ZAHEER ABBASI & NUZHAT NAZAR
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has decided to address the nation today (Wednesday) to take it into confidence on economy and announce a relief package against rising dearness.
This was stated by the Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhary while speaking at a press conference to share the decisions taken by the federal cabinet meeting presided over by the prime minister on Tuesday.
The minister said that the cabinet as usual was given a briefing on electoral reforms and the prime minister had taken the allies into confidence on how important are electoral reforms for transparent elections.
The minister said that the government would continue the negotiation process with the opposition even after the approval of electoral reform law from the parliament, of course from the joint sitting as ruling alliance does not have adequate number to push the legislation alone.
After briefing on the electoral reforms, the federal cabinet, the minister said, was presented a comparison of prices in Pakistan with regional countries and claimed that daily essential commodities prices in Pakistan are considerably cheap compared to India, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan.
The minister said that petrol is cheapest in Pakistan among all the non-producing oil countries; however, it remains to be seen how long the country could sustain the existing prices in the wake of sharp increase in the prices of oil in the international market.
He said that even in these countries poverty is higher as compared to Pakistan.
The minister said that the meeting was informed that wheat flour per kg is Rs60.9 in Pakistan compared to Rs83 per kg in India, Rs83 per kg in Bangladesh, and Rs73.50 per kg in Afghanistan, while the price of pulse gram per kg is Rs146.77 in Pakistan compared to Rs166 in India and Rs224 in Bangladesh. Per kg onion price in Pakistan is Rs74 as opposed to Rs95 in India and Rs114 in Bangladesh, while chicken per kg price in Pakistan is Rs254.52 compared to Rs438 in India, and Rs324 in Bangladesh.
Fawad Chaudhary said that petrol price in Pakistan is Rs138.73 per litre in Pakistan, while it is 258 and Rs180 litre in India and Bangladesh, respectively.
He said that primary problem is difference between the prices of commodities between Punjab and Sindh as a provincial comparison presented to the federal cabinet disclosed that prices of wheat, sugar and pulses are significantly higher compared to Punjab as wheat flour 20kg bag is available at Rs1,100 in Rawalpindi, while its price in Karachi is Rs1,475.
Sugar per kg price is Rs120 in Karachi compared to Rs90 in Punjab and moong pulse’s Rs196 in Karachi compared to Rs148 in Punjab, etc.
The minister blamed provincial government of Sindh for failing to control the prices of essential items and stated that the provincial government is required to review the administrative system and advised Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari that before criticising the federal government, he should ask chief minister Sindh about higher prices of essential commodities in his province.
Chaudhry further stated that the federal cabinet was briefed about the vacant positions in commerce and information ministries, adding that some positions are being or in the process to be filled up. The federal government right of land acquisition has been withdrawn for construction of housing societies and Prime Minister’s discretionary powers to allocate plots under the PM Package have been abolished.
The minister said that the cabinet decided that only federal government employees would be eligible for plots under federal government employees housing authority and discretion of prime minister and others has been abolished. The cabinet formed a committee with the members of finance, housing and Establishment Division to develop policy for allocation of plots to federal government servants on retirement as is being done by the defense.
The federal cabinet has given approval to changes in rules of business on the request of Housing Ministry to allow the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defense to take care of their buildings.
However, for undertaking every new project they would be required to have an NOC from Housing Ministry. Moreover, Housing Ministry would outsource its buildings for maintenance to private parties.
The minister said that the federal cabinet has re-appointed Brigadier Shujja Hassan (retd)as chairman of Pakistan Steel Mills, and appointed Dr Inayat Hussain as deputy governor SBP besides approving the Ehsaas Ordinance 2021 for taking care of the poor.
The minister, however, did not reply to questions asked about the agreement reached between the government and the TLP, and stated that Minister for Foreign Affairs Shah Mehmood Qureshi did not share anything in this regard with the cabinet meeting.
He, however, criticized the opposition leader and stated that Shehbaz Sharif is not an awami person (man of public) but a person known for hatching conspiracies
The premier has reportedly stopped ministers from making any statement about the banned Tehreek-e-Labbaik and stated that it is a sensitive matter. The meeting of the cabinet presided over by the prime minister considered a 15-point agenda items and reviewed overall economic and political situation of the country.
The prime minister has reportedly directed the other ministers to go to the Election Commission when Azam Swati and Fawad Chaudhry would appear before the ECP.