Prime Minister desires transparent Senate elections: Shibli

ISLAMABAD, Feb 09 (APP): Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz Tuesday said the government would collect tens of billions of rupees by implementing the Sugar Commission report and through negotiations with the electricity companies.

He was addressing a press conference here along with Minister for Planning Asad Umar to give details of the decisions taken in the Federal Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Talking about the Sugar Commission report, he said the government won the cases filed by the sugar mafia in different provinces.

As per the report, under an action matrix the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) had pointed out tax liabilities of Rs 368 billion, general sales tax on sugar increased by 60 to 65 percent or Rs 29 billion, and the farmers received good timely payments.

He said the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had unearthed Rs 22 billion of money laundering.

Implementation of the sugar report was delayed due to court cases, he said, adding now cameras were being installed in the sugar mills to ascertain the actual position of stocks.

He said in the past sugar prices were manipulated by the mafias. The government was working against the mafias but action against them also got delayed as those people got together for their vested interests.

The minister said according to the State Bank, the overseas Pakistanis sent $ 500 million through the Roshan Pakistan digital account.

The prime minister directed that the chief executive officers of about 60 public sector institutions should be appointed in a week and in case of further delay the reasons should be given, he added.

Shibli said the cabinet approved the recommendations of its committee on electricity. The previous regimes had signed expensive electricity agreements with the power companies and the present government could not revoke them as it would have dented the confidence of investors, he noted.

The government, he said, held negotiations with the power companies to find ways to reduce the circular debt of more than Rs 2 trillion without compromising on anything. The new accord would save the government Rs 836 billion over the next 20 years, he added.

The minister said the circular debt included Rs 600 billion owed to independent power producers and Rs 700 billion to the public sector generation companies.

Last year the capacity payments were of Rs 650 billion and this year the same were of Rs 850 billion due to expensive oversupply of power, he added.

The prime minister, he said, strictly instructed that there should not be any unannounced loadshedding in the country.

Shibli Faraz said the cabinet extended the period of Afghan transit agreement by three months.

He said the cabinet decided to abolish the price control committees formed in the past to determine prices of items of daily use as they were not effective.

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The price control committee of Islamabad was also disbanded, he added.

The minister said before the committees, the implementation of prices was the responsibility of district administrations comprising commissioners, and deputy and assistant commissioners, and now they were again given that responsibility.

He said the economy and industry were suffering losses and getting less profit due to the menace of smuggling. The smuggling led to reduction in the revenues of government and increase in indirect taxes on the public, he added.

The smuggling of petrol, he said, was inflicting a loss of Rs 120 billion and was a reason for environmental degradation and inferior petrol quality.

He said about 2,192 petrol stations were selling smuggled oil so strict punishment was proposed for them, including confiscation of property and petrol pumps. The Customs Department and Federal Board of Revenue now effectively controlled the smuggling of oil.

Similarly the smuggling of cigarettes and other items would be controlled to plug the loss in revenue.

Prime Minister Imran Khan stressed that the government would have to look for alternative sources of income, he said, adding the smuggling was reducing the government revenue and putting extra financial burden on the common man.

The minister stated that the cabinet expressed concern over the release of six years old wheat by the Government of Sindh to the people of Karachi.

It proved two points that by not timely releasing the wheat stocks the Sindh Government had disrupted the wheat supply in the country and gave flour to the people of Sindh, particularly Karachi at higher prices, he explained.

Shibli said Sindh took money out of the pockets of people by not releasing the wheat at a time when the Federal Government was importing wheat by using its foreign exchange reserves.

The Sindh government played with the lives of the people, did politics on wheat and also played in the hands of profiteers and hoarders, he pointed out.

“We condemn this, the people of Karachi should protest on this, and the issue should be discussed in the assembly as the Government of Sindh is directly responsible for creating disruption in the supply of wheat in the country.”

He said measures were being taken to ensure transparent Senate elections. Replying to media persons’ questions, Shibli Faraz said the government would not create hurdles in the way of the Pakistan Democratic Movement’s (PDM) planned long march.

It was the PDM’s legal and constitutional right to hold a protest and it was staging rallies without any hindrance. Similarly, they were free to hold the long march.

To a question, Shibli Faraz said there were many issues, including legal ones, in the appointment of heads of public entities.

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The number of public entities had reduced from over 400 to 300 plus, while deliberations were continuing for their mergers. Heads of various departments would be appointed soon, he added.

He said the prime minister had already asked about the matter and sought a report in the next cabinet meeting.

The minister said the issues were of over 70 years old and one should not expect from the government to fix them in mere 32 months.

It was a time taking exercise. The government’s intentions were right as the country was moving in the right direction.

He said that the government would go for legislation, which would be in the interest of the country and its people, and would strengthen democracy.

Referring to the last sitting of National Assembly, he said after moving a constitutional amendment bill in the House on open voting, the government expected a debate on it and proposals from the opposition, but they created a ruckus.

He said that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government wanted transparency in the Senate elections but it did not suit the opposition parties.

Those from the middle class could not take part in the elections whereas on the other side those, who had piled up wealth by hook or by crook, entered the Upper House of Parliament by the power of wealth.

With the support of media and nation, the government wanted to eliminate the wealth factor from politics and polls, and it was a golden opportunity to do it, he added.

The minister urged the people not to pay heed to the non-sense propaganda by the opposition, which was claiming that the ordinance was promulgated to favour the PTI’s friends or that the PTI did not believe in loyalty of its legislators.

Transparency would ensure merit and parties would have loyal members, who would get elected on their tickets and that was the change, he added.

About the Pakistan Secretariat employees’ demands, Shibli Faraz said that the Federal Government had the mandate to deal with the federal employees, while those, who had come from provinces and where the PTI or its allies had government, would be requested to settle their issues there.

He said the prime minister had again asked about the matter and the three-member committee, comprising cabinet members had presented its report to him.

The committee, he said, was constantly in touch with the employees and soon a workable formula acceptable to both sides would be thrashed out.

In the past, he said that price committees would focus on the prices of commodities but it could not yield desired results, therefore, the same were dissolved and now the respective administrations would be responsible for price control and would be held accountable.