The federal cabinet has approved the presentation of the 6th Census report before the Council of Common Interests (CCI) for final approval and allowed the interior ministry to amend the Exit Control List (ECL) to implement various court decisions.
Briefing the media after the meeting, Information Minister Shibli Faraz said the cabinet, which met in Islamabad with Prime Minister Imran Khan in the chair, reviewed the political and economic situation in the country and received a detailed briefing on the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
During the meeting, Imran said that it was not acceptable that “any lobby put pressure on us through any minister”. He stressed that if a minister was pressured by a lobby, he should inform the cabinet or him. “We will take decisions not under the pressure of any lobby but on transparency and merit.”
During the meeting, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) chairman gave a briefing on the encroachments on Margalla Road. Imran said the law is equal for all, as the minister ordered for the removal of the encroachments.
The prime minister directed the CDA chairman to take a timeline from the agencies concerned and inform the cabinet within a week. In this regard, the defence ministry assured full implementation of the cabinet’s directives.
The ministers approved the 6th Census report with a dissenting note from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM). In the dissenting note, the MQM demanded that a new census should be conducted, immediately.
The ministers then discussed holding fresh census. The cabinet was informed that under the Constitution, the government can hold census at any time. It was also suggested that the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) should play a central role in the next census.
However, the cabinet set up a ministerial committee to further consult on the census issue. In the meanwhile, the ministers granted approval to sending the report of the 6th Census to the CCI for its approval.
The cabinet allowed the interior minister to delegate powers to amend the ECL. However, Faraz made it clear that the approval had been given only for the implementation of the orders of the judiciary. The final approval would be sought from the cabinet with recommendation from a cabinet committee.
The cabinet committee would consist of the interior minister and the law minister, while the adviser to the prime minister on interior and accountability and the interior secretary would attend the meeting on special invitation.
Among other decisions, the cabinet approved the application of the Pakistan Essential Services (Maintenance) Act, 1952 on all employees of the Utility Stores Corporation (USC) for another six months.
The minister also approved the amendments to the CDA Ordinance 1960 with a view to promoting public-private partnership projects. They also ratified the decisions taken by the Economic Coordination Committee in its meeting on December 16.
The cabinet approved the appointments of managing director of STEDEC Technology Commercialisation Corporation of Pakistan Private Limited, director general of the National Institute of Oceanography, and executive member of the National Medical Authority under the Pakistan Medical Commission Act 2020.
It also approved the appointment of the energy secretary as the chairman of the Private Power Infrastructure Board (PPIB), National Energy Efficiency Conservation Authority (NEECA) and Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB).
The cabinet approved the appointment of members to PIMS, Federal Medical Commission and the board of governors of the Schools of Dentistry under the Federal Medical Teaching Institutes Ordinance 2020; and the board of directors of the Special Technology Zones Authority.
The ministers allowed the reorganisation of the board of directors of the Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited and inclusion of the industry and production minister in the Board of Investment (BoI). They also approved the import of JP-5 oil to meet operational requirements of the Pakistan Navy.
Meanwhile, Nepra Annual Report for 2019-20 and Power Industry Review Report 2020 were presented to the cabinet. The ministers were informed that work was under way to promote renewable energy, increasing competitiveness in the energy sector to provide affordable electricity to the consumers.
Shibli said that Tuesday’s cabinet meeting was different in view of the spike in Covid-19 cases. “Only those ministers were invited, whose ministries were related to the agenda items, while the rest of the cabinet members participated in the meeting virtually to avoid spread of the contagion,” he said.
“The point is, it is not right to have too many people [gathered] at one place. The government is strictly following all precautionary measures,” he said. “Airports in England and [elsewhere in] Europe have become deserted and curfew is imposed. We do not want our country to be in such a situation,” he said.
Because of the virus pandemic, Shibli said, people's lives are in danger and businesses can be harmed. “As a nation, we have to cooperate with the government. This epidemic is affecting the economy and burdening hospitals.”
The minister said that virus spread is very high where the opposition has held rallies in recently. “We tried and the courts also decided that meetings, processions and gatherings in which people gather should be avoided,” he said, adding that the opposition still held its rallies.
However, Shibli insisted that the PDM was bound to fail as the opposition's 11-party “unnatural” alliance had difference of opinion on matters pertaining to long march and en mass resignations from the parliament.
“The opposition parties are in total disarray. They are completely confused in taking collective and clear decisions as their hands are tied. They are unable to make independent decisions,” he said. The PDM parties are hostage to their own narrative for having divergent opinion on the future strategy.”
The minister said that the opposition’s plans for a long march on Islamabad and en mass resignations were destined to fail. Instead of getting any momentum, he added, the PDM has become victim of despondency as its constituent parties had started sensing their inevitable defeat.
“The person, who was planning to launch a movement against the government, has himself faced a revolt within his own party,” he continued, while referring to the statement of a Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) leader, who declared his party chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman as “selected” one.
The fissures emerged in the JUI-F, he said, had exposed Maulana’s credibility. “Credibility of a party leader, who launches a movement, is very important and if his credibility gets exposed then how his workers can follow him.”
Responding to a question, Shibli said that Prime Minister Imran Khan's government made untiring efforts for the betterment of the country's economy. “As a result of these efforts, country's exports are at the highest level, housing sector is flourishing and the business activities are getting momentum.”
He said that the Prime Minister has given priority to Pakistan's energy related issues and their solutions so that the people of the country can get cheap electricity.
Separately, Industries and Production Minister Hammad Azhar said that the cabinet has approved the electric vehicle (EV) policy for four wheelers and outlined several new rules related to import and export of the vehicles, taxation, registration, and customs duty. (WITH INPUT FROM APP)
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