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Federal Cabinet condemns media on giving coverage to opposition

Lahore : The Federal Cabinet was informed on Tuesday that Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif had spent Rs 3.26 billion during their foreign visits as President and Prime Minister in nine years.

Asif  Zardari spent Rs 1.42 billion on his 134 foreign tours in five years (2008-2013) and Nawaz Sharif Rs 1.84 billion during his four-year tenure as prime minister (PM)  (2013-17), Shafqat Mehmood said while briefing media persons about the decisions of cabinet meeting, which was chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

He said the government had already informed the people about the corruption done by the opposition while in power during the past
ten years. Over Rs 24,000 billion loans were taken from the foreign
countries, which spoke volumes about their opulence, he added.

The minister said it was also revealed during the cabinet
meeting that Asif Zardari had spent 257 days abroad during his trips
while he was also accompanied by some 3,227 persons.

Shafqat Mehmood said Zardari had wasted around Rs 20 million
on the pretext of tips and Rs 45 million on gifts. He had visited
Dubai 51 times as president, out of which 48 were private visits and
spent Rs 100 million. On 17 visits of Asif Zardari to the United
Kingdom, Rs 320 million was spent, he added.

The minister said Nawaz Sharif had spent 262 days in foreign countries
during his four-year term as prime minister. He wasted Rs 30 million
on tips and Rs 60 million on gifts.

He had undertaken 24 visits of London, out of which 20 were
of private nature, and spent Rs 230 million from the public exchequer,
Shafqat added.

He said the financial loss caused by the two (Zardari and Nawaz) did not end here as the Pakistan International Airline had also suffered the loss of Rs 300 to 400 million according to preliminary estimates on account of chartering of its aeroplanes.

He said other prime ministers during the tenures of both parties, including Shahid Khaqan Abbasi of the PML-N, and Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani and Raja Pervaiz Ashraf of the PPP had also plundered the national wealth through their foreign trips.

The minister said around 214 persons went along former prime
minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi during his 19 foreign trips, spanned
over 50 days, which cost Rs 259.59 million. On the contrary, Shafqat
Mehmood said, Prime Minister Imran Khan during his coming visit to the
United States would stay at the house of Pakistani ambassador and only
a few persons, including Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, would
accompany him. The personal staff of the prime minister would stay in
a three-star hotel in the US.

He said the cabinet also issued directives for the provision of details of previous rulers’ additional expenditures, including medical and other expenses, during their foreign trips, so that the people could know that how their money was wasted.

Shafqat Mehmood said the cabinet also condemned the projection of the criminals’ narrative on both print and electronic media during recent days. The government fully believed in the press freedom, but no democracy in the world allowed the media to conduct the interviews of convicted or under trial persons.

To a query, the minister said the government had asked the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) about its policy regarding airing the interview of an accused.

He said the government had no role in shutting down of news
channels as PEMRA was an independent institution which was mandated to
regulate the media in country as per law.

Taking notice of the inflation, he said, the prime minister had issued
directives to the Advisor for Finance and Federal Bureau of Revenue
(FBR) Chairman to ensure the sale of edible items like flour, ghee and
pulses at controlled rates.

Shafqat Mehmood said the cabinet was also apprised that
PML-N leader Khawaja Asif, during his tenure as federal minister, was
holding an Iqama (foreign residential permit) and also on the payroll
of a foreign company, which was sheer violation of the constitution
and the oath which he had taken as public office holder.

The cabinet had directed the Federal Investigation Agency
(FIA) to carry out thorough investigations into Khawaja Asif’s Iqama
case, as he had held important ministerial portfolios, including
Foreign, Defence and Water and Power.

He said Prime Minister’s Adviser on Austerity and Reformative Reforms Dr Ishrat Hussain presented his report on restructuring of federal ministries and their attached departments.
The cabinet also approved constitution of an implementation committee
on the issue.

He said the report reviewed the importance and responsibilities of 441 departments and presented its recommendations for improvement in their performance.

He said the committee had recommended that 43 departments
should be transferred to Sarmaya Pakistan Company or be privatized,
and 14 be transferred to provincial governments, Islamabad Capital
Territory or Gilgit Baltistan government.

It also recommended that eight departments should be abolished, 35 be merged, and17 be reconstructed, while 324 institutions should remain with the federation.

The cabinet also approved the visa on arrival facility for Qatari citizens as a reciprocal move of Qatar’s earlier initiative of granting the same facility for 30 days to the Pakistani citizens.

It approved the name of Managing Director of Pak Iran Investment Company, and transfer of 50 acre land of the PM House to the Interior Ministry for establishment of a university for imparting emerging technologies.

To a query, the minister clarified that the issue of a judge’s video, shown by PML-N leader Maryam Safdar in a press conference, did not come under discussion during the cabinet meeting.

The PML-N should better got conducted forensic test of the
video itself as the burden of proof lied on it because its leadership
had publicly leveled accusations against the judge, he added.

The minister said the issue regarding the removal of Senate chairman was also not discussed in the cabinet meeting.

Shafqat said the government had decided to hold the standing
committees meetings during the National Assembly session as per its
austerity campaign.

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