Cabinet wants Shehbaz to resign as PAC chief on ‘moral grounds’


–Fawad Chaudhry says NA Opp leader trying to ‘save’ certain lawmakers from NAB probe

–Says govt to conduct external audit of inflated gas bills, form committee for stabilising prices of essential commodities 


ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry on Thursday said that Leader of the Opposition Shehbaz Sharif should resign as the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman on moral grounds, adding that the federal cabinet is under the impression that Shehbaz is trying to “save” certain elected representatives who are being investigated by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on corruption charges.

Addressing a press conference following a federal cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, Fawad said the government wanted to strengthen the accountability watchdog to make it more “effective and transparent”.

He added that the federal cabinet had not discussed the arrest of senior Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Abdul Aleem Khan by NAB on Wednesday, and rubbished rumours of a “deal” with the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

The minister said that “three important institutions” — the judiciary, the army and the government — are working independently under a “remarkable relationship” which will continue in the future.

Fawad also announced that the federal cabinet had decided to constitute a committee headed by Defence Minister Pervez Khattak to develop a proper system for stabilisation of prices of essential commodities.

He said that a mobile application will also be developed which will provide an opportunity to the consumers to check the prices of essential commodities in the country in order to discourage overcharging.

He said that the Statistics Division gave a presentation to the cabinet on the trend in the prices of essential commodities.  He also pointed out that the inflation increased by 5.8 per cent in the first six months of the PML-N government whilst it grew by only 1.4 per cent in the first six months of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government.

He said that prices of green pepper, grams, garlic, onion, pulses, eggs, cabbage and petrol have witnessed a decline. On the other hand, tomatoes, out of city bus fares, cement, diesel, electricity, mutton and tea prices had risen, the minister admitted.

The federal cabinet also decided to carry out an external audit of the gas bills of the last two months. The information minister said that the decision has been taken after PM Imran took notice of the inflated gas bills. The federal cabinet has also decided to revise the slab system for gas prices, Fawad added.

He pointed out that Pakistan is importing expensive gas and providing it to the consumers on subsidised rates. “We raised the gas prices keeping in view that it does not affect the 70 per cent population of the country,” he said.

Fawad also said that the Federal Law Ministry will prepare a short list of departments where holders of dual nationalities will not be appointed. He, however, stressed that the overseas Pakistanis are an asset and contribute to the economy by sending remittances worth billions of dollars. He said that the government will encourage the overseas Pakistanis to come to Pakistan and serve the country and its masses.

The information minister said that a committee headed by Punjab Governor Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar has been constituted to oversee the development of infrastructure related to Kartarpur corridor.

He said that the Sikh community across the world is expressing great interest in making investments in Kartarpur Corridor-related projects such as the construction of hotels and other facilities. He said that the government wants to streamline the whole process and the Punjab governor will look into it.

Fawad went on to say that some politicians and party leaders, such as Raza Rabbani and Mushahid Ullah, who are not entitled to government housing yet are still occupying houses in Ministers’ Enclave, will soon be kicked out on orders of the prime minister. “They are not entitled to government housing but are still enjoying these benefits,” he added.

The minister said that the prime minister has also sought a report from the Capital Development Authority (CDA) as to what steps have been taken to make buildings in the federal capital such as hospitals, schools and commercial buildings accessible to the handicapped persons.

The cabinet was informed that the Human Rights Ministry is bringing a law for the protection of rights of senior citizens. He said that the government plans to bring a full-fledged programme to extend all possible facilities to the senior citizens.

Talking about the recently-launched Sehat Card scheme, Fawad said that in the next phase, these cards will also be given to the artists and the journalists. He said that the salaried class will also be included in the scheme.

Discussions on Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) were also held during the cabinet meetings, Fawad said, adding, “PM has stressed on development in the region.”

“We had previously announced of restoring mobile services to FATA. Soon the people in the region will be able to access the mobile and data service,” he added.