–Info minister says Saudi Arabia will construct oil refinery at Gwadar, also invest Rs30bn for oil, gas exploration
–-Committee formed to make plan for construction of ‘high-profile’ university in PM House
ISLAMABAD: Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry on Thursday said that the federal cabinet had made several important decisions, including approval to the agreements discussed between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia during a visit of the Kingdom’s delegation last week and removal of officials “illegally appointed” by former finance minister Ishaq Dar from service.
Briefing the media along with Petroleum Minister Ghulam Sarwar after the cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, Fawad said that investment from Saudi Arabia will bring prosperity to the country.
“Saudi Arabia will make an investment of Rs 30 billion in Pakistan for the discovery of oil and gas, besides construction of an oil refinery in Gwadar,” he said.
During the meeting, members of the cabinet agreed on entering a partnership agreement pertaining to oil refineries in Gwadar with Saudi Arabia.
The federal minister said that China is Pakistan’s close friend and a strategic partner.
While giving further details, Petroleum Minister Ghulam Sarwar said, “Saudi Arabia is interested in Gwadar and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and has expressed the desire to immediately invest in an oil refinery.”
“It has been agreed that it will be a government to government (G2G) agreement,” Sarwar further said. “Both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia will sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) after the arrival of Saudi energy minister to Pakistan by the end of current month, or in the beginning of next month,” he added.
However, the petroleum minister said that the volume and other details have not been decided as yet. “At the time of the agreements, provincial governments will also be taken into confidence,” Sarwar added.
The information minister also dispelled the impression that China had shown any concern regarding the establishment of an oil refinery by Saudi Arabia.
“We want to establish four to five new oil refineries and any country can invest,” he added.
Prime Minister Imran Khan, he said, was given warm welcome in Saudi Arabia and the Saudi leadership had shown keen interest to invest in Pakistan.
He dispelled the impression that PM Khan’s visit to Saudi Arabia was aimed at seeking financial assistance. The prime minister had asked Saudi Arabia for investment and not for any financial assistance. “We have got a positive response from the government of Saudi Arabia in this regard.”
He contradicted the news that Pakistan had requested Saudi Arabia to supply oil on deferred payment and said “the issue of deferred payments was never discussed.”
The minister said that Saudi Arabia had also been offered investment in South-North Gas Pipeline and LNG projects besides rigging and exploration in oil and gas sectors. “We have a total of 46 blocks and have offered 10 blocks for open bidding and Saudi Arabia can benefit from this offer.”
He said that an important delegation of United Arab Emirates (UAE) was also due and it was expected that huge investment would come from there too.
REMOVAL OF DAR-APPOINTED OFFICIALS:
Speaking further about matters that were approved in the meeting, Fawad said that it had been decided to remove several high-level officials in banks and government departments as according to a Supreme Court decision, only the cabinet could appoint directors and heads of departments. This role had been unlawfully delegated to Dar by the previous PML-N government, the minister said.
The officials dismissed from their posts include National Bank of Pakistan president Saeed Ahmed, First Women Bank president Tahira Raza, Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited president Syed Talat Mehmood and SME Bank president Ehsanul Haq Khan.
In addition, four regulators appointed during the previous government’s tenure have also been removed, including State Bank deputy governor Jameel Ahmed, SBP deputy governor Shamsul Hassan, Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) chairperson Vadiya Khalil, Dr Mohammad Saleem of CCP and Shahzad Ansar of CCP.
‘HIGH-PROFILE VARSITY AT PM HOUSE’:
Fawad disclosed that the preliminary framework of a “high-profile” university that the government intends to build in the Prime Minister’s House was presented during the cabinet meeting.
A cabinet group led by Minister for Education Shafqat Mehmood has been formed to move the plan forward. The panel will also include Dr Shireen Mazari, Abdul Razzak Dawood, Dr Ishrat Hussain, the chairman of the Higher Education Commission and experts from the field.
Recalling the steps taken by the government to reduce the expenses of the Prime Minister’s House, the minister said 62 cars at the office had been auctioned off, earning the government Rs 180 million in revenue. Rs 2.3 million had been earned by selling off eight buffaloes owned by the PM House, while the number of employees of the premier’s residence had been reduced from 528 to four of five. The rest of the employees have gone into the government pool and have not been removed from service, the minister announced.
2,467 GOVT PROPERTIES TO BE UTILISED:
The information minister announced that a total of 2,467 properties belonging to the federal government and the governments of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab have been identified to be utilised for alternate purposes.
A task force led by Defence Minister Pervez Khattak has been formed to determine how the properties could be alternatively utilised, the minister said.
He revealed that the residence of a commissioner in Punjab is spread over 35 kanals on average, and that of a deputy commissioner is as large as 32 kanals.
“When the commissioners and their deputies live in 35 kanal houses in a country that is buried in Rs 28 trillion in debts, how will we move forward about austerity?” the minister asked.
Separately, he announced that a website has been launched for the public to track the new government’s progress as part of its 100-day agenda. The website, pm100days.pmo.gov.pk, lists the milestones achieved by the Imran Khan-led government in various areas of governance.
“Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government is determined to change governance in the country while focusing on austerity, anti-corruption and meritocracy,” said Fawad.
Talking about Khursheed Shah and Mushahidullah Khan, the minister said that he has no personal enmity with both the leaders but one should see what they have done with PIA and Radio Pakistan. People were appointed out of turn during the tenure of the last government, said Fawad.
Replying to questions, Fawad said that the housing scheme and Green Pakistan were the two big projects of the present government and within a couple of days, dates about launch of PM’s Housing Scheme would be announced, which would change the country’s economy.
The minister also announced to conduct a forensic audit of Islamabad International Airport, Pakistan Steel Mills, and Neelum–Jhelum Hydro Power projects as their cost had escalated manifold due to unusual delay in completion.
According to sources, the cabinet has also ratified a summary for the appointment of Major General Arif as the director-general of the Anti-Narcotics Force.
Earlier in the day, the cabinet approved appointments of new members in the Ministry of Finance, the fiscal and monetary policy boards, sources said, adding that the latter will be able to benefit from services of foreign-based Pakistani experts.