–Federal cabinet decides to offer whistleblowers 20% of recovered illegal wealth, ensure protection of their identities
–Govt decides to ‘save money’ by ending PM’s Laptop Scheme, other initiatives taken by PML-N govt
–Fawad slams ‘extremists’ criticising Atif Mian’s inclusion in EAC, says it’s responsibility of Islamic republic to uphold rights of its minorities
ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet on Wednesday decided to enforce a whistleblower law through an ordinance envisaging reward of 20 per cent for those who would help recover illegal wealth of fellow Pakistanis, as the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government vowed not to be cowered by “extremists” opposing the inclusion of a prominent economist in the PM’s Economic Advisory Council (EAC) due to his Ahmedi faith.
Addressing a joint presser with Federal Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar assured potential whistleblowers that their names would be kept confidential.
He said another ordinance on mutual legal assistance is being issued which would help remove bottlenecks in the way of seeking information on Pakistanis’ illegal wealth from foreign countries. Akbar said the prime minister has directed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to send a high-powered delegation to Switzerland to expedite ratification of the treaty on exchange of information on bank accounts. He said the treaty was signed in 2013 but was not ratified.
Akbar further said that the government would also hire firms that would detect and help recover illegal money and in the case of recoveries, the firm would get an agreed upon share of the recovered amount. PM Khan would also receive reports on the implementation of these measures on a fortnightly basis, he added.
‘LAPTOP SCHEME ENDED’:
Addressing reporters, Information Minister Fawad announced the return of Rs 80 billion to the Finance Ministry and parliament in the form of the prime minister’s discretionary funds. He said that the money had been saved through ending schemes such as the Prime Minister’s Laptop Scheme.
However, he said that the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) will not be ended.
The federal cabinet also made decisions on initiatives regarding education, health, water and sanitation.
“Although they fall under the provinces, we think they are important and will be driven by the federal government,” Fawad said.
Among them is the decision to set up a task force on education led by Minister for Education Shafqat Mahmood. It will include prominent educationists, representatives of seminaries and skill development personnel. Its first objective is to include 250 million out of school children in the education network.
The minister said that private school fees would be reduced and provincial governments would be asked to streamline the decision.
He said that basic education would be provided in madrassas (seminaries) and that all schools, including madrassas, would follow the same curriculum. Provincial governments would be given a stake in formulation of the curriculum, he added.
The prime minister has also given his approval to ban corporal punishment in schools, the minister added.
The information minister said that approval has also been given for measures to safeguard the rights of children, to stop any incident of abuse of children, and putting an end to child labour.
Fawad said the prime minister had taken notice of a media report about premature commissioning of the Tarbela Extension-4 Project, causing a loss of Rs 25 billion to the national exchequer and ordered an inquiry into the matter. The previous government staged a drama of its inauguration for the sake of point scoring, he added.
The minister said that on the recommendations of the Ministry of Human Rights, the federal cabinet issued instructions for provision of easy access for disabled people in all buildings, both at federal and provincial levels. He added that the cabinet directed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ask its staff in foreign missions to improve their attitude with overseas Pakistanis. Strict action would be taken if complaints were received regarding the attitude of staff deputed at foreign missions and embassies worldwide, he warned.
‘GOVT STANDS BY MINORITIES’:
Addressing “extremists” who were opposing the inclusion of Atif R Mian in the EAC because of his Ahmedi faith, Fawad said, “It is the responsibility of an Islamic republic to uphold the rights of its minorities.”
“When we speak about Khatm-e-Nabuwwat, we recognise that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is the last prophet. And along with that we also recognise Islamic education,” he said.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) had come under fire from certain quarters for appointing Mian as a member of the EAC. Following the unfounded criticism against the government over the decision, the info minister had lashed out at detractors, saying: “I don’t know where is all this coming from. How can you justify the persecution of religious minorities and their rights in Pakistan? What kind of people are those who are levelling these accusations?”
Stressing on the rights of the minorities, the info minister said: “Protecting minorities is our responsibility. It is the religious duty of each Muslim, not just the government, to protect minorities and respect those that they live with.”
“Our interpretation of the state of Madina is that Islam means security, peace and moving forward together,” he said, adding that Pakistan was created because minorities were being persecuted in the Indian subcontinent. “On the basis of that, we separated from India; should we now disregard that basis [for the creation of Pakistan]?” he retorted.
“It is not just the responsibility of the government to protect minorities, it is the responsibility of each Muslim,” he stated. “Is it not said that if you take one life, it is like killing all of mankind?” he continued.
“If you think that we should drown all our minorities in the Arabian Sea, or that they have no rights here, they have no religious or economic freedom, or freedom to live, then this must be your opinion only. Our interpretation of the state of Madina is that Islam means security, peace and moving forward together,” he asserted.
The statement of Fawad on Tuesday did not go down well with some elements, especially the Tehreek-e-Labbaik’s firebrand chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi, who reportedly demanded the removal of the information minister as well as Atif Mian. Rizvi is infamous for besieging Islamabad over a hasty amendment in the Election Act that pertained to finality of Prophethood (PBUH).
Besides, an Islamabad-based lawyer has also filed a petition against the information minister for “supporting Atif Mian’s induction in the EAC and calling the Khatam-e-Nabuwat believers ‘extremists’”.
The lawyer in his plea claimed that the minister defended the Ahmedis in his press talk and called the Muslims “extremists”. Therefore, a case should be registered against him under the Terrorism Act 1997, he demanded.
3,000 PAKISTANIS INCARCERATED IN IRAN:
During the presser, the minister also said at least 3,000 Pakistan reportedly on death row will get relief after Iran decided to amend its anti-drugs law, adding that the Foreign Ministry has been directed to collect data of over 10,000 Pakistanis incarcerated in various countries.