ISLAMABAD: Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain on Tuesday said the opposition was committing ‘political suicide’ by participating in a campaign launched by some elements against provision of voting rights to the overseas Pakistanis.
“It appears that only the PTI [Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf] is responsible for welfare of the overseas Pakistanis, but the fact is that entire diaspora is not associated with the party,” the minister said while talking to the media persons after meeting of the Federal Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan.
He said it was beyond his comprehension that the Pakistan Peoples Party and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz were taking part in a campaign launched to deny right of vote to ten million expats whose families lived in Pakistan.
The move could also antagonize the expats, he added.
The minister said almost entire family of Nawaz Sharif was also abroad and Hassan and Husain Nawaz might have torn Pakistani passport, but they would get opportunity to vote for their father’s party if expats were given voting right.
Fawad said Bilawal Bhutto’s objection over the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in the elections was also beyond understanding as he had lived abroad for many years. He said the stance of the PTI that the opposition should first understand the EVMs workings and then give their opinions on the matter.
The minister said they should take some time out to understand the system. It was unrealistic to criticize the initiative without getting any insight.
He said the ECP had already given 27 recommendations for the EVMs, so it should issue tenders on the same conditions and ask the manufacturers to follow the same.
The minister said the objective of the introduction of EVMs was to make election process free and fair.
Fawad Hussain said the PTI had promised in the election manifesto to give overseas Paksitanis right to vote and it would move forward on the issue. He said an awareness campaign on EVMs would be launched so that the people could understand its benefits. The minister said members of the PTI in the Public Accounts Committee met the prime minister recently and it was decided to strengthen all the institutions that could bring transparency in the governance. He said the committee had been constituted comprising Adviser Finance Shaukat Tarin, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar, and PTI Chief Whip Amir Dogar to suggest steps for strengthening the PAC. He said the cabinet was given a comparative study of the prices of essential commodities and it transpired that during past two weeks Sensitive Price Index had shown downward trend.
From January, he said a ration programme would be started under which 30 per cent subsidy would be given to those earning less than Rs 31,000 per month.
He said that those getting benefit from this scheme would get flour on less than the price in 2018.
Fawad appreciated the Sindh government for taking some steps to control daily use items’ prices in Karachi and Hyderabad. Now, a bag of 20 kg wheat flour was being sold at Rs 1,456 in Karachi and at Rs 1,316 in Hyderabad. It was available in the rest of the country at Rs 1100, he added. The minister said per kilogram sugar was available at Rs 90 across the country except Karachi and Islamabad where the sweetener was being sold at Rs 97 per kg.
Upto Rs 4 per kg reduction in the sugar price was also expected in the coming days, he added.
Fawad said vegetable oil was being sold at Rs 399 per kg across the country. Though, it was included in the list of essential items, but being imported from abroad and if its price would increase in international market, definitely, it would also have impact in Pakistan, he added.
He said it was ridiculous to criticize the government on drawing comparison of Pakistan with regional countries on inflation.
”We are not drawing comparison of the country with France and UK; rather it is being compared with Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India,” he added. Except tea, he said every commodity including wheat flour, lentils, sugar, onion, tomato, chicken, eggs, fresh milk and even petrol was cheaper in Pakistan as compared to other regional countries.
“It should be appreciated instead of pursuing a specific propaganda as we are not living on a separate planet,” he remarked, saying the comparison with the regional countries was aimed at sensitizing the masses about realities around the world.
He said there had been inflation in the country for salaries class, but there was a need to adjust with the situation. There has been an additional income of Rs 400 billion in agriculture sector this year, he said, adding the comparison could be done in contemporary times instead of past.
“There is need to draw comparison of income and expenditures to know the exact situation [about inflation],” he noted. About lynching of a Sri Lankan manager by the mob in Sialkot, he said the Cabinet strongly condemned the incident which was against Islamic teachings and tantamount to distorting the image of Pakistan. The prime minister and the Cabinet directed the Punjab government to start the trial of the arrested accused as soon as possible and take steps to punish them, he maintained.
“The Islamic Republic of Pakistan is committed to protecting the rights of every individual belonging to minorities,” he remarked.
“The way Pakistan’s society and government have reacted to this tragedy shows that we are very different from India and some other countries”, he noted. He said in India, such incidents against Muslims happened on a daily basis but its government was reluctant to take any action against the culprits. The whole nation was united on the Sialkot incident as it was on the APS tragedy, he said, adding every citizen of Pakistan was condemning this act.