Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry has urged the opposition to submit their suggestions for electoral reforms to hold next general elections through electronic voting system and granting the right of vote to 9 million overseas Pakistanis.
Briefing media persons in Islamabad on Tuesday about decisions taken by the federal cabinet, with Prime Minister Imran Khan in chair, Fawad said PM's Adviser on Parliamentary Affairs Dr Babar Awan briefed the cabinet about the electoral reforms and electronic voting machines.
The government, he said, wanted to move forward on the electoral reforms with political consensus and the prime minister had written a letter to the National Assembly speaker to engage the opposition on the matter.
Also read: The need for electoral reforms
The speaker, he said, had also written letters to the opposition leaders for their input on the electoral voting system but so far no reply had been given by them.
The information minister said the government could not wait for the opposition's response indefinitely as it wanted to hold next general elections through the electronic voting machines (EVMs) and grant overseas Pakistanis the right to franchise.
Both the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), he said, wanted to oppose the move of granting the right of vote to the expatriates as they are not their supporters. “The two parties should openly express their viewpoint whether they wanted to give the vote right to the overseas Pakistanis or not.”
Briefing on Covid-19 updates
The minister went on to say that Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal and Minister for Planning Asad Umar briefed the cabinet about the latest coronavirus situation in the country.
The cabinet, he said, was informed that around 5,000 patients suffering from the deadly virus were in critical condition, which was the highest number compared to the last two peaks of the contagion when the maximum number of serious patients remained 3,400.
He said, “Currently Pakistan is producing 792 metric tonnes of oxygen to meet the requirement of Covid-19 patients.”
The situation in Pakistan would have different had it not increased 7,000 ventilator beds and doubled the production of oxygen during the last one year, he added. “It is decided that the oxygen meant for the industrial sector will also be diverted to the health sector if the situation worsened.”
The government, Fawad said, is also considering import of oxygen from China and Iran if the need arose.
The minister also said Premier Imran had directed to ensure supply of essential items during the pandemic. “The government is trying hard to avoid complete lockdown and that is why it is considering to announce five-day holidays for Eidul Fitr.”
About anti-Covid vaccination, Fawad said so far 2 million people had been vaccinated. “The vaccine is fully safe for the human health,” he said while urging the people to get themselves vaccinated against the virus as around 1 billion people across the world had so far been immunised against the contagion.
He said 3.7 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine were available in the country and now people aged 40 and above are eligible for vaccination.
He appreciated the print and electronic media for creating awareness among the people to follow the standard operating procedures against the pandemic.
He said the prime minister while chairing the meeting of National Coordination Committee (NCC), had observed that in case a complete lockdown were imposed, the government would have to ensure supply of the essential commodities.
“The five-day Eid holidays will ease burden on the cities as the pandemic is an urban phenomena,” he added.