ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain Tuesday said that Pakistan had paid the price of saying ‘No’ to the world.
“If you adopt the policy of ‘Absolutely not’, you will have to pay the price,” he said, referring to a widely covered and discussed statement made by Prime Minister Imran Khan in June this year that he would never allow the US to use its bases or territory in Pakistan for operations in Afghanistan.
He was briefing the media about the federal cabinet meeting, presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan here. About sudden cancellation of the visit by New Zealand cricket team, and then England, the minister said Pakistan was paying the price for adopting the position of “Absolutely not”.
He described the situation as unfortunate and said that if the nation wanted to live with its head held high, it would have to pay the price. About the losses incurred as a result of the refusal by these two cricketing nations, Fawad said Pakistan Television had incurred a loss of Rs200-250 million. He said that legal experts had been contacted to see what kind of legal action could be taken against the two cricket boards. He said all options would be used against the two cricket boards which cancelled tours of Pakistan. “We have received very important information and I will give a detailed briefing, along with the interior minister, on “what is happening” and this briefing is expected in the next few days.
“You will see how all these issues are linked to hybrid warfare and fake news; how fake emails and fake threats are made and how horrific the effects are,” he added.
Fawad said: “An international lobby is working against Pakistan. But those who want to subjugate us will never succeed. Get rid of this misconception quickly,” he said in a tweet. He noted that the cancellation of New Zealand and England tours cost PTV crores of rupees, over which lawyers would be consulted for legal action against both the cricket boards.
He said it had been decided that the next general election would be held as per the seventh census, to be completed in 18 months or 540 days, and the new delimitation of constituencies. He explained that for the first time, technology would be used in the process, which was presently at the stage of approval.
The minister noted that since some more related details were required, the prime minister had formed a special committee which would hold further discussions. “It will be a great disappointment for those who say the next elections will be held this year or after six months that the elections will be held after the new digital census and delimitation of constituencies, for which electoral reforms are imperative,” he added.
He said for electoral reforms, there was a whole process and the opposition was being asked to come forward, sit with the government to move forward. About the proposed use of the electronic voting machines (EVMs), he said the opposition should welcome the government decision, which is working for electoral reforms; otherwise it would not be difficult for the government to rig the elections. While the opposition itself says that the institutions were also together.
Fawad said the opposition should also propose electoral reforms with objections, but the real problem is that the seats for the opposition have not gone up, but decreased. He alleged that the opposition was politicising electoral reforms just to save money. “If we tell them today that the money you have will not be accounted for, they will all retire,” he said.
Regarding the decision of the federal cabinet, the minister said a 44% increase in the house rent of government employees in grades one to 22 had been approved. “Uzbekistan is being added to the business visa list to further strengthen special relations with Uzbekistan and to facilitate the business community.
“We have a vision to build a trans-Mazar-e-Sharif train that will go to Uzbekistan via Gwadar and Karachi via Mazar-e-Sharif. Talks with Uzbekistan in this regard have been welcome,” he said.
The cabinet, he noted, allowed the import of films from regional countries to be shown in local cinemas to revive the cinema and film industry in the country: Canadian Punjabi, Iranian and Turkish movies would come to the country so that cinemas could be restored while these industries were already getting relief in terms of taxes.
With regards to the social media content, the minister said that the government has the power to remove objectionable content on the social media. At present, “we are working on two important aspects related to social media laws.” He said that the PTA was working on how to go about the companies involved in making or posting child pornography videos.
The minister said that the government was cracking down on those who made objectionable videos individually; a new debate was being started on the rules of social media, which was being chaired by the human rights minister.
He explained that after the advice given by the Senate advisory committee that the bidding price for the Services Hotel was less. The cabinet decided to send it back to the Cabinet committee on privatisation to take it up again.
Replying to a question on inflation, Fawad said that oil and gas prices in Pakistan were lower than those countries which were self-sufficient in gas and oil. He said inflation in the global market and the appreciation of the dollar against the Pakistani rupee was in fact the cause of inflation.
The minister said that he would not admit that the income of the people in Pakistan had not increased; he would admit that the salaries of the media employees had not increased and they were facing many problems while the income of workers including farmers had increased dramatically. He said that media workers' salaries should also be increased.
The minister said that only one polio case had been reported in the last seven months, which was gratifying and a big achievement. He added that Pakistan was moving towards becoming a polio-free nation.