Current setup to complete its term: Govt coalition partners

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ISLAMABAD: The government’s coalition partners on Tuesday decided that the current setup would complete its term that ends in August 2023 and supported ‘tough’ decisions to revive the crippling economy.

The meeting insisted that the decision of the ruling coalition would be shared with the military establishment.

The coalition partners concluded that they would thoroughly review the decision of the Supreme Court on the presidential reference regarding disqualification of MNAs under Article 63-A.

According to the source, the meeting expressed its readiness to take unprecedented economic crisis head-on and not give up till the country saw economic stability.

The meeting was attended by heads of the coalition parties, including Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Convener Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) President Khalid Magsi, Amir Haider Khan Hoti of the Awami National Party (ANP) and Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP) President Shahzain Bugti.

On the other hand, the main opposition, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), is building pressure every passing day to force the government to go for early polls.

Former prime minister and PTI chairman Imran Khan had said he would give a call for the long march to Islamabad on May 20, which would be attended by over three million people who would not go home till the date for the general elections was announced.

One of the decisions the government is likely to take is withdraw subsidy on petrol after which its price was likely to go up by Rs50 per litre. At present, the government is reportedly bearing over Rs100 billion per month by providing subsidy on petroleum products.

Cabinet decision: The federal cabinet decided to get rid of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Chairman Javed Iqbal by amending its “draconian laws”.

According to the Prime Minister Office (PMO), the meeting constituted a committee, which would be headed by the federal law minister, to amend NAB’s “draconian law” to do away with political victimisation.

A source said once the National Accountability (Second Amendment) Ordinance, 2021, was amended, Javed Iqbal, who is sitting in his office on extension, would cease to exist as the bureau’s chief.

According to the second amendment in NAB laws, which extended the term of Javed Iqbal, “the chairman shall hold office for a period of four years on such terms and conditions as may be determined by the President and shall not be removed from office except on grounds provided for the removal of a Judge of Supreme Court in the manner and by the forum provided under Article 209 of the Constitution of Pakistan: Provided that on expiry of the period of four years, the incumbent chairman may be appointed for another period of four years by the president in the same manner as provided for appointment in clauses (i) and (ii) of sub-section (b): Provided further that till the assumption of charge by the chairman appointed under this section, the outgoing chairman shall continue to act, exercise authority and perform functions as the chairman and shall have all powers vested in the chairman under the Ordinance”.

The committee on NAB reforms would comprise representatives from legal, banking, bureaucracy and other sectors.

The cabinet members were of the view that NAB’s “draconian law” had been used for political victimisation and to intimidate government officers and the business community.

Discussing the ongoing heatwave in the country, the cabinet also formed a special task force under the ministry of climate change.

The task force would take measures to do away with the impacts of climate change to protect the country from future hazards.

A report on the review of Civil Servants (Directory Retirement from Service) Rule 2020 was also presented before the cabinet.

It was told that the rules consisted of regulations which were already part of the Government Servant (Efficiency and Discipline) Rules 2020.

The cabinet members said rules were used to pressurise government officers which had no legal justification as overriding laws could not be made.

The members also called for fair and indiscriminate accountability process.

Approving the committee’s recommendations, the federal cabinet annulled the Civil Servants (Directory Retirement from Service) Rules 2020, and approved the withdrawal of proceedings against the government officers under the said rules.

The federal cabinet consented to the design of a commemorative bank note to mark the 75th anniversary of Pakistan, on the recommendation of the finance ministry.

The finance ministry had proposed getting the note printed from an international firm which would cost $6.64 million. Rejecting the finance ministry’s proposal, the federal cabinet decided that the bank note should be printed locally to save public money.

The commerce ministry briefed the federal cabinet on the detailed analysis of exports, imports and balance of payment.

It was told that export volume during fiscal 2021-22 was $31.2 billion and the import stood at $76.7 billion. During this period, exports increased by $4.95 billion and imports by $11.16 billion.

The cabinet members were told that in order to increase exports, it was necessary to provide gas and electricity at competitive rates at par with other countries in the region.

Moreover, efforts should be made for early revival of business activities hit by Covid-19 pandemic and extend facilities to investors and business community.

Apprising the cabinet of the factors behind increase in imports, the commerce ministry said the price hike of energy led to the import bill. The import of the Covid vaccine, wheat, sugar, cotton, steel and fertiliser and appreciation of the dollar also increased the import bill.

The cabinet directed the commerce ministry to furnish a detailed strategy to reduce import, enhance exports as well as find an import substitution.

The cabinet approved establishment of a policy formulation committee to promote industry, increase yield and enhance agro-based exports.

It would consist of ministers of commerce, industries and production, national food security and the relevant federal secretaries. The prime minister instructed that the maiden session of the committee be held today (Wednesday).

On the other hand, the Ministry of Information Technology presented recommendations to enhance software exports.

The cabinet told the ministry to present recommendations before the Economic Coordination Committee and later again before the cabinet.

Speaking at the meeting, PM Sharif said Pakistan had a huge potential of investment and exports in the IT sector which needed to be exploited. He also set a target of $15 billion export of IT products.

The federal cabinet endorsed the decisions taken by the Economic Coordination Committee in its meeting on May 16.

The ECC had allocated Rs52 billion for the Petroleum Division for the payment of claims of the oil marketing companies and refineries regarding the price differentials which would be valid for 15 days starting May 16.

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