No prolonged stay of evacuated foreign nationals from Afghanistan: Fawad

ISLAMABAD, Aug 31 (APP): Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain on Tuesday refuted the reports of prolonged stay of foreign nationals, evacuated from Afghanistan, in the country.

“It is our commitment from the very first day that we will not only help evacuate citizens of all sort of nationalities, but also provide support for completing evacuation process,” Fawad said while briefing the media about the decisions taken by the Federal Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

At the outset of meeting, he said Prime Minister Imran Khan and the Cabinet members expressed solidarity with the people of Afghanistan and wished them good luck for an end to their 40-year ordeal.

He said PM Imran Khan emphasized on bringing down the prices of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) so that maximum relief could be passed on to the public.

Fawad said the Federal Cabinet accorded permission to the Capital Development Authority (CDA) for enforcing its by-laws in the Sector E-11 after revoking the then cabinet decision, taken on June 05, 1968, about not acquiring the land in the area.

The Cabinet was informed that the first phase of Sialkot-Kharian motorway would be inaugurated during the current week.

The forum was informed that so far, 16,272 overseas Pakistanis, languishing in foreign jails due to petty crimes, had been repatriated.

The minister said PM Imran Khan called for giving free COVID-19 booster shot to the labourers, intending to move abroad for different job assignments.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) was the only government in Pakistan’s history which had been giving due attention to local and expatriated labours, he added.

The cabinet was briefed on Pakistan-Russia pipeline project worth $3 billion dollars and told that the landmark initiative would pave the way for economic cooperation between the two countries.

Fawad said PM Imran Khan, during his phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, had invited him for an official visit to Pakistan. Talks for finalization visit would be held on both countries’ foreign and energy ministries’ levels.

About Pakistan’s continued placement on the red-list issued by the United Kingdom for the wake of coronavirus pandemic, he said PM Imran Khan spoke to his UK Counterpart Boris Johnson on the issue.

He said the UK government considered that there was a need to hold discussion on testing mechanism. Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal and Chief Medical Scientist of UK would have a long discussion on this matter this week, he added.

Highlighting Pakistan’s efforts to evacuate stranded foreign nationals in Afghanistan, he said the way the country helped international observers and nationals in leaving Afghanistan, was unprecedented and being lauded by the world community.

“The whole world is praising Pakistan’s efforts in this regard and we will continue to help and extend our cooperation in evacuation process,” he remarked.

Fawad said Pakistan was the only country which set up an air corridor to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan. Today, a plane of Pakistan International Airlines, landed in Mazar-i-Sharif with aid, he added.

He said so far 2,421 people had been evacuated through Torkham border, out of which 821 were Afghans while 1,570 were Pakistanis.

At this moment, all the Pakistanis who wanted to be evacuated from Afghanistan had been brought back to the country. There were some Pakistanis who wanted to remain in Afghanistan and were still there, he added.

The minister said 17 people crossed Chaman border on valid visa, out of which 10 were Afghans. Other than that, people used to cross the crossing through ‘Tazkira’ (local travel document) for trade.

The people, who came on ‘Tazkira’ were not allowed to go beyond Chaman so that they could return Afghanistan after trading in the area, he noted.

He said the total number of persons, who had arrived in Pakistan from Afghanistan under evacuation process, was 10,302, whereas 9,032 had boarded for their respective countries.

Some 1,229 foreign nationals, out of which 545 were Afghans and remaining of other nationalities, were still here and would leave the country shortly, he added.

Out of 10,302, the number of total Americans who had arrived Pakistan was 155 who had proceeded now, while 42 people of American services were still here and would leave Pakistan at any time on Tuesday (today), he said.

All the people who had arrived Pakistan during evacuation process, were transit passengers, he said, adding no American was staying in Pakistan to date.

He said Pakistan was extending full support to regional and international players for stable and peaceful Afghanistan and would continue to do so.

Pakistan would make all possible efforts to alleviate their sufferings, the minister said and expressed the hope that peace and stability would fully restore in Afghanistan after an end to the 40-year sufferings of Afghans.

“It is our message to people of Afghanistan that we do not only make efforts for peace and stability in Afghanistan, but will be on the forefront to provide them all-out relief to them,” he remarked.

He said Pakistan would take decision for recognition of new set up in Afghanistan after consulting regional and international players. Currently, there were two tracks of dialogue going on. One was underway in Doha in which Pakistan, China and Russia were partaking while the other one was being pursued by Islamabad at regional level, he added.

Fawad said Pakistan was in constant contact with China, Iran, Russia and Central Asian States and collaborating with them on Afghanistan issue.

He said it was the right of Afghan people to decide about the structure and form of government in their country.

The minister said the Federal Cabinet was told that Dr. Ishrat Hussain would not continue to serve as Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Institutional Reforms. However, his services were acknowledged by Prime Minister Imran Khan and the Cabinet’s members.
Dr Ishrat told the Cabinet that his services would remain available to the government in future.

He said Prime Minister Imran Khan tasked Ministers of Finance and Energy Shaukat Tarin and Hammad Azhar with bringing down the prices of LPG cylinders.

He said only 28 per cent Pakistanis used natural gas, while rest of the population relied on LPG and other resources.

About electoral reforms, he said the PTI was the first government which had been striving to ensure free and fair elections in the country. Prior to the PTI, there was not a single government in the country’s history which thought of electoral reforms, he added.

He said the debate of electoral reforms, initiated by the present government, was fundamental one as there could be no concept of democracy in a state without free and fair elections.

He said the government was striving to hold negotiation with the opposition on electoral reforms, but their response was lukewarm.

Fawad said PML-N leader Shehbaz Sharif and Chairman PPP, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari were opposing election reforms and Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA) apparently without reading the draft proposals. It was an unserious attitude on the party of opposition, he regretted.

He said the opposition had only one role and that was to oppose every action of the government and for the purpose, it was even ready to make an alliance with the devil.
The government was ready to negotiate with the opposition on these initiatives if they had worked out any suggestions in that regard, he added.

He said some 1.4 million people were vaccinated against Covid-19 in a single day on Monday. The age limit for vaccination had been reduced to 17 years and it would be reduced gradually.

He felicitated the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) for containing the pandemic spread in an effective way. In fact, the whole world had lauded Pakistan’s effective fight against the COVID-19.

He said the Federal Cabinet withdrew the then cabinet decision of June, 1968 prohibiting CDA from acquiring land in E-11. Cabinet has authorized CDA to enforce its by-laws in E-11.

Trade Dispute Resolution Organisation under Strategic Trade Framework had been approved to promote trade with the world, besides resolving any dispute, he added.

He said Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin told the Cabinet that during the first year of the government, a total of Rs 7.7 trillion increase was witnessed in its debt while it brought down debt to Rs 3.7 trillion and some Rs 1.7 trillion during its second and third years, respectively.

The Federal Cabinet was informed that some debts were taken for enhancing foreign reserves. The Cabinet expressed satisfaction on decreasing trend of the debt-to-GDP ratio.

The Cabinet ratified Economic Coordination Committee’s decision to import sugar and wheat for maintaining strategic reserves. Muhammad Amin has been appointed CEO Lahore Electric Supply Company (LESCO) by the forum.

The Cabinet approved decisions of its committee on China Pakistan Economic Corridor held on August 12,2021. Most important decision was to explore options of supplying electricity to Gwadar for uplift of the area.

The Cabinet was briefed about the circular debts of June 2021. The circular debt was increasing by Rs 450 billion each year when PTI came into the power in 2018.

This has been brought down to Rs 150 billion. Target was to bring circular debt to zero by 2023.
He said Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umer briefed the Cabinet about innovative development expenditure financing.

Development projects worth Rs 618 billion were in addition to the PSDP projects. Most important among those projects included Sialkot-Kharian motorway which was being launched this week.

Fawad said Kharian motorway would be expanded upto Islamabad and a parallel north motorway was being constructed as well.

Sialkot-Kharian morotway was a project which would cost Rs 27 billion and upto Islamabad, Sialkot motorway would cost Rs 100 billion.

The North Punjab corridor would cost upto Rs 130 billion to connect Islamabad to Sialkot to Lahore so a parallel motorway structure would be set up.

He said the decisions taken by Cabinet Committee on Law on August 25, 2021, were approved. Major decision was to hand over authority of issuing prohibited license to interior ministry.

The Interior ministry would now be authorized to issue two prohibited licences, he added.
To a query about Shehbaz Sharif’s suggestion of forming a national government to resolve the country’s problems, he said the only solution to national issues was democracy, acceptance of majority’s opinion and rule of law.

Fawad said Shehbaz would have been in prison instead of Mazar-i-Quaid, if the law had been acted upon.

He asked the media to analyze evidences of Shehbaz Sharif corrupt practices, instead of criticizing the government.

The minister expressed the hope that Afghan Taliban would fulfill their promise of not allowing use of its territory against any country.

Funding to Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan from India had almost come to an end, he said, adding Pakistan Army and Security Forces had full capacity to internally deal with such challenges.