Cabinet tasks NDMA to assess flood losses for devising relief strategy

APP39-08 ISLAMABAD: September 08 – Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz addressing a press conference at PID Media Centre. APP photo by Irfan Mahmood

ISLAMABAD, Sep 08 (APP): Prime Minister Imran Khan told the Federal Cabinet that the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) had been tasked in collaboration with the provincial governments to make assessment about the flood losses across the country so that a comprehensive relief strategy could be formulated for the victims.

Briefing media persons about the cabinet decisions, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz said the NDMA would present its report of assessment of losses and then the cabinet would decide about the financial package.

He said the situation in the interior Sindh was even worse than Karachi. There was no political point scoring, rather it was an unfortunate tale of destruction in rural Sindh, including Larkana.

Dr Fehmida Mirza updated the cabinet about her Badin district, which was also affected by the flash floods, he added.

The minister said the losses in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa due to floods were minimal as the provincial government had learnt lessons from the past experiences and taken in time precautionary measures.

He said the people from both rural and urban areas of Sindh were suffering as they were treated by the provincial government with one yardstick.

The Federal Government would provide all possible help to the Sindh people after assessment of losses.

Shibli Faraz said the cabinet expressed concern over the loss of lives and property due to the floods in SIndh, KP, Balochistan and some areas of Punjab.

It also noted with concern the destruction caused by floods in Sindh, including damage to the standing crops.

Shibli quoted the PM as saying that Karachi was the engine of Pakistan’s economic growth and its development was the development of the country, and that was why the Federal Government was determined to play its role for the resolution of problems of Karachi people.

He said the cabinet approved the proposal of starting a ferry service for religious pilgrims (Zaireen). It was an initiative of the Ministry of Ports and Shipping, and customs and immigration facilities would be provided at Karachi, Port Qasim and Gwadar ports.

He said the Power Division submitted its report on reforms in the power sector and approval was given to the proposal of closing inefficient power plants.

The minister said the cabinet constituted a committee for looking into the ban on provision of power and gas connections to unapproved societies and buildings in the capital. The committee comprising the Commissioner Islamabad and IESCO officials would suggest measures to remove hurdles in that regard.

Shibli Faraz said that the cabinet approved expanding the network of Panagahs (shelter homes) across the country to facilitate the downtrodden and homeless people. The shelter homes project was closer to the heart of Prime Minister Imran Khan, and philanthropists could also come forward to open such homes in different parts of the country.

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The cabinet decided that cameras would be installed in the shelter homes to ensure that the poor people residing there were treated respectfully and that the quality of the food was maintained.

He said the prime minister also took notice of the issue of SECP official Sajid Gondal and directed the authorities concerned to leave no stone unturned for his recovery.

The cabinet constituted a high level committee to look into such incidents and present suggestions for their prevention in future.The Information Minister said the cabinet was informed that the government had paid Rs 1.1 billion outstanding dues to the media houses and now a mechanism had been evolved for timely payments in future.

He expressed the hope that the media house owners would pay outstanding salaries to their staff, who worked round the clock for their institutions.

He said the cabinet okayed issuance of a no objection certificate (NOC) for the construction of a new LNG (liquefied natural gas) terminal at Port Qasim, while the Petroleum Division would ensure that quota would be given to its operators on first-come, first-serve basis in the existing and new gas pipelines.

He said the Annual Report of National Electric Power Regulatory Authority for 2018-19 and State of Industry Report 2019 were presented to the cabinet.

It was stressed that as a result of the issues settled with the IPPs (independent power producers), steps should be taken for future action to provide relief to the people, he added.

It was apprised that more than Rs 100 billion would be saved every year as a result of the issues settled with the IPPs.

Briefing the cabinet on the reforms being made in the energy sector, Planning Minister Asad Umar said the policy on renewable energy pending since April 2019, had been approved finally.

It was also told that inefficient power plants were being shut down. Under the decision, the plants of 1479 MW capacity were being shut down immediately while those of 1460 MW would be closed by September 2022.

The cabinet was informed that the capacity of K-Electric was being increased to meet the power shortage in Karachi and that process would be completed in three years. Some 300 to 400 megawatt electricity would be added in its system immediately, while steps were being taken to reduce its monthly losses.

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It approved the appointment of Qaiser Alam as chairman of the Federal Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education.

The cabinet also gave approval to the proposal of the constitution of Capital Mass Transit Authority.

Replying to the media persons’ questions, Shibli Faraz said Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed deep concern over the missing of SECP official and directed the departments concerned to ensure his early recovery.

He said the law and order situation in the capital was satisfactory as he himself drove his car to home after performing official duty at office.

The Home Scretary and the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Islamabad were also called to know about the efforts made for the recovery of Sajid Gondal, he added.

As regards the appointment of new IGP in Punjab, he said the yardstick was performance and ability to deliver, and whosoever would not deliver the government would replace him.

Regarding the high prices of commodities, he said inflation had come down last month slightly.

It was a continuous process to fight the mafia culture, which had developed during the last 30-35 years to promote their own vested interests. The government officials, who were meant to serve their institutions, were trained to serve the individuals, and they were resisting the change.

Such a system could not be eliminated by pressing a button, however, the reform process was going on, he added.

Replying to a question, he said those affected in rural Sindh would be paid separately according the assessment of losses made by the NDMA, which had made preparations for normal monsoon floods but the recent rains were abnormal.

The minister said the economy had now entered in a positive zone with the construction and business activities flourishing.

The government had controlled the COVID-19 with the blessings of Allah Almighty and prudent policies, and the prices of daily use items would also come down. Defeating the inflation was the government’s top priority, he added.

He admitted that the rise in inflation due to the coronavirus epidemic had affected the economy.

If the Federal Government had followed the Sindh Government, the whole country would have been shut down and the situation would have been the worst.

Shibli Faraz said the media houses had given an undertaking to pay dues to their workers when their outstanding dues were being paid.

A media house owner informed the PM during his recent Karachi visit that their financial situation had improved and they had registered 17 per cent increase in their revenues, he added.