–PM’s aide Shehzad Akbar says commission to submit monthly reports on its progress
–Says govt has signed agreement with Britain for extradition of Ishaq Dar
–Firdous says PM has directed for strict implementation of austerity measures
ISLAMABAD: The government has decided to appoint National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Deputy Chairman Hussain Asghar as the head of the high-powered commission formed by Prime Minister Imran Khan to probe the debt accumulated by the country during the last 10 years of civilian rule.
This was stated by Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Accountability Shehzad Akbar while addressing a joint press conference with Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Firdous Ashiq Awan after the federal cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
Asghar was appointed as the deputy chairman of the anti-graft watchdog in April by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government. Previously, he served as the director-general of Punjab’s Anti-Corruption Establishment from September 2018 to February 2019.
On June 11, Prime Minister Imran Khan in his address to the nation vowed to form a high-powered commission to probe the massive Rs30,000 billion debt piled up during the last 10 years.
Akbar announced the “unprecedented decision”, saying NAB, Intelligence Bureau (IB), Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) and other state institutions will be the part of the commission.
He said that the commission can seek assistance from any state institution and private audit firm. He added that the approval for Asghar’s appointment was given by the federal cabinet and the notification would be issued on Wednesday.
The special assistant said that the commission would also find out whether public office-holders and their dependents were the beneficiaries of the massive debt.
He said that the commission will estimate as to how the debt of twenty-four thousand billion rupees increased during the last ten years.
“The commission will also fix responsibilities and it will refer the cases to the concerned departments for further action,” he said, adding that all out assistance will be extended to these departments by the commission.
He also said that the high-powered commission will complete its entire process within a period of six months, adding that it will also provide periodic reports to the government at the end of every month.
Akbar said that an agreement has been reached with British authorities for the extradition of former finance minister Ishaq Dar. “Extradition documents have yet to be signed,” he said.
He said that following the ratification of the document, Dar will be repatriated to Pakistan after being produced before a magistrate. The entire process will be completed soon, he added.
Briefing the media about the other decisions of the federal cabinet, Firdous said that the premier has directed the cabinet members to ensure implementation of austerity measures in letter and spirit. She said that the prime minister explained to the cabinet of all those initiatives that he personally took for austerity keeping in view the current economic challenges faced by the country, adding that cabinet members should set an example for others by adopting a simple lifestyle.
Firdous said the media did not accurately report the amount allocated for Prime Minister House in the new budget. She said that the previous budget allocated to Prime Minister House was Rs1.10 billion. “The incumbent government spent Rs750 million out of it and saved 32 per cent amount. In Budget 2019-20 there is already a cut of 13 per cent for the PM House expenses,” she said.
She said that the incumbent government is even paying a sum of Rs280 million in terms of outstanding bills of electricity left by the previous government.
Criticising the role of opposition in the National Assembly (NA), she said that the undue criticism by opposition on the budget is illogical. She also criticised the besieging of the NA speaker at his chamber. “Glorification of crime will not be allowed and chief ministers have been directed to discourage giving of protocols to criminals in their court hearings,” she added.
She also said that the prerogative of issuing production order lies with the speaker and he should see the merit of it. “No production order was issued for Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad during the tenure of previous government despite the fact that he had no criminal case against him,” she said.
The special assistant also said that the prime minister has informed the cabinet that he, along with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, will attend the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) session in New York in September.
She said that the cabinet was informed that 157 rest houses of various government departments in addition to PTDC motels and NHA rest houses will also be opened for public. “Cabinet was informed that 88 per cent of its previous decisions have been implemented while work on rest is ongoing,” she added.
The special assistant also said that the cabinet decided that the Ministry of Agriculture would devise a course of action in cooperation with provincial authorities regarding the situation of sugarcane crops in the country. “Minister for food security was directed to work on National Agricultural Plan, presented in the budget, with provincial governments to disseminate the information at the level of farmers,” she said.
Firdous said that in order to stop mobile phone smuggling of Rs150 billion, the cabinet directed the concerned ministry to take steps to check this trend. It was informed that Ministry of Finance has devised a mechanism under which rules will be amended regarding passenger baggage at airports so that people do not misuse the facility of bringing mobile phones in the country without paying taxes, she added.
The special assistant said that the cabinet was also updated on the new visa regime in order to attract more tourists to the country. “The cabinet approved licence renewal of Serene Air and Air Falcon,” she said.
Firdous said that a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between a Chinese university and Pakistan Industrial Technical Assistance Centre was accorded approval by cabinet.
“Issue of regularisation of contract workers in various government departments also came under discussion of the cabinet,” she said.
She added that the cabinet was informed that a database of these employees is being prepared to further work with individual departments on the issue.
“The prime minister took the cabinet into confidence regarding the upcoming visit of Qatar’s emir to Pakistan. The cabinet was also informed on Amnesty and Asset Declaration Ordinance that is going to expire on 30th of this month,” the special assistant said.
She said that the cabinet was apprised that National Database & Registration Authority (NADRA) is setting up E-Facilitation Centers from 21st of this month at its various counters with the information of all the financial records and assets of individuals. “Any person can check his records in order to avail the asset declaration scheme,” she said.