Information minister says no action will be taken against any government official whose name has appeared in Pandora Papers until their guilt is proven
The incumbent Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led government has created over 10 million jobs in its first three years in power, Information Minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain claimed on Tuesday.
“We will [soon] share data of all ministries showing that over 10 million jobs have been created [in the past three years],” he told a weekly press briefing. Responding to a question on the PTI’s promises to reduce unemployment after coming into power, he said that in addition to thousands of jobs locally, the government had also sent 1.6 million Pakistanis abroad for employment.
To another question, he said that Pakistan had abundant electricity but faced a gas shortage in the winters. In a bid to counter this, and maintain gas supplies for industry, the government would soon implement incentives to boost the usage of electricity for heating in winter, he said. The cabinet had, he said, had constituted a committee to provide Rs. 7/unit relief to power consumers who switched their gas heaters for electrical heaters.
The minister said the cabinet had also approved the methodology for a new census ahead of the next general elections, saying it would be conducted via de jure method. He said that in light of the objections raised over the last census, the cabinet had debated ways to improve it and opted to switch from de facto to de jure methods.
In the de facto process, he said, population count was conducted nationwide simultaneously, while the de jure process tallied people on the basis of the time they spent at a place of residence. He said a questionnaire would be sent to people asking them to clarify if they had resided in the same location for the past six months, and whether they planned to stay in the same location for the next six months as well. He stressed that most other countries also opted for the de jure procedure.
The information minister stressed that no action would be taken against any member of the federal cabinet who had been implicated in the Pandora Papers until it could be proven that had been not declared their assets to tax authorities. “Action will be taken once they are proven guilty,” he said, noting that Prime Minister Imran Khan had already formed a high-level cell to ascertain whether any of the accused had been involved in criminal activity.
The cell, he said, would categorize all the identified individuals into four groups: people who have declared their offshore companies in Pakistan; those who have not declared their companies and thus committed tax evasion; those who used their companies for money-laundering; and those who had not declared offshore companies in their wealth statements. Either the FBR, the FIA, or NAB would act against the individuals based on their categorization, he added.
On the matter of electoral reforms, Fawad said the issue had been discussed “as a matter of routine” during the cabinet meeting, adding that Adviser to the P.M. on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan had told the cabinet that despite serious efforts to engage the opposition, the government had yet to receive any effective response. “We have decided to move toward a joint session of Parliament,” he said, adding that the process would also continue in parallel to avoid any “wastage” of time.
The information minister said Special Assistant to the P.M. on Health Dr. Faisal Sultan had briefed the cabinet on the issue of Medical and Dental College Admission Test. Regretting clashes in the federal capital between protesting doctors and police, he said the government wanted to establish a criterion for admission to medical colleges that would be internally recognized. “We cannot risk unqualified people becoming doctors,” he added.
To a question, Fawad said a ministerial committee comprising himself, Communications Minister Murad Saeed and Energy Minister Hamad Azhar would examine “inflated” costs of power and road infrastructure projects contracts signed by previous governments to determine who had benefited, adding that the cabinet would decide how to proceed against any guilty parties.