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Cabinet opines ECP legally bound to hold next by-polls through EVMs: minister

Chaudhry Fawad Hussian says the commission should ensure use of the EVMs in all next elections as the Parliament had given mandate in that regard.

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Cabinet opines ECP legally bound to hold next by-polls through EVMs: minister
GNN Media: Representational Photo

Islamabad: Two weeks after passage of bills related to electoral reforms from joint sitting of the Parliament, the federal cabinet on Tuesday viewed that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) was bound to hold all the next elections including by-polls through the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).

“The cabinet while discussing the most important decision on the EVM opined that after amendment in the [election] laws, it is mandatory for the election commission to hold all next by-polls through EVMs,” Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain told the media persons after the meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

“If elections are not conducted through the EVMs, there is another opinion that the government will not be able to fund them,” he said, explaining the existing election laws that only gave legitimacy to the polls via the machines.

He said Federal Minister for Law and Justice Dr. Muhammad Farogh Naseem was of the view that on prima facie, the government could only give funds to the ECP for elections if that were held through EVMs.

The government had formed a committee in that regard and the law ministry would give its opinion on the matter, Fawad added.

The minister said the ECP should ensure use of the EVMs in all the next elections as the Parliament had given mandate in that regard.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Health Services Dr Faisal Sultan and Minister for Planning Development & Special Initiatives Asad Umar briefed the federal cabinet on new variant of the coronavirus (Omicron).

It was told that new variant’s transmissibility was fastest among other kinds of the coronavirus and spreading at tenfold pace in those countries where it had been reported.

Lethality of variant and efficacy of vaccine against this variant was yet to be known, he said, adding the federal Cabinet was told that those factors would be determined by next two to three weeks.

The Federal Cabinet has requested the provincial governments to revamp their vaccination drives and appealed to the public to get inoculated at the earliest so that this new variant could be dealt in a way as those of its previous kinds that were tackled in an effective way.

He said the arrival of Omicron was imminent as the steps taken by the government could only delay it for a brief moment of time.

Most important thing to deal with this variant was mask wearing and vaccination of the leftovers, he added.

Fawad said the Federal Cabinet had expressed serious reservations over the videos circulating on the social media networking sites showing that votes were being bought for the upcoming by-election in Lahore.

He said such illegal activities did not come to the fore in the by-election, if steps were taken by the ECP against horse trading in the recent Senate election.

The free and fair polls were lifeline of a democratic system where elections were the basis for formation of government, he said, highlighting the national election watchdog’s effective and important role in that regard.

He urged the ECP to take the matter of purchase of votes by specific political parties in Lahore to a logical conclusion.

Fawad said the Federal Cabinet was briefed by Minister for Science and Technology Shibli Faraz in detail about total number of required EVMs for the elections.

He said formalities for receiving $3 billion dollars in safe deposits and $1.2 billion worth of oil supplies on differed payment from Saudi Arabia had been completed.

The ITFC (International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation) had given additional $762 million to Pakistan which would ensure stability of rupee against dollar, he added.

The minister said a presentation on weekly prices of kitchen items was also given to the Federal Cabinet and it was noted that there had been a steady decline in commodities prices.

Price of sugar had seen substantial decrease in the last one month, he said, lashing out at the Sindh government for delaying crushing of sugarcane’s crops which caused increase in the price of sweetener.

He said prices of essential commodities in Karachi and Hyderabad were quite high which required urgent attention of the Sindh government.

It was Karachi which played major role in fluctuation of the Sensitive Price Index, he added. Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said that with the increase in rice production, the country was likely to earn $4.75 billion foreign exchange. The weekly presentation of kitchen items given to the cabinet transpired that the prices of essential were on declining trend, he added.

He said it showed that 0.67 percent decrease had been registered in prices of essential items of daily use in recent days. In only month period sugar price had come down to Rs 60 per kg, he added.

He blamed Sindh government for increase in Sugar price. “Inflation is rampant in the cities like Karachi and Hyderabad,” he said adding that PTI government was being portrayed as inexperienced party but the party governing the province for over 30 years had failed to check food inflation.

The 40 percent upward trend in sensitive price index (SPI) was due to inflation in Karachi and Sindh, he said adding that the price of tomato had registered 15.4 percent decrease, onion price by 7.4 percent and chicken price had decreased by 6.6 percent recently. Wheat flour bag price had decreased by one percent, he added.

He said Liquefied Petroleum Gas price had decreased by 0.7 percent . Also the country has produced 9 million matric ton rice this year.

The cabinet observed that the Kitchen items were cheapest in Pakistan as comparing to the entire region. The government was doing utmost to minimize the impacts of global inflation, he said.

The minister said in Rawalpindi, Gujranwala, Lahore, Multan, Faisalabad a flour bag was available at Rs 1,100 per bag, and same was available at Rs 1,404 per bag in Karachi and Rs 1,443 at Hyderabad due to bad governance of Pakistan Peoples Party’s government.

He said in international market, a sack of urea was available at Rs 10,500 per bag, adding that it was available at Rs 1,700 per bag in Punjab.

A smuggler fetched upto Rs 7 million for smuggling a truck of urea from Pakistan to any other country, he added.

The minister said it was noted that the consumption of urea had abruptly increased in Sindh by 53 percent in last six months. It showed that hoarding was rampant in the province and smugglers were being facilitated in the province, he said, adding
due to this reason Punjab’s farmer was suffering and buying urea from black market. The Sindh government must check the hoarding to provide solace to farmers, he said.

The minister said PTI government had launched a crackdown against hoarders in Punjab, which helped decreasing the price of urea by Rs 400 per bag in the province. Some 347 FIRs were registered against hoarders and 244 were arrested, 21,101 inspections were conducted and 480 warehouses were sealed and Rs 30 million fine was imposed on hoarders in Punjab, he added.
Fawad said in contrary, Sindh government did nothing to check hoarding due to involvement of members of the sitting government.

Divulging cabinet decisions, he said Petroleum Division briefed the cabinet about vacant posts of Managing Director and Chief Executive Officers in the division and attached departments and appraised the cabinet that the appointment process on four vacant posts was continuing.

The cabinet tasked Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam to devise a long term policy to control smog on permanent basis, he added.

The minister said the cabinet okayed enhancing visa duration of Tablighi Jamat from 120 to 150 days, besides providing them E-Visa facility.

Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said that Rana Shamim had stated in Islamabad High Court that the circulated affidavit was not issued by him. The question was that how affidavit was published in newspapers, he said, adding it was assumed that Nawaz Sharif was involved in the publication of Shamim’s affidavit.

He said some media persons were involved in the campaign launched against judiciary and army and hoped that the court would take the issue to the logical conclusion.

To a question, the minister said the protest campaign of opposition was seasonal and indeed their own workers did not toing the line of opposition.

He said the price of lentils including Channa and Mong were Rs 115 and 142 per kg respectively in different cities. The same lentil (Channa) were available in Karachi at Rs 195 per kg and Rs 159 kg in Hyderabad.

Giving comparison of tea prices, Fawad said tea was available in Pakistan at Rs 1,309 per kg. Whereas the per kg of tea in Bangladesh was Rs 897, India 1,203, Srilanka Rs 1,170.

The minister warned that our gas reserves were fast depleting and we had to evolve an alternative strategy to deal with the situation.

He said under the gas load management plan, gas supply to the CNG sector would remain suspended from December 1 to February 15, 2022.

He, however, said gas supply would be fully provided to the Independent Power Producers, fertilizer companies and export oriented industries. 

The minister said five percent additional gas would be provided to the power plants being operated on the LNG. He said the gas saved from the CNG, cement and Captive Power Plants would be provided to the domestic consumers.

Fawad said the use of electricity was also being encouraged in the winter season and its tariff had been reduced for domestic consumers in order to entice them to shift their appliances such geysers and heaters to electricity.

SOURCE: APP

Faisal Ali Ghumman

Mr. Ghumman is a seasoned journalist who has 19 years of diversified experience in print, electronic and digital media. He has worked with 92 News HD, Daily Pakistan Today, Daily The Business, Daily Dawn, Daily Times and Pakistan Observer as News Reporter, Feature Writer, Editor, Web Content Editor and Article Writer. Mr Ghumman has graduated from the Bahauddin Zakariya University Multan and is currently enrolled in M.Phil in Mass Communication at the University of Punjab.

Pakistan

Educational institutions with COVID high positivity to be closed for one week

Data suggests a strong correlation between vaccination levels and infection rate in various cities

Published by Faisal Waqas

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Educational institutions with COVID high positivity to be closed for one week

Islamabad: The National Command and Operations Center (NCOC) has decided to close educational institutions with COVID-19 high positivity for one week.

According to the reports, COVID testing in education institutes was carried out in major Omicron hit cities to ascertain disease spread among students and ensure accurate disease mapping.

Data suggests a strong correlation between vaccination levels and infection rate in various cities. In this regard, the NCOC decided that aggressive testing in education institutes will be conducted for next two weeks especially in high disease prevalence cities. 

Following to the COVID-19 cases, education institutions or specific classes with high positivity will be closed for one week. “Provincial Administration in consultation with District Health, Education Authorities and School Administrations to set a threshold of cases for deciding such closures,” it added.  

The NCOC further decided that the federating units to carry out special vaccination drives in schools to ensure 100 per cent vaccination of students over 12 years of age.

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World

EU re-establishing ‘minimal presence’ in Kabul

Embassy is being opened after five months

Published by Faisal Waqas

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EU re-establishing ‘minimal presence’ in Kabul

The European Union on Thursday announced it had begun re-establishing a “minimal presence” in Kabul to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid in Afghanistan.

“Our minimal presence in Kabul must not in any way be seen as recognition” of the Taliban government there,” EU foreign affairs spokesman Peter Stano said in a statement. 

“This has also been clearly communicated to the de facto authorities,” he added.

Afghanistan is in the grip of a humanitarian disaster, worsened by the Taliban takeover in August that prompted Western countries to freeze international aid and access to billions of dollars worth of assets held abroad.

The country was almost entirely dependent on foreign aid under the previous US-backed government, but jobs have dried up and most civil servants haven’t been paid for months.

No country has yet recognised the Taliban, with most watching to see how the hardline Islamists -– notorious for human rights abuses during their first stint in power -– restrict freedoms.

Shortly before Stano made his comments, an Afghan foreign ministry spokesman said on Twitter that the EU was reopening “an embassy” with “a permanent presence in Kabul” for the first time in five months. 

Stano said in the statement “the EU has started to re-establish a minimal presence of international EU Delegation staff to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid and monitor the humanitarian situation”.

The international community is waiting to see how the Taliban Islamic fundamentalists intend to govern Afghanistan, after having largely trampled on human rights during their first stint in power between 1996 and 2001. 

While the Taliban claim to have modernised, women are still largely excluded from public employment and secondary schools for girls remain largely closed.

Several countries, including China. Russia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Iran have kept their embassies in Kabul open since the Taliban victory last year, but have not formally recognised their government.

Western diplomats began to evacuate their personnel in the first half of 2021, when American troops began operations to withdraw permanently from Afghanistan. 

The withdrawal culminated at the end of August with the chaotic evacuation of 120,000 people following the Taliban’s lightning conquest of the country.

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Regional

Two children dead, 7 family members injured as landslide hits Shangla house

The landslide also blocked the main Bisham-Swat road

Published by Faisal Ali Ghumman

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Two children dead, 7 family members injured as landslide hits Shangla house

Shangla: At least two children died while their seven family members were injured after they were buried in a landslide that struck their house in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's Shangla district on Friday, rescuers and police said.

Rescuers said the two deceased children aged three and two months were among six people who were pulled out of the rubble, while efforts were continuing to trace the remaining three family members.

A massive landslide hit the Khurshid Khan house in Kuz Alpuri area of Shangla, destroying it completely and burying its residents. The landslide also blocked the main Bisham-Swat road.

Rehman said Rescue 1122 workers were making efforts to recover the rest of the people trapped underneath the debris.

Two children and four women were brought to the District Headquarters Hospital, Alpuri, where the two minors died and the women were being treated for their injuries.

Bisham-Swat road was also blocked due to the landslide and motorists were stuck on both sides.

The injured were shifted to the DHQ hospital.

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