Islamabad, November 09, 2021 (PPI-OT):Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain Tuesday said that the Federal Cabinet, in a passionate appeal, had urged the global community especially Muslim Ummah, to rally support for averting humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.
He said formal approval to set up a special fund for support of Afghan people in turbulent times, was also given in the meeting, which was chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan. Fawad said the initiative would definitely enable people of Pakistan to extend direct help to Afghan brethren as the government wanted uninterrupted humanitarian efforts for the war-ravaged country.
The minister said Pakistan was planning to host a conference of foreign ministers of Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) next month to discuss ways and means for extending maximum support to Afghanistan at this critical juncture.
We believe what is going on in Afghanistan is catastrophic; we have been trying our best, and did our best to convey our concerns to the world and we are willing to take all actions whatever we can to help people of Afghanistan, he remarked.
Pakistan was working closely with interim government in Afghanistan, he said, adding its foreign ministers visit was due here a in day during which efforts for humanitarian assistance would be discussed at length to avert any catastrophic situation in Afghanistan. He said Pakistan had already warned that situation in Afghanistan was becoming gave by every day and added Afghans would be the ultimate sufferers.
Citing The Economist recent report, he said: Afghanistan was on the brink of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, and the UN said on 25 October that it would even exceed the misery in Syria and Yemen. The international journal also quoted a new report from the UN agencies in its story estimating that some 23 million, out of the country’s 38 million people, would not have enough food to get through the winter unless aid was rapidly scaled up.
Fawad said that before fall of Kabul in August, per capita daily income, was $ 1.9 which according to UN estimates would be halved by the June next year. He said that gravity of the situation could be judged by the fact that eight children had died due to starvation and there have been troubling reports that people were forced to sell their minor children for getting wheat and rice.
The Afghan people could not be left at the mercy of the circumstances, he added. He said that the Cabinet had decided that the country would dispatch sufficient amount of wheat and rice to Afghanistan to save its people from starvation in winter. Measures are being taken so that exports from Afghanistan can be eased out. We have slashed all taxes on exports from Afghanistan, He added.
Fawad said the reason behind this situation was that foreign assets of Afghanistan’s government had been frozen, while the entire aid was suspended and whole economy of the neighbouring country had been squeezed. About the other decisions of the Federal Cabinet, the minister said that the Prime Minister had directed the members to ensure presence in the joint session of the Parliament as legislation of electoral reforms and other issues were on cards.
He said that the Cabinet reviewed the vacant posts of Chief Executive Officers and Managing Directors in Ministries of Science and Technology and National Food Security and directed to fill these posts at the earliest.
The Islamabad Capital Territory Criminal Prosecution Act 2021 presented by Ministry of Interior was deferred as the Cabinet had already approved a similar bill from Law Ministry, he added. Keeping in view the spike in oil and gas prices at international market and illegal use of the gas in some sectors, he said the Federal Cabinet had increased gas prices for captive power plants to $9 per MBTU (Million British Thermal Unit) from $6.5 per MBTU. Likewise, the RLNG rate for different units of the exports sector units will remain unchanged ($6.5 per MBTU).
The prices would come into effect on November 15, 2021 and would remain intact till March 31, 2022, he added. He said some sectors were misusing the subsidy on gas to produce electricity which was already excessive in the country. The initiative was taken to remove that specific anomaly.
There has been a worldwide crisis of gas, he said while citing examples of the United Kingdom where the commodity prices had witnessed marked increase. To avoid misuse of the scheme, the government had decided to take the subsidy back from the industrial sector till March 31, 2022 as the gas crisis was likely to ease after March. He clarified that this had nothing to do with domestic consumers. Only 27 per cent domestic consumers used local gas while 77 percent of them relied on the Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG).
Those 27 per cent were getting a major subsidy at the expense of the 77 per cent. The 77 per cent of the population were paying for the gas which was being used in the cities at the cheapest rate in the world, he added. Whenever, we talk about the 77 per cent population, the media started creating hype over increase in the gas prices.
The oil and gas [prices] are connected with the international market and the country will not uplift if we continue to give subsidies on different commodities to a certain portion of the population, he added. He said sensational reporting had somewhat become a norm which eventually hurt the market sentiment. This issue does not damage us but also the country we will resolve this soon.
He said the Federal Cabinet has accorded approval to appointment of Joint Secretary Energy Division Ahmed Taimoor Nasir as Managing Director National Transmission and Despatch Company (NTDC) on temporary basis. He said earlier, the government appointed a permanent head of the NTDC who came from Canada and resigned from his post in three months.
Now, Ahmed Taimoor has been appointed on a temporary basis so that the process for appointment of permanent head of the NTDC could be completed, he added. Fawad said the Federal Cabinet had given approval to include fans in the mandatory list on recommendations of Pakistan Quality Control Authority. The initiative would not only improve standards of local fans, but also make them energy efficient which would eventually enable its export to foreign countries.
He said the forum had also accorded approval to lease out the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) s properties in the Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir to the private sector in a transparent manner for promoting domestic tourism. The minister said this initiative would also be implemented in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
There has been a tourist’s influx in the country, but unfortunately the areas were facing paucity of accommodations. He said the decisions taken in the meeting of the Institutional Reforms Committee on October 28, 2021 have been ratified by the Cabinet. Pakistan Institute of Education has been given control of the Ministry of Education and Professional Training.
He said the decisions taken in the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) s meeting of November 4 have also been given approval by the Federal Cabinet. The major decision taken in the ECC was merging all the helplines into one to respond to emergency situations. There were different helplines for emergency situations in the country.
Therefore, 911 helpline which had global recognition would be launched with collaboration between the ministries of Interior and Information Technology, he added. The minister said the ECC had also taken decisions regarding trade with Afghanistan which included export of wheat and rice. Its modalities would be discussed in a meeting with Afghanistan’s interim government Foreign Minister who was due to arrive in Islamabad on Wednesday.
He said it has been decided that Advisor to Prime Minister on Finance Shaukat Tarin would head the committee on wheat and sugar exports. The Cabinet, he said, had given approval to export wheat for Afghanistan under the World Food Programme, keeping in view the emergency situation in Afghanistan.
Fawad said in a step towards ease to do business the Cabinet also approved Securities and Futures Markets Bill 2020 and would be sent to Cabinets Committee on Law. Similarly, he said the Cabinet had given approval to lease out the properties of PTDC in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, while the Sindh and Balochistan governments had also been told to do the same for tourism promotion.
Fawad said the government intended to hand over PTDC properties to provinces so that it could lease them out to promote tourism in the country. We want to give PTDC properties to the Sindh government so that it could be developed for the tourists, he added. The minister said Dr Saifuddin Junejo has been appointed as chairman Export Processing Zone Authority (EPZA).
The Cabinet, he said, has given a six-month extension to Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement 2010. The new director general of Pakistan Maritime Security Agency has also been appointed, he added.
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhary said, opposition tried harder to send the government packing in its first two years, but all their efforts were in vain. They have to wait for another two years or may be five years more afterward, he added. The opposition lacks leadership and vision, he said, giving an advice to the opposition to first strengthen themselves instead of focusing on plots to destabilize the government. He said the government was fully stable and working on to win the next general elections in 2023.
To a query, the minister said he made a statement on the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on Monday and made it clear that the negotiations would be going on with the group under the purview of the Constitution.
All the groups, who we are talking to, have to respect Pakistan’s constitution and Pakistan legal framework. As far as the nature of talks is concerned we are very clear about that as well, he added. He said there were certain groups as obviously the TTP was not one group and comprised on several groups who had some ideologue and those who had joined it under compulsion.
If all of them or some of them or part of them want to come back and they express their allegiance to the constitution of Pakistan and they undertake to respect the law of Pakistan, obviously, we give them a chance, he emphasized.
The TTP had issued proclamation through which they announced ceasefire, he said, adding ultimately, the wars are fought primarily to bring peace, wars are not there for indefinite time period, and you have to conclude the wars. Our point of view is that right now Pakistan must talk from position of strength, he said, adding the authorities in Afghanistan also wanted us to negotiate a deal with the TTP.
We believe that they [Afghan authorities] have good intention towards Pakistan, we believe that new authorities in Afghanistan want peace in Pakistan. In their efforts, we would like to help them and also this phenomena that war should continue for indefinite that is obviously something we need to discourage, he said, adding the government wanted peace in these areas which was only possible through talks.
We have only agreed upon ceasefire yet and let’s see what more will be agreed when the talks move forward, he said while responding to another query. He said locals especially who were affected due to presence of the TTP are also being made part of the negotiations.
People from tribal areas and the Pakistan Army soldiers actually bore the brunt of the war against terrorism, he added. There was a complete transformation in their generations after 20 years war, he said, adding wars could not be perpetual. To another query, Fawad said Pakistan’s government wanted inclusive government in Afghanistan having representation of Uzbek, Tajik and others. But, we are also asking international community to help the humans in Afghanistan.
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