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Govt to rectify legal lacuna in NAB law through ordinance: Fawad  

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ISLAMABAD:Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain Tuesday said that the government would promulgate an ordinance on Wednesday (tomorrow) to rectify the legal lacunas in the existing National Accountability Bureau (NAB) law. The announcement was made in a briefing to media by the minister of information after cabinet meeting. He ruled out the possibility of any talk between Prime Minister Imran Khan and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Shahbaz Sharif on appointment of the NAB chairman.   “There is a lacuna in the NAB law as it is silent on what should be done if the leaders of the House or opposition are involved in corruption and money laundering cases,” said Fawad while urging the opposition to appoint a junior Parliamentarian as their leader. He said, the cabinet decided not to initiate consultation on the appointment of new chairman NAB with the opposition leader because he is accused of corruption in many cases pending with the accountability court.  Any such consultation with Shahbaz Sharif would tantamount to asking a criminal to decide as to whom he would like to be his investigation officer, the minister added. “It would have been better if the opposition changes the opposition leader, but the problem is that almost all their top leadership is tainted and facing cases in NAB courts”, he remarked. Fawad said, however, the opposition had an option to appoint any junior Parliamentarian as the opposition leader in the house.

To a question, he made it clear that the legislation was not a person-specific,rather it was aimed at further strengthening the institution. The foremost priority was not to compromise the independence of NAB.  The minister said the present NAB chairman was appointed during the tenure of the PML-N in consultation of the then opposition leader from PPP. Most of the cases facing by the opposition politicians in the accountability courts were filed before Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government came into power, he noted. He said the PTI wished NAB cases to proceed on day to day basis because the people are tired of inordinate delay in the corruption cases. About Pandora Papers revelations, he said the matter also came under discussion during the Federal Cabinet meeting.  Initially, a probe cell has been created under the Prime Minister’s Inspection Commission as more than 700 Pakistani citizens were named in the Pandora Papers. Those who were named in the Pandora Papers categorized into four groups. First was related to those who had declared their off shore companies in Pakistan, while those who had not declared their off shore assets in returns are falling under second category which was obviously a ‘tax evasion fraud’.  Third category marked those people who did not only open off shore companies but also laundered money through those companies, he said, adding those citizens would be investigated by the Federal Investigation Agency. Likewise, there was another offense under which the offshore companies were not even declared from the beginning.           In a first phase, the cell would investigate the heads of those offshore companies and later all the relevant departments would pursue the cases on the basis of that investigation. To another query, he regretted media’s bias against government as the picture of government’s minister were being flashed with Pandora Papers on Tv screens but the media house owners, who themselves were named in the papers are not being shown on their screens.  Sharing details of the decisions taken by the Federal Cabinet, Fawad said approval for conducting the new census on the basis of de jure method was given during the meeting.    He recalled that some objections were raised over the previous census before the last general election which was held on the basis of provisional census.  Later, the matter came under discussion in the Federal Cabinet for multiple times and both the procedures including de jure and de facto opted to worldwide for conducting this exercise was discussed at length.

Explaining both the procedure, he said under the de facto process, the population count was done at the same time by imposing the countrywide ‘curfew’, while de jure one tallies people on the basis of the time which they spent at a place.

A questionnaire was sent to the people asking them whether they were residing at the place for last six months or would he or she extend his or her stay for another six months in the future.

Since most of the countries opted de jure procedure, he said the Federal Cabinet had also decided to conduct the census in future on the basis of this process.  This was the first time in the history that the modern technology would be employed for the purpose, he added.  The minister said, apart from the use of modern gadgets, assistance of relevant departments including National Database and Regulatory Authority would also be sought in the next census.  The last six months of process would be dedicated to the Election Commission of Pakistan so it could move forward for new delimitation of constituencies.

Fawad said Eid Milad un Nabi (SAWW) would be observed with great religious zeal and fervor. From Rabi ul Awal 3 to 13, the Ashra e Rehmatul lil Alameen would be marked with religious enthusiasm. During the Ashra (ten), Mehfil e Sama would be arranged where religious scholars would share their views on different topics, he said, adding it had been decided to pardon some prisoners convicted in different crimes on the day of Eid Milad un Nabi. The minister said the electoral reforms had become a routine agenda of the forum which used to start its proceedings with discussion on introduction of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and i-voting in the election. Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Dr Babar Awan told the Federal Cabinet that serious efforts were made to hold discussion with the opposition on electoral reforms, but unfortunately there was no effective response so far. “We have decided to move toward a joint session of Parliament and in the meantime, if there would be a dialogue with the opposition, then both would go hand in hand, so that it would not only save time, but also help an effective negotiation move forward.” “We want transparent elections in Pakistan,” he said while explaining the government’s stance on electoral reforms.   Either there would be consensus among all the political parties that the current electoral system was flawless and there was no need of any reforms or if there was consensus that it needed reforms then collective efforts should be made progress in that regard, he added. “Irony is that we are not moving toward reforms, but making noise,” he said. He urged opposition to play their due role for electoral reforms instead of making hue and cry in the public gatherings.  Meanwhile, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan briefed the cabinet about the issue of Medical and Dental College Admission Test (MDCAT).  The profession of doctor was noble one and government was striving to ensure criteria in giving admission to the people in this field.  Nobody would want to consult unqualified or under qualified doctor, so there should be high standards for entrants in this field, he stressed.

He said Pakistan Medical and Dental Council was set up in 1960s and overseeing a small number of colleges, but the number had gone up exponentially which encouraged its management to take control of the authority and led to underrating of Pakistani medical colleges’ degrees due to deterioration of standards of education.  As regards to the ongoing protest of doctors, he said there was no logic in their demand of repealing the testing system.   Doctors’ protest had lost the people’s support. He said that lawyers after completion of their studies have to take bar councils tests, similarly doctors after completion of MBBS have to undergo the test to determine their qualification and expertise.

He said it was unfortunate that whenever the government wanted to introduce reforms in any sector, protest demonstrations start.   He said that standards of medical education have to be at par with international standards. Responding to a question, he said the prices of gas has registered phenomenal increase in the international market.   Country has electricity in abundance and enduring shortage of gas. Government would provide incentives to consumers for using electricity in winters.  The minister said that the cabinet constituted a committee for giving Rs 7 per unit relief to those power consumers who would switch off gas heaters and geezers during winter.  He said as the country had surplus electricity and the world was facing gas crisis, this special offer was being given to save natural gas. He said that the Punjab Health Department has created massive jobs during past three years and 1.6 million Pakistani have gone aboard. Chaudhry Fawad said that the cabinet approved nomination of experts in Regulatory Authority under Drug Research Rules 1978.  The cabinet also approved for advertisement of five life saving drugs. The cabinet gave approval to decisions of the September 30 meeting of ECC.  He said that a ministerial committee comprising Minister for Information, Minister for Communications Murad Saeed and Minister for Energy Hamad Azhar was constituted to examine the power and road infrastructure projects contracts signed by the previous governments on inflated rates and who were their beneficiaries.  The committee would present its report to the federal cabinet which would decide further action against the culprits.

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