Opposition committing ‘political suicide’ by denying voting rights to expats: Fawad

ISLAMABAD, Dec 7 (APP):Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain on Tuesday said the opposition was committing ‘political suicide’ by participating in a campaign launched by some elements against provision of voting rights to the overseas Pakistanis.

“It appears that only the PTI [Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf] is responsible for welfare of the overseas Pakistanis, but the fact is that entire diaspora is not associated with the party,” the minister said while talking to the media persons after meeting of the Federal Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

He said it was beyond his comprehension that the Pakistan Peoples Party and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz were taking part in a campaign launched to deny right of vote to ten million expats whose families lived in Pakistan.
The move could also antagonize the expats, he added.

The minister said almost entire family of Nawaz Sharif was also abroad and Hassan and Husain Nawaz might have torn Pakistani passport, but they would get opportunity to vote for their father’s party if expats were given voting right.

Fawad said Bilawal Bhutto’s objection over the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in the elections was also beyond understanding as he had lived abroad for many years.

He said the stance of the PTI that the opposition should first understand the EVMs workings and then give their opinions on the matter.

The minister said they should take some time out to understand the system. It was unrealistic to criticize the initiative without getting any insight, he added.

He said the ECP had already given 27 recommendations for the EVMs, so it should issue tenders on the same conditions and ask the manufacturers to follow the same.

The minister said the objective of the introduction of EVMs was to make election process free and fair.

Fawad Hussain said the PTI had promised in the election manifesto to give overseas Pakistanis right to vote and it would move forward on the issue.

He said an awareness campaign on EVMs would be launched so that the people could understand its benefits.

The minister said members of the PTI in the Public Accounts Committee met the prime minister recently and it was decided to strengthen all the institutions that could bring transparency in the governance.

He said the committee had been constituted comprising Adviser Finance Shaukat Tarin, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar, and PTI Chief Whip Amir Dogar to suggest steps for strengthening the PAC.

He said the cabinet was given a comparative study of the prices of essential commodities and it transpired that during past two weeks Sensitive Price Index had shown downward trend.

From January, he said a ration programme would be started under which 30 per cent subsidy would be given to those earning less than Rs 31,000 per month.

He said that those getting benefit from this scheme would get flour on less than the price in 2018.

Fawad appreciated the Sindh government for taking some steps to control daily use items’ prices in Karachi and Hyderabad. Now, a bag of 20 kg wheat flour was being sold at Rs 1,456 in Karachi and at Rs 1,316 in Hyderabad.

It was available in the rest of the country at Rs 1100, he added.
The minister said per kilogram sugar was available at Rs 90 across the country except Karachi and Islamabad where the sweetener was being sold at Rs 97 per kg.
Upto Rs 4 per kg reduction in the sugar price was also expected in the coming days, he added.

Fawad said vegetable oil was being sold at Rs 399 per kg across the country. Though, it was included in the list of essential items, but being imported from abroad and if its price would increase in international market, definitely, it would also have impact in Pakistan, he added.

He said it was ridiculous to criticize the government on drawing comparison of Pakistan with regional countries on inflation.
”We are not drawing comparison of the country with France and UK; rather it is being compared with Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India,” he added.

Except tea, he said every commodity including wheat flour, lentils, sugar, onion, tomato, chicken, eggs, fresh milk and even petrol was cheaper in Pakistan as compared to other regional countries.

“It should be appreciated instead of pursuing a specific propaganda as we are not living on a separate planet,” he remarked, saying the comparison with the regional countries was aimed at sensitizing the masses about realities around the world.

He said there had been inflation in the country for salaries class, but there was a need to adjust with the situation.
There had been an additional income of Rs 400 billion in agriculture sector this year, he said, adding the comparison could be done in contemporary times instead of past.

“There is need to draw comparison of income and expenditures to know the exact situation [about inflation],” he noted.

About lynching of a Sri Lankan manager by the mob in Sialkot, he said the Cabinet strongly condemned the incident which was against Islamic teachings and tantamount to distorting the image of Pakistan.

The prime minister and the Cabinet directed the Punjab government to start the trial of the arrested accused as soon as possible and take steps to punish them, he maintained.

“The Islamic Republic of Pakistan is committed to protecting the rights of every individual belonging to minorities,” he remarked.

“The way Pakistan’s society and government have reacted to this tragedy shows that we are very different from India and some other countries”, he noted.
He said in India, such incidents against Muslims happened on a daily basis but its government was reluctant to take any action against the culprits.

The whole nation was united on the Sialkot incident as it was on the APS tragedy, he said, adding every citizen of Pakistan was condemning this act.

Fawad said the cabinet was briefed about the vacant posts of Managing Directors and Chief Executive Officers in Planning Division and Lok Virsa, Culture Division. A total of four posts were lying vacant, he said, adding Culture division had two vacant posts and the process of filling those posts was underway.

He said the cabinet had allowed Afghan nationals to travel to other countries from Pakistani Airports. The initiative was purely taken on humanitarian grounds, he added.

The minister said after The Economist another leading international news paper The New York Times had reported that the humanitarian crisis was taking place in Afghanistan. Pakistan was trying utmost to help Afghan people to mitigate their sufferings in such a tumultuous time, he added.

The meeting of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) foreign ministers was being held in the country to discuss Afghanistan situation, he said adding some 250,000 matric tonnes of wheat including 50,000 matric tonnes from World Food Programme (WFP) was being sent to Afghanistan.

The minister said import duty on 40 items had been abolished for Afghanistan to provide solace to Afghan people.

Citing Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) rules, he said the airing or publishing of news reports quoting cabinet sources should be avoided as it promoted sensationalism.

Last time some TV channels aired news reports claimed that the prime minister had banned foreign visits of his cabinet members, he added.

He said Minister for Education and Professional Training Shafquat Mehmood was in Saudi Arabia, National Security Advisor Moeed Yousaf in Moscow, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in Brussels, Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Noorul Haq Qadri in Dubai. Where was the authenticity of those news items? When PEMRA would question about the veracity of such news, what would say the reporter about the authenticity of his source, he added.

The minister urged the news editors to avoid airing or publishing such news reports.
Responding to a question, Chaudhry Fawad Hussain lashing out at the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), said both the parties had favoured the use of EVMs during their respective tenures.

Nawaz Sharif was supporting the legislation on EVMs usage in 2017 and same was being supported by PPP leadership in  2012, he added.

To another question, he said PTI had political differences with PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz and our main concern was that they must not arrange marriage ceremonies with the money looted from people of Pakistan.

Rejecting prevalence of extremism in the country, he said Pakistani society was a moderate and tolerant and extremism could never penetrate in such society.

Responding to yet another question, the minister said the country’s agriculture sector had earned over Rs 400 billion additional income from agriculture products this year. The fertilizer price had registered marked decrease, he said adding that urea was available in the country at Rs 1,800 per bag as comparing to price tag of
Rs 10,000 per bag in the international market. However, DAP was a bit costlier in the country due to its 70 percent imports, he added.   

He said that cabinet okayed confinement of Umer Saeed Khan for three months on the recommendation of Interior Ministry due to his involvement in espionage and anti state activities.

The cabinet okayed appointment of Qazi Muhammad Tahir as Chief Executive Officer, Tribal Areas Electric Supply Company (TESCO). Syed Attarur Rehman had been assigned the additional charge of Director General for three months or till appointment of permanent DG of Pakistan Standard and Quality Control Authority, he added.

Hannan Akram has been appointed private member of Public Procurement Regulatory Authority board.
The cabinet okayed Economic Coordination Committee’s decisions of November 22 and December 1.

The cabinet approved the construction and upgradation of Balakasar-Mianwali road and Mianwali- Muzaffargarh road. The cabinet okayed Rs 1.99 increase in profit margin of Oil Marketing Companies and dealers margins.

The federal cabinet approved giving partial exemption to Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP) from PPRA rules for the import of 100,000 tonnes urea to meet domestic need.

The forum also okayed re-appointment of Aamir Ali Khan as Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan Chairman and for taking elaborate security measures to ensure upcoming visit of West Indies Cricket team in safe and secure way.