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Fawad Claims Prices of Essential Commodities on Decline

by Newsweek Pakistan

Information Minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain. Photo courtesy PID

In post-cabinet meeting press conference, information minister says government has decided to form a ministerial committee to ensure use of EVMs in elections

The prices of major commodities, including most food items, are now on the decline, Information Minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain claimed on Tuesday, as he accused the Sindh government of failing to control inflation.

“Unfortunately, prices of essential commodities in Karachi are much higher than the rest of the country,” he told a press conference in Islamabad after a meeting of the federal cabinet. Claiming that the price of sugar would come down to Rs. 85/kg within two weeks—bolstered by the start of sugarcane crushing—he said that the prices of tomatoes, onions and garlic had also declined.

“Flour prices in Karachi are higher as compared to other cities of the country,” he said, adding that sugar was currently selling for Rs. 107/kg in Karachi compared to Rs. 90/kg in major cities of Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Similarly, he claimed that 20kg of wheat flour were retailing for Rs. 1,100 in Lahore against Rs. 1,460 in Karachi. He said the federal government had imported wheat worth $700 million, while the Sindh government kept claiming that its wheat was being stolen.

According to the Sensitive Price Index for last week, Pakistan saw an increase of 18.34%, year-on-year, for weekly inflation. Data issued by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics showed that the average prices of 27 essential items, including chicken, cooking oil, bananas, vegetable ghee, eggs, had all risen in the past week. While admitting that prices of oil and electricity were on the rise, the information minister claimed that 40 percent of the Sensitive Price Index’s inflation data consisted of Karachi’s figures.

Saqib Nisar audio

Fawad accused Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) Vice President Maryam Nawaz for a leaked audio—reported by web portal FactFocus—of former Chief Justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar in which he is allegedly informing an unidentified individual that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter had to sidelined to bring Imran Khan to power. She has “produced fake videos and had formed a special team for the purpose,” he alleged without offering any evidence.

In his tirade against Maryam, he added: “Perhaps Maryam Nawaz is also creating videos of her own party members to bring them under her control.” He said the incumbent government had condemned such leaks, adding that he hoped the issue would soon reach its logical conclusion and the government would follow the court’s directives.

EVMs

According to the information minister, the federal cabinet has decided to establish a ministerial committee comprising Adviser to the P.M. on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan; Railways Minister Azam Swati; Science and Technology Minister Shibli Faraz; Information Technology Amunul Haq and the attorney general to ensure the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the 2023 general elections.

“The cabinet reiterated the government’s resolve to hold the next general elections through EVMs at all costs,” he said, adding that the committee would work with the Election Commission of Pakistan to ensure implementation of recently-passed laws on electoral reforms. “The committee will finalize the nitty-gritty on the use of EVMs in the next elections such as cost and numbers of machines,” he added.

At one point, the minister said the opposition PMLN should be “thankful” to the incumbent government, as its reforms had allowed Nawaz Sharif’s sons—based abroad—to vote in the next general elections.

Odds and ends

In his press conference, Fawad said that an inquiry commission report on the 2020 oil crisis had been presented to the cabinet. It revealed, he said, that oil marketing companies had illegally earned Rs. 5.52 billion through hoarding. Owners of over 2,000 petrol pumps illegally benefited from the scam, he claimed.

He also hit out at the Asma Jahangir Conference, which was organized over the weekend, accusing it of receiving “foreign” funding. He said the cabinet had approved the Islamabad Capital Territory Local Government Ordinance 2021 to enable conduct of local government elections in the federal capital.

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