‘Non serious’ opposition has no interest in electoral reforms : Fawad

Lawyers defenders of democracy, rule of law: Fawad
Lawyers defenders of democracy, rule of law: Fawad

ISLAMABAD, Sep 7 (APP): Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Husain Tuesday said the government was committed to introduce Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in the next general elections to ensure free, fair and transparent polls, but the opposition showed no interest in carrying electoral reforms due to their vested interests.

“If free and fair elections are held in Pakistan, the PML-N (Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz) will never win and the politics of Sharif family will come to an end. Therefore, they have no interest in the electoral reforms,” he said while addressing a news conference after meeting of the federal cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The minister said that not a single government in the past including PML-N and Pakistan People’s Party’s had ever made efforts to improve the electoral system in the country and now when they were in opposition, they were still resisting the move.

He said it was unfortunate that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government had to deal with the most non-serious, incapable and inefficient opposition of the history of the country. Their only interest was to save the party’s leadership from the ongoing accountability process, he added.

Fawad said they had never given any viewpoint on the ongoing Afghanistan situation or the issue of refugees looming large over the country, regretting that the party of Mohtarma Shaheed Benazir Bhutto was being run by ‘political clowns’.

He said the government made every effort to persuade the opposition on electoral reforms, but unfortunately, the opposition had developed a habit of rejecting the government drafts for reforms without even reading its single word.

They even did not bother to give their own proposals for electoral reforms, he added.
The minister said both the PML-N and PPP were resisting the electoral reforms deliberately as they knew that both Maryam Nawaz and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari could only become the prime minister through manipulated and rigged general elections.

He said PM Imran Khan had a clear vision on reforming the over-all system of the country wherein the present government was striving to carry out reforms in all the sectors including media, economy and others.

Despite the opposition’s non-serious attitude, the government was determined to complete its agenda of reforms with the support of the masses, he added.

Apprising the media persons about the federal cabinet’s proceeding, he said that a detailed briefing was given to the forum on electoral reforms and electronic voting machines by Science and Technology Minister Shibli Faraz, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan and Minister for Information Technology Syed Amin ul Haq.

He said the federal cabinet approved appointment of Sardar Ali Khan as Inspector General of Police Punjab, while Kamran Afzal had been appointed as Chief Secretary of the province.

Maryam Khawar, he said had been appointed as Chief Executive Officer of the Pakistan Expo centre Private Limited.

Referring to the Federal Government Employees Housing Authority audit report for 2018-19 submitted to the Public Accounts Committee lately, the minister said it was very unfortunate that as to how poor people were exploited in Islamabad especially after acquiring their lands in suburban areas to oblige favorite ones including bureaucrats, journalists and judges.

He said Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed serious reservations over the process of allotting plots to government officers including journalists and judges after acquiring lands from poor people in the federal capital.

Fawad quoted Prime Minister Imran Khan as saying that it was unfair to acquire land from the poor forcefully to hand over to influential people at cheaper rates.

He said PM Imran Khan had constituted a committee to formulate a comprehensive policy in accordance with principles laid down by the Islamabad High Court’s Chief Justice over the matter.

The minister said the committee, which would be headed by Minister for Planning Development & Special Initiatives Asad Umar, was aimed to work out a system which would bar acquisition of land from poor people to set up housing societies by influential ones.

Minister of Human Rights Dr. Shireen M Mazari, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Interior and Accountability Mirza Shahzad Akbar and Dr. Muhammad Farogh Naseem were also included in the committee, he added.

He said the federal cabinet was told that the State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) incurred losses of Rs 286 billion during the fiscal year 2017-18. However, all the SOEs, except the National Highway Authority (NHA), had been transformed into profitable organizations, he added.

All those organizations, except the NHA which was facing colossal losses amounting to Rs 140 billion, were registering profit worth Rs 31 billion, he said, adding “This is not our destination as there is still room for reformation of the SOEs.”

The minister expressed confidence that the government would soon succeed in transforming the SOEs into profitable ventures. Massive reforms in the NHA were underway, he added.

Fawad confirmed the upcoming tour of New Zealand’s cricket team and said the federal cabinet had approved a security plan in that regard.

He said security provided to the New Zealand cricket team during its previous tour to the country was not upto the mark. Keeping that in mind, extraordinary security would be provided to the New Zealand cricket team, he added.

The minister said the Essential Services Act had been enforced in Radio Pakistan.

He said the federal cabinet had deferred the agenda regarding signing of a Memorandum of Understanding for readmission between Pakistan and the United Kingdom (UK).

Under this arrangement, he said exemption was being sought for entry of a chartered plane into Pakistan from the UK. The matter was deferred for now due to certain reasons, he added.

About presence of Pakistan on the UK’s red list for travel, the minister said Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Health Services Dr Faisal Sultan had held a detailed discussion with the UK’s Chief Medical Scientists and removed their concerns about Pakistan’s Coronavirus related data.

He expressed hope that the authorities in UK would review its policy in that regard.
He said the ministry of Information and Broadcasting proposed to allow non-Indian Punjabi films in the country for revival of the cinema industry.

However, the federal cabinet asked for rather expanding the initiative’s scope to import all international movies except Indian to Pakistan, he added.

The minister said the summary would be presented before the federal cabinet again after necessary amendments for allowing foreign movies in Pakistan. In 70s, the country had 780 cinemas that had now been reduced to 78, he added.

Steps for revival of the film and cinema industry were required on war footing, he said, while announcing the roll out film package next week.

The minister said the federal cabinet had fixed prices of Remdesivir, a life saving injection for coronavirus patients, at Rs 3,967 by bringing it down from Rs 5,680.

Fawad said the federal cabinet had approved the appointment of the National Council of Tibb’s members. Voluntary and golden handshake scheme for Pakistan Medical Commission employees was also approved, he added.

He said temporary charge for the Employees Old-Age Benefits Institution had been given to Shakeel Ahmed Mangnejo on temporary basis by the federal cabinet with a direction to take steps for appointing its head on permanent basis.

The minister said the federal cabinet accorded approval to a landmark initiative of NADRA—Data Depository. It was aimed at centralizing the scattered data of the population and crucial to protect national database, he added.

He said Pakistan was the first country which had issued Computerized National Identity Cards to over 200 million people and introduced machine readable passports. Pakistan was also only country which verified 160 million mobile SIMs through biometric verification, he added.

The minister said that Pakistan had won the case on Roosevelt Hotel in United States and the cabinet gave approval for allocation of funds to meet its liabilities.

He said the cabinet gave approval to 50 per cent reduction in port charges for exporters, whereas the proposal to appoint four members at National Industrial Relations Commission was also approved.

To a query, Chaudhry Fawad Hussain regarded National Assembly Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting Chairman Javed Latif as a ‘political clown’ and said his sole target was to seek attention of the establishment for making space in corridor of power.

About frequent reshuffle in Punjab’s bureaucracy, he said such change at administrative level made no difference as the task of policy making was of the government.

Citing example of the United States, he said the top level bureaucracy was reshuffled there after every two months.

Regarding non-cooperation of opposition in introducing comprehensive electoral reforms in the country, the minister said the opposition leadership had no knowledge about even ABC of the modern technology.

Unfortunately, the opposition parties’ leadership had failed to abreast with rapidly changing world where the use of technology became imperative to meet day-to-day requirements.