Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, taking exception to the opposition’s plan to hold an “all party conference” on electoral reforms, said on Tuesday that the government didn’t see Nawaz Sharif, Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Maryam Nawaz as stakeholders in the current political setup.
Speaking to the media after a meeting of the federal Cabinet, the minister said the opposition leaders were making all-out attempts to derail the existing system, adding that the opposition’s decision to hold an “APC” on electoral reforms was actually aimed an weakening the parliament.
Chaudhry said, however, that the government was open to discuss the proposed electoral reforms with parliamentary leaders.
He said the electronic voting machines (EVMs) were being used in 20 countries and Estonia was the most digitised country as it had now switched to internet voting from the EVM. He added that Pakistan was looking to introduce the EVMs for transparent holding of the polls.
He also stressed that deciding a mechanism for holding elections was the job of the country’s political leadership and the ECP and bureaucrats had nothing to do with it. The minister added that anyone intending to write a letter to the ECP should bear in mind that the parliament’s sanctity should not be violated in its wake.
Chaudhry maintained that the election commission was not entitled to raise questions on laws passed by parliament. “The ECP has to implement all laws passed by Parliament while matters related to laws contradicting the Constitution will be dealt by the Supreme Court,” he clarified.
During the presser, the minister said that the cabinet had approved the introduction of Public Properties Removal of Encroachment Bill 2021 to pave way for reclamation of government lands encroached by certain elements.
“Under the law, an officer will be appointed by the federal government empowered to issue show-cause notice to an encroacher and, in case of an unsatisfactory answer, he can proceed to take necessary action which includes punishment and imposition of fine.”
He said that if the encroacher refused to surrender the property, then a rent will keep accruing upon him that he will have to pay later when leaving the property.
Chaudhry said an appellate tribunal will also be formed with the authority to take a decision in such cases within 30 days. “There are federal properties which have been encroached upon and several properties of the National Press Trust have been forcefully occupied by encroachers. Similarly, Pakistan Railways and Evacuee Trust will also be able to get their lands retrieved.”
Regarding conditions imposed by some countries on acceptance of certain vaccines, the minister said countries refusing to accept certain vaccines were also in negotiations with the World Health Organisation. “This is a global issue … and we expect this issue to be resolved soon,” he added.
He said the government had witnessed tendency among the public to get jabs, which was encouraging, “and this particular interest was seen especially when we opened vaccinations for all people aged above 18. Now on average, daily 0.4 million people are getting themselves vaccinated and our target is to vaccinate 70m people by the year’s end,” he added.
Shedding light on other decisions taken by the cabinet, the minister said a cabinet committee had been formed to review policies related to NGOs and after examination, the committee will report back to the cabinet.
He also informed that the cabinet had approved the appointment of five independent directors in the Diamer-Bhasha Company.
The minister said a three-month extension to Asim Rauf as Chief Executive Authority of Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) had also been approved by the cabinet. “His extension is only valid until appointment of the next CEO,” he added.
“A request was earlier floated to the government regarding establishment of the Supreme Court Staff Colony. Now a cabinet committee has been formed with Shireen Mazari as its head to oversee modalities of the formation of such a colony,” he added.
He also announced that the Cabinet had permitted Pakistanis residing in Luxembourg to hold dual nationality. “They have been permitted to hold Luxembourg nationality while being Pakistani nationals,” he added.
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