Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry on Tuesday said the only solution to Pakistan’s problems is a democracy, accepting the majority’s opinion and rule of law while snubbing PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif’s suggestion of forming a national government to resolve the country’s issues.
While talking to media persons outside Quaid-i-Azam’s Mausoleum on Monday, the PML-N president said he was convinced that the problems facing the country could be solved through a national government.
“I think we should have a national government in place to sort out these huge tasks. I don’t know what the exact shape of this idea would be and the right time may make things clearer but for me it’s crucial,” Shehbaz said.
Interacting with the media persons after the federal cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, the information minister said, “The only solution to Pakistan’s problems is a democracy, accepting the majority’s decision and rule of law. If the law is acted upon, Shehbaz Sharif will be in prison and not Mazar-i-Quaid.”
Fawad said Shehbaz is pondering 24 hours over what could be his role in the government and how he could become a part of it.
He said the only reason Shehbaz was not in prison was that the courts were not hearing his cases on a daily basis.
Further, Fawad refuted the reports of prolonged stay of foreign nationals, evacuated from Afghanistan, in the country.
“It is our commitment from the very first day that we will not only help evacuate citizens of all sorts of nationalities but also provide support for completing the evacuation process,” he added.
At the outset of the meeting, he said Premier Imran and the cabinet members expressed solidarity with the people of Afghanistan and wished them good luck for an end to their 40-year ordeal.
He said PM Imran emphasised bringing down the prices of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) so that maximum relief could be passed on to the public.
Fawad said the federal cabinet accorded permission to the Capital Development Authority (CDA) for enforcing its by-laws in Sector E-11 after revoking the then cabinet decision, taken on June 5, 1968, about not acquiring the land in the area.
The cabinet was informed that the first phase of the Sialkot-Kharian motorway would be inaugurated during the current week. The forum was informed that so far, 16,272 overseas Pakistanis, languishing in foreign jails due to petty crimes, had been repatriated.
The minister said the prime minister called for giving free Covid-19 booster shot to the labourers, intending to move abroad for different job assignments.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) was the only government in Pakistan’s history that had been giving due attention to local and expatriated labourers, he added.
The cabinet was briefed on the Pakistan-Russia pipeline project worth $3 billion and told that the landmark initiative would pave the way for economic cooperation between the two countries.
Fawad said PM Imran, during his phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, had invited him for an official visit to Pakistan.
Talks for finalisation of the visit would be held on both countries’ foreign and energy ministries’ levels.
About Pakistan’s continued placement on the red-list issued by the United Kingdom in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, he said PM Imran spoke to his UK counterpart Boris Johnson on the issue.
He said the UK government considered that there was a need to hold a discussion on the testing mechanism.
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan and the chief medical scientist of UK would have a long discussion on this matter this week, he added.
Highlighting Pakistan’s efforts to evacuate stranded foreign nationals in Afghanistan, he said the way the country helped international observers and nationals in leaving Afghanistan, was unprecedented and being lauded by the world community.
“The whole world is praising Pakistan’s efforts in this regard and we will continue to help and extend our cooperation in the evacuation process,” he remarked.
Fawad said Pakistan was the only country that set up an air corridor to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan.
Today, a plane of the Pakistan International Airlines, landed in Mazar-i-Sharif with aid, he added.
He said so far 2,421 people had been evacuated through the Torkham border, of which 821 were Afghans while 1,570 were Pakistanis.
At this moment, all the Pakistanis who wanted to be evacuated from Afghanistan had been brought back to the country. There were some Pakistanis who wanted to remain in Afghanistan and were still there, he added.
The minister said 17 people crossed Chaman border on valid visa, of which 10 were Afghans. Other than that, people used to cross the border through ‘Tazkira’ (local travel document) for trade.
The people, who came on ‘Tazkira’ were not allowed to go beyond Chaman so that they could return to Afghanistan after trading in the area, he noted.
He said the total number of persons, who had arrived in Pakistan from Afghanistan under the evacuation process, was 10,302, whereas 9,032 had boarded for their respective countries.
Some 1,229 foreign nationals, of which 545 were Afghans and remaining of other nationalities, were still here and would leave the country shortly, he added.
Out of 10,302, the number of total Americans who had arrived in Pakistan was 155 who had proceeded now, while 42 people were still here and would leave Pakistan at any time on Tuesday, he said.
All the people who had arrived in Pakistan during the evacuation process, were transit passengers, he said, adding that no American was staying in Pakistan to date.
He said Pakistan was extending full support to regional and international players for stable and peaceful Afghanistan and would continue to do so.
Pakistan would make all possible efforts to alleviate their sufferings, the minister said, expressing the hope that peace and stability would fully be restored in Afghanistan after an end to the 40-year sufferings of Afghans.
“It is our message to the people of Afghanistan that we do not only make efforts for peace and stability in Afghanistan, but will be on the forefront to provide all-out relief to them,” he remarked. He said Pakistan would take the decision for recognition of the new set-up in Afghanistan after consulting regional and international players.
Currently, there are two tracks of dialogue going on. One is underway in Doha in which Pakistan, China and Russia are participating while the other one is being pursued by Islamabad at the regional level, he added.
Fawad said Pakistan was in constant contact with China, Iran, Russia and Central Asian States and collaborating with them on the Afghanistan issue.
He said it was the right of Afghan people to decide about the structure and form of government in their country.
The minister said the federal cabinet was told that Dr Ishrat Hussain would not continue to serve as special assistant to the prime minister on institutional reforms. However, his services were acknowledged by the premier and the cabinet’s members.
Dr Hussain told the cabinet that his services would remain available to the government in future. He said PM Imran tasked ministers of finance and energy Shaukat Tarin and Hammad Azhar with bringing down the prices of LPG cylinders.
He said only 28 per cent Pakistanis used natural gas, while rest of the population relied on LPG and other resources.
About electoral reforms, he said the PTI was the first government which had been striving to ensure free and fair elections in the country. Prior to the PTI, there was not a single government in the country’s history which thought of electoral reforms, he added.
He said the debate of electoral reforms, initiated by the incumbent government, was a fundamental one as there could be no concept of democracy in a state without free and fair elections.
He said the government was striving to hold negotiations with the opposition on electoral reforms, but their response was lukewarm.
Fawad said Shehbaz and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari were opposing election reforms and Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA) apparently without reading the draft proposals.
It was an unserious attitude on the part of the opposition, he regretted.
He said the opposition had only one role and that was to oppose every action of the government and for the purpose, it was even ready to make an alliance with the devil.
The government was ready to negotiate with the opposition on these initiatives if they had worked out any suggestions in that regard, he added.
He said some 1.4 million people were vaccinated against Covid-19 in a single day on Monday.
The age limit for vaccination had been reduced to 17 years and it would be reduced gradually. He felicitated the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) for containing the pandemic spread in an effective way. In fact, the whole world had lauded Pakistan’s effective fight against Covid-19. The Trade Dispute Resolution Organisation under Strategic Trade Framework had been approved to promote trade with the world, besides resolving any dispute, he added.
He said Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin told the cabinet that during the first year of the government, a total of Rs7.7 trillion increase was witnessed in its debt while it brought down debt to Rs3.7 trillion and some Rs1.7 trillion during its second and third years, respectively.
The federal cabinet was informed that some debts were taken for enhancing foreign reserves. The cabinet expressed satisfaction on the decreasing trend of debt-to-GDP ratio. The cabinet ratified the Economic Coordination Committee’s decision to import sugar and wheat for maintaining strategic reserves.
Muhammad Amin has been appointed CEO of Lahore Electric Supply Company (LESCO) by the forum. The cabinet approved decisions of its committee on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor held on August 12, 2021.
The most important decision was to explore options of supplying electricity to Gwadar for uplift of the area. The cabinet was briefed about the circular debts of June 2021. The circular debt was increasing by Rs450 billion each year when the PTI came to the power in 2018. This has been brought down to Rs150 billion. Target was to bring circular debt to zero by 2023.
He said Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umer briefed the cabinet about innovative development expenditure financing.
He said the decisions taken by Cabinet Committee on Law on August 25, 2021, were approved. Major decision was to hand over authority of issuing prohibited licence to the interior ministry. The interior ministry would now be authorised to issue two prohibited licences, he added.
The minister expressed the hope that Afghan Taliban would fulfil their promise of not allowing use of its territory against any country. Funding to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan from India had almost come to an end, he said, adding that Pakistan Army and security forces had full capacity to internally deal with such challenges.