Agriculture sector to be given Rs 100 billion subsidy
The federal cabinet has decided to provide Rs 100 billion subsidy to agriculture sector to ameliorate the sufferings of farmers, besides issuing directives for uninterrupted gas supply to domestic consumers in winter.
Briefing media persons after the meeting of federal cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information & Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan Tuesday said that Water and Power Division in a briefing told the cabinet when Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government came to power, circular debt was very high which has been brought down by this government.
The cabinet was informed that Rs 242 billion subsidy was given to protect consumers using up to 300 electricity units from fuel adjustment effects.
She said the industrial sector was given a Rs 29 billion subsidy whereas Rs 100 billion subsidy is being given to agriculture sector. She said the PM also directed the Water and Power Division to bring the summary of fixed billing for tube-well farmers in the next meeting. The cabinet also asked the division to take steps for redressing consumers’ reservations about tampering with meters by Discos’ employees which results in additional burden on consumers.
The cabinet appreciated the performance of the Water and Power Division in controlling line losses and taking steps to introduce a regulatory mechanism in Discos, she said.
She said that the Oil and Gas Division informed the cabinet that it inherited Rs 181 billion deficit due to bad policies of the previous government but it formulated a structural plan to protect the consumers against major increase in gas bills.
She said the cabinet was informed that Rs 10 billion subsidy was given to fertilizer industry to ensure stability in the prices of fertilizers. She said the domestic consumers were given Rs 19 billion subsidy in 2018-19 whereas the estimate of the subsidy for year 2019-2020 is Rs 30 billion.
She said the Prime Minister has directed the uninterrupted gas supply to domestic consumers in winter. Firdous said the Oil and Gas Division was directed to activate its redundant meter manufacturing industry to reduce the extra cost of gas meters, being bought from the market.
Awan said the cabinet was informed that Maryam Nawaz Sharif, PML-N’s Vice President and daughter of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, has filed an application for removal of her name from the exist control list (ECL) to fly abroad and said that she may not be allowed to go abroad without any ‘concrete’ reasons.
She said the application has been referred to a sub-committee of the cabinet headed by Law Minister Farogh Naseem for recommendation to be presented before the cabinet. “It happened for the first time in the world’s history that a convict desires removal of her name from ECL so that she can travel aboard and take care of her ailing father [Nawaz Sharif]. Unfortunately, it shows that Nawaz Sharif only trusts her daughter and not his sons, daughters-in-laws, grandsons and grand-daughters who are already in London,” she added.
She said that Law Minister Farogh Naseem apprised the federal cabinet that there is no law which allows convicts to travel abroad to visit their ailing relatives. “Why does she need to visit her ailing father in London when all of her relatives including her siblings are there to take care of him?” she asked.
She said that various ministers pointed out that a new legislation needs to be framed to stop glorifying those convicted from the court in corruption cases, especially those absconders who are sitting abroad. She said that the Prime Minister has tasked the law minister to devise a strategy under the law to bar coverage of convicts and absconders by media.
“Unfortunately, those convicts and absconders who had looted public money are glorified in the media as they frequently appear on TV channels and claim themselves innocent and criticize the government and its policies,” she further said.
To a question whether the curb will only be imposed on opposition leaders, she said it is a desire of the Prime Minister to place media curbs on convicts and absconders and they will be applied across the board. She said that Law Minister will sit with Perma officials to finalise the draft law.
She said that cabinet expresses reservations over the proposal of sukuk bonds presented by Ministry of Finance and the Prime Minister directed the ministry to revisit the summary and bring it back for approval before the cabinet after proper homework.
She said the cabinet also withdrew the idea of formation of a commission under the Local Government Act of Islamabad Capital Territory and also issued directives to bring it back after proper homework.
She said that cabinet gave approval to appointment of Justice Abdullah Baloch as judge Special Appellate Court, Balochistan. She said a special court has been constituted with an objective to stop smuggling.
She further said that the cabinet also approved inclusion of Irfan Mustafa, Zulkarnain Ali Khan and Haris Chaudhry as members on the board of governors of Overseas Pakistani Foundation.
She said that federal cabinet expressed its dissatisfaction over the performance of Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) and issued directives to take concrete steps for ensuring food security in the country and book the hoarders and profiteering cartels.
She said the Prime Minister has summoned the CCP for briefing on cartelization and hoarding of flour and sugar and its role in controlling the practice in the country. She said the cabinet was informed that most of the laws related to food security are obsolete and there is no harmony between the federation and the provinces.
According to her, the Prime Minister noted that the CCP has failed in its role for timely taking action against mafia and cartels as well as ensuring food security. The Prime Minister issued directives with a timeline for CCP’s reforms and empowerment.
She said the Prime Minister also directed the Law Ministry to pursue on war footing the cases of stay orders obtained by different “cartels/mafias” at the level of Supreme Court and high courts through meetings with respective judges.
Awan said the cabinet also requested the superior judiciary to decide such cases on a priority basis as they are related to public interest. She said that the Prime Minister has also directed that decisions on the constitutionality of the CCP law, challenged in courts, should be expedited and the law minister should assist the speedy disposal of such pending cases.
She further said the Prime Minister expressed displeasure over vacant post of a member of CCP Appellate Tribunal which is hampering its functioning and called for earliest filling of the post.
The cabinet also constituted a committee headed by Dr Ishrat Husain to amend food security laws in the country. She said the committee would present its report in a month which would be approved by the cabinet as food security policy to get rid of the elements involved in hoarding and adulteration of edible items. She said the cabinet also condemned the latest legislation by Indian Lok Sabha that offers Indian nationality to the nationals of Pakistan and two other South Asian countries except Muslims, saying it is premised on a falsehood and is in complete violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international Covenants on elimination of all forms of discrimination based on religion or belief.
She said the Indian legislation has also, once again, exposed the hollowness of the claims of ‘secularism’ and ‘democracy’. Pushed by the majoritarian agenda, she said, it has revealed to the world the RSS-BJP exclusivist mentality and the true extent of their animus against Muslims.
Toanother query about the government’s strategy of creating harmony with the opposition for the passage of over 150 pending bills in Parliament, she said the government has tried its level best to appease the opposition and met its all demands but even then they are not ready to cooperate, adding that production orders of jailed opposition leaders were issued.
She said the government on the opposition’s demand has introduced a bunch of bills in the National Assembly that had been promulgated through ordinance by the President.
Commenting on the remarks of PML-N leader Khawaja Asif on the floor of the National Assembly that “opposition will not cooperate with the government” allegedly as the PTI was behind the recent protest staged outside the residence of Nawaz Sharif in London, she said that on one hand Khawaja Asif is advocating for the freedom of expression while on the other he and other PML-N leaders feel offended by a peaceful protest in London during their meeting.
Referring to the recent meeting of PML-N leaders in London, she said: “All absconders gathered in London to decide what kind of legislation should be made in Pakistan.”