No takers for global pressure, Iran gets IP pipeline project

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Rejecting international pressure, the federal cabinet on Wednesday gave a go ahead to awarding the contract for the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline to an Iranian company with the project completion deadline set for 2015.
Federal ministers, who met with PM Raja Pervaiz Ashraf in the chair on Wednesday, also lambasted Interior Minister Rehman Malik for his recent statements in connection with the Karachi violence besides approving the National Trade Policy for the coming three years.
As the meeting commenced under the leadership of Prime Minister Ashraf, a strong rift was witnessed between cabinet members and the minister for interior, insiders said.
The members of the cabinet criticised the interior minister over his recent statements on the Karachi law and order, accusing him of creating a wave of fear among the general public. Sources said Law Minister Farooq Naik said Malik’s statement spread fear in the city, adding that Malik should not provide information regarding terrorism to the people and should first contact the quarters concerned.
To this, Malik said the only purpose of giving the statement was to alert the people and he had no intention of spreading panic.
Briefing reporters on the cabinet meeting later Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said the cabinet set up a four-member committee under the finance minister to monitor work on the Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline project.
The construction on Pakistani side of the pipeline would be undertaken soon at a cost of $1.5 five billion, adding that work was continuing on the proposed Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project as well. Kaira said the cabinet also gave approval to Strategic Trade Policy whose details would be announced today (Thursday). He said the cabinet was informed that during July-December 2012‚ inflation remained at 7.9 percent‚ which was the lowest in recent history.
The minister said the cabinet decided to empower the office of ombudsman to institutionalise the process of accountability and provide speedy justice to the people.
He said that the cabinet also decided to give administrative and financial autonomy to the office of ombudsman.
Kaira said eleven different departments were carrying out accountability previously, but now all these departments had been streamlined under the office of the ombudsman.
He said the departments would be bound to provide relevant information to the office of the ombudsman within 15 days, failing which disciplinary action would be taken against them.
The minister said the office of the ombudsman would decide appeals within 45 days and would also be authorised to review its decisions, adding that appeal against the ombudsman’s decisions could only be made to the President within 120 days.
Kaira said the tenure of the office of the ombudsman would be four years and the method for his removal would be the same as that of the judges of senior judiciary.
The cabinet also decided to award the contract of operationalising Gwadar Deep Sea Port to China Overseas Port Holding Limited.
The minister noted that the contract had previously been awarded to Singapore Port Authority but there were proposals to change the company.
He said now the Singaporean company would share the task of operationalising the port with China Overseas Port Holding Limited and transfer the responsibility to it.
Kaira added that the prime minister appreciated performance of the present assemblies and said there was no precedence of what the current assemblies had done.