediately in Punjab, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Dr Firdous said the prime minister had also approved a fixed tax on the sale of constructed houses as per the agreement already reached between the provinces. It would, however, not be applicable on the houses constructed under the Naya Pakistan Housing Programme, she added.

She said steps were being taken to decrease capital value tax ratio and introducing of E-stamp paper to avoid deception in sale/purchase of properties. She expressed the hope that transparency would be promoted after the introduction of E-stamp paper.

She said an ‘Online Digital Portal’ would also be launched to empower the real estate, properties and housing sector through a comprehensive mechanism. The prime minister, she said, issued the instructions on the request of Constructors Association, real estate and other organizations, and after taking the provinces on board.

Criticizing opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif, she said he (Shehbaz) was used to visit Pakistan only to do politics, while he had businesses abroad, where he also got his medical treatment.

Shehbaz Sharif had set a new precedent by calling a party members meeting aboard, she added.

Dr Firdous said consensus had been reached with the opposition that the parliamentary committee would meet on Tuesday for nominating the new Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

She said Prime Minister Imran Khan had proposed the names of Babar Yaqoob Fateh, Arif Ahmed Khan and Fazal Abbas Maken for the CEC and hopefully anyone of them would be appointed with consensus.

Later, addressing the launching ceremony of ‘An Academy of Liberal Arts’, she said it was imperative to promote the enlightened, moderate and progressive face of Islam before the world.

She said ‘Sufism’ taught the lesson of altruism and stressed upon respecting the rights of other human beings. Mysticism played a vital role in character building of the people.

Dr Firdous said the Almighty had bestowed Pakistan with legendary artists, precious heritage and unique culture.