POLITICAL NEWS

Information minister defends government in debate over rising inflation

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry addressed a press conference following a federal cabinet meeting on Thursday to announce a set of developments on various national issues.

At the outset of the press conference, Chaudhry gave an overview of increases as well as reductions in prices of various products.

He said that, as per the statistics division, when the PML-N came to power in November 2013 prices rose by 5.8 per cent in the first six months, while during the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) first six months prices rose by a much lower 1.4pc.

Chaudhry said prices of chicken, garlic, onion, potatoes, chickpeas, lentils and potatoes had actually fallen, and that eggs, cabbage, high-speed diesel, petrol prices were also seeing a downward trend.

On the other hand, tomatoes, out of city bus fares, cement, diesel, electricity, mutton and tea prices had risen, the minister admitted.

The information minister said that a committee has been formed under the leadership of Defence Minister Pervez Khattak to monitor the prices of various goods. He clarified that the committee will look at the matter along with Minister for Planning Khusro Bakhtiar, who is currently responsible for the matter.

Chaudhry said that the formulas used by the Statistics Division will also be redone in an attempt to arrive at a more stable system of assessing prices.

The minister also revealed that an app was being developed with which users will be able to check what prices are being charged for various products across the country so that they can compare with the prices they are being charged in their market.

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He added that this would benefit consumers as they would be able to see if they are being overcharged.

External audit on rising gas bills
The minister further said orders have been issued for an external audit of higher gas bills charged to customers over the past two months.

The premier had on Sunday taken notice of increased gas prices for domestic consumers and ordered the petroleum minister to conduct an inquiry into the matter

Chaudhry today said an external audit would be conducted for gas bills issued over the past two months.

He added that the gas slab system would also be revised. He said the system would aim to limit gas price increases for the vulnerable 70 per cent of the population.

The information minister noted that only 23 per cent of the population was using natural gas for their domestic needs, while the rest of the country was using liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), wood or other alternate fuel sources.

He further noted that a portion of the natural gas was being imported from abroad and was expensive, “thanks to [former prime minister] Shahid Khaqan Abbasi”, but it was being subsidised and sold for less to domestic users.

Chaudhry added that as a result of this, though only 23pc of the population was using this gas, the rest of the country was paying for it (as their tax money was being used for subsidies).

He said the government eventually wants to develop a self-reliant system, but for now an external audit has been ordered.

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PM orders removal of illegal occupancy of govt property
Chaudhry said Prime Minister Khan had ordered the housing minister to deal with those who were illegally occupying properties regardless of which socioeconomic class they belonged to.

He cited the example of former Senate chairman and PPP stalwart Raza Rabbani and Senator Mushahidullah Khan, who he said had no entitlement to live in the Minister’s Enclave in Islamabad yet did so.

Dual nationals to be barred from some jobs
Chaudhry said that while the prime minister acknowledges that overseas Pakistanis are an asset for the country, the law ministry is drawing up a list of government positions that dual nationals will not be entitled to work in.

While hastening to add that this list will be short, Chaudhry said that in most places in the federal government, overseas Pakistanis will be encouraged to come and help Pakistan.

Kartarpur
The information minister also announced that a committee has been formed to oversee development work in Kartarpur, where the premier had performed the groundbreaking of a long-awaited corridor connecting Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in the Kartarpur area of Narowal district to Dera Baba Nanak in India’s Gurdaspur district.

Chaudhry said Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar will be in charge of this committee.

PM asks CDA for progress on making Islamabad accessible to the disabled
The information minister recalled that, in a previous cabinet meeting, it had been decided that all buildings in the capital should be made accessible for disabled persons.

He said that Prime Minister Khan has asked the Capital Development Authority (CDA) if these orders are being followed.

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Chaudhry added that those buildings which are not accessible to the disabled should be fined.

He also appealed to citizens to make use of the Pakistan Citizens’ Portal to inform the government which buildings are not compliant so that action can be taken against them.

The information minister also announced that the human rights ministry will be introducing a bill for senior citizens which will protect them and provide them with facilities.

With regards to the recently-launched Sehat Insaf Card scheme, Chaudhry said that in the next stage artists and journalists will be involved in the scheme.

He also said that while the government had purchased insurance for poor persons in the first stage, in the next stage, salaried persons could also purchase it from the government.
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