Election reforms only way to end rigging: Fawad

Opposition parties only interested in protecting ‘ill-gotten money’, says information minister


APP September 21, 2021
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry is addressing a press conference in Islamabad on July 27. PHOTO: PID

ISLAMABAD:

Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry has termed the electoral reforms ‘need of the hour’ while taking exception to the “non-serious” attitude of opposition parties saying they “give preference to vested interests over matters of national importance”.

Addressing a post cabinet briefing in Islamabad on Tuesday, he regretted that the opposition is only interested in protecting “ill-gotten money they had looted from the national exchequer while in power”.

Fawad said the government had approached the opposition several times for holding talks for evolving consensus over the issue of electoral reforms, but it was unfortunate that they could not see beyond personal interests.

“They only wanted that they should not be asked to return national wealth looted and plundered by them and their leadership while being into the power,” he said while asserting that most of them are not even interested in becoming the prime minister of the country.

The minister said the government has a clear vision to grant the voting rights to the overseas Pakistanis who he said are the backbone of national economy. “It is not possible that we do not allow overseas Pakistanis to cast vote in the election.”

House rent allowance increased

Giving details of the decisions taken in the federal cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, he said the proposal for a 44 per cent increase in the current house rent ceiling of the government employees had been green-lighted.

It is aimed at providing major relief to public servants in the wake of high rates of houses fares in the major cities especially in Islamabad, he added.

The increase would be applicable to the federal government employees from grade 1 to 22, he said, adding that the initiative was taken after reviewing the increase in the houses’ fares in major cities.

Such practice was repeated after every three years, he noted.

The information minister said the forum accorded approval to include Uzbekistan in the business visa list. The move was aimed at strengthening ties with the Central Asian state as well as providing relief to the business community of the two countries, he added.

The cabinet approved the import of films from the regional countries so that the film industry could be uplifted by reviving cinema culture through the screening of such movies.

‘Only one polio case reported’

He said the federal cabinet was told that the country had gained a landmark victory against the crippling disease of polio.

Ministry of National Health Services was appreciated and congratulated by the cabinet members on achieving such a milestone.

The federal minister said only one case of polio was reported in the last seven months which was the lowest level of reported cases in the country after such a long time.

Any country, which wanted to get polio-free country status, had to be remained polio-free for three years, consecutively, he added.

It was a good omen that such a level against the disease was achieved after a hiatus, he remarked while expressing the hope that the authorities would continue to move against the disease with the same spirit and the country would eventually emerge as a polio-free in future.

He said the Federal Cabinet, on the request of World Food Programme, also granted one-time permission to make a concession in the port policy orders for release of shipments from Saudi Arabia.

About the inclusion of Uzbekistan in the business visa list, he said the initiative would ensure the availability of a five-year multi-visa facility at the relevant Pakistan Consulate within 24 hour-time.

Fawad further said with the addition of Uzbekistan to the list, the bilateral ties would be strengthened further.

He said Pakistan and Uzbekistan especially their political leaderships including Prime Minister Imran Khan and Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev enjoyed good ties especially in the context of Afghanistan and the trans Mazar-i- Sharif train which would connect Karachi and Gawadr with Tashkent via the landlocked country.

He called the Mazar-i-Sharif train a ‘landmark’ vision of the present government, saying talks on the matter were going forward in a remarkable manner.

Social media regulation

The information minister said the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) presented a policy directive to the meeting on a judgement referred by the Islamabad High Court to the Federal Cabinet regarding blockage of social media companies and inappropriate content on social media sites.

The policy directive was meant to apprise the court that the government was fully empowered to take action for the removal unlawful of content from social media.

About contemporary social media rules and regulations, he said the government is working on a two-pronged strategy to address social media related issues through new policy initiatives.

The strategy was not only aimed at tightening the noose around those companies that were delaying action against producers of pornographic content but also taking legal action against the individuals, involved in making objectionable content in Pakistan, he added.

He said issues related to social media has become a major problem in the country that is why a new policy debate on the matter is being initiated that would be led by Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari. The debate would help evolve new laws for the purpose, he added.

The minister said for the first time, modern technology would be opted to so that the upcoming census could be completed within 540 days.

PM Imran had formed a committee as some details of the census were yet to be determined, he added.

New census and delimitation

He said the next general elections would be held under the new census and after delimitation of the constituencies.

Fawad said this news might hurt some people who are desperate to see fresh elections in the next few months.

He said reformation of the electoral system is imperative before the next elections and the opposition is being approached for the purpose.

To a query, Fawad said that a calculator has been added to the ballot box which would automatically calculate the number of votes polled for all candidates. The world has moved far ahead in the use of technology in elections but Pakistan is just adding a calculator to the ballot box at this stage, he added.

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