–Says govt has neither signed any deal with Opp nor will it compromise on corruption cases
–Firdous draws flak from cabinet colleagues over decision to impose restrictions on senior anchorpersons
–Firdous says Nawaz’s bail approved on ‘humanitarian grounds’ and he should focus on his medical treatment
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday said that the government would not create any hurdles in the opposition’s Azadi March as long as its participants followed the law but warned them of strict action if agreement signed with his negotiation team is violated.
Imran said the government committee, formed to engage with the opposition leadership on Azadi March, is completely independent, adding that the government was neither part of any secret deal nor will it compromise on ongoing corruption cases.
The federal cabinet deliberated upon the Azadi March for a little over an hour during which Prime Minister Imran was also briefed on conditions of the Azadi March pact and assured that the participants of the protest would not violate the agreement. The premier expressed satisfaction on the negotiation committee’s efforts thus far.
“We will not create hurdles if the march remains peaceful and within the legal boundaries … however, strict action will be taken if the agreement is violated,” the prime minister was quoted as saying.
Meanwhile, PM’s Special Assistant on Information and Broadcasting Firdous Ashiq Awan, while complaining over attitude of certain fellow cabinet members, told the premier that PEMRA’s decision regarding senior anchorpersons was so harshly criticised on social media that it appeared as if some ministers were themselves part of the opposition.
“Criticism by own ministers cause serious humiliation,” she remarked. To which, Science and Technology Minister Fawad Chaudhry quipped, “Real embarrassment is caused when decisions are retracted within hours”.
Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari echoed Fawad’s remarks, saying curtailing freedom of expression was unacceptable.
Prime Minister Imran told Firdous that it was foolish decision to impose a ban on senior anchorpersons.
Prime Minister Imran directed his cabinet not to issue any political statement on PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif’s health. He said the government is not only praying for his swift recovery but also providing the best possible medical facilities to the three-time prime minister.
Following the cabinet meeting, the premier convened a separate meeting with the federal ministers in the committee room, where he ordered them to avoid commenting on the health of former premier Nawaz Sharif. He asked them to deal with the matter seriously.
The federal cabinet also approved 14 out of 17 points of the session’s agenda.
It also approved the recommendation on principle for constructing Financial Action Task Force (FATF) secretariat which will be headed by the Federal Minister for Revenue Hammad Azhar.
The constitution of a special committee under the anti-money laundering act was also approved by the cabinet members.
Moreover, the federal government took major decisions for the development of major cities, including Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar and Multan as the policy for the construction of high-rise buildings was approved by the cabinet.
The cabinet members also directed the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and its subordinate institutions to immediately prepare standard operating procedures (SOPs) besides removing its objections. Ministries and divisions were directed to make appointments on the top positions at the earliest.
A series of other decisions were also taken in the session, including the approvals for the draft law of Healthcare Facilities Management Act – 2019, re-organisation of Board of Directors (BoDs) of Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC), Pakistan Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Limited, BoDs for Government Holding Company Limited.
The cabinet also gave approval to the agreement to end decades-long dispute for on financial claims between Pakistan and Russia besides commending the summary to review estimated cost of land acquisition for Dasu hydropower project Stage-I. Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) has already approved construction of the dam.
The cabinet also decided to launch Ehsas Undergraduate Programme in November and approved 50,000 scholarships for students in the next four years. The scholarships will be awarded on merit-cum need basis and students of 120 public sector universities will be eligible for the award.
Children hailing from a family with an income of less than 45,000 rupees will be eligible for the programme. 50 per cent of the scholarships will be given to female students, while two per cent quota will be reserved for minorities and the disabled.
‘NAWAZ BAILED ON HUMANITARIAN GROUNDS’:
Briefing the media about the decisions taken during the federal cabinet meeting, Firdous said that the Islamabad High Court (IHC) had approved bail of Nawaz Sharif for two months on humanitarian and medical grounds in the Al-Azizia case.
The special assistant said that the government had given the best healthcare facilities to Nawaz Sharif. She expressed the hope that Nawaz would focus on his medical treatment, adding that no application had been received from him for his visit abroad for medical treatment.
Firdous said that the government does not know about the ex-PM’s intentions and would respond when the court would seek its opinion.
“We want to see a healthy Nawaz as our political opponent. Nobody’s health should be given a political colour. We are democratic people and will compete in the political field,” she said.
“The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and the courts are independent and free and only the court had the power to grant bail to Nawaz and it took the decision after listening to the viewpoint of the anti-graft watchdog and the medical board of doctors,” she added.
Firdous said that NAB and not the government was the plaintiff in the case of Nawaz. The government accepted the decision of the high court, she added.
To a question, she said that the timing of the march of Maulana Fazlur Rehman was inappropriate, and he was acting like a stubborn child demanding resignation of the prime minister.
She said that the matter of Ansarul Islam of Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) was in court. If anybody would take up arms then the state would not remain a silent spectator and protect the life and property of citizens. The government was closely monitoring the rallies of JUI, she explained.
She said that when the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) staged the long march, its leaders and workers were arrested but now PM Imran was acting in a democratic manner with opposition’s march.
She said that the people would expose those who were coming to Islamabad as they were creating chaos in the guise of democracy.
Firdous said that Fazl was calling the Parliament fake in which his son was also a member, adding that the prime minister was elected with the vote of the people and parliament.
“People would disassociate themselves from the march and would not listen to Fazl whose party had 12 members in the Parliament,” she added.
To another question, she said that Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari would get medical treatment according to the recommendations of a medical board.
She said that politicians felt alright when they were doing politics but in jail they got sick. Courts had to decide about the matters related to health of politicians, she observed.
Speaking about the media industry, she said that it was responsibility of the government to ensure job security of journalists. “PEMRA was following its code of conduct,” she asserted, adding that the prime minister wanted to strengthen the institutions in order to make them autonomous.