Information minister claims new local government laws will empower mayors in Punjab, reiterates desire to have polls conducted by EVMs
Information Minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain on Sunday reiterated that the incumbent government was willing to talk peace with all groups who were willing to abide by Pakistan’s Constitution, adding that the state had the capacity to fight anyone who violated the law.
“We have fought them in the past and can do the same in future,” he told journalists in Lahore during a press conference. Responding to a question on the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan ending its month-long ceasefire and attacking a polio vaccination team in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, he said that the government’s policy on dealing with extremist groups was clear and unchanged.
Referring to the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), Chaudhry maintained it was nothing new for a formerly extremist group to register as a political party and contest elections. However, he said, questions remained about various parties’ funding sources, including the TLP. He alleged the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUIF) had also been unable to prove its funding sources.
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) should scrutinize and publicize the funding sources of all political parties, said the information minister, adding that the sources of funds for Pakistan’s three major parties—the Pakistan Peoples Party; Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz); Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf—should be conducted simultaneously. A similar exercise should be undertaken for all other parties, he added.
On the ongoing scrutiny of the PTI’s foreign funding, Fawad noted that the ECP had yet to complete its inquiry into the alleged foreign funding of the PPP and the PMLN. The PTI’s foreign funding case has been pending since 2014; the PPP and PMLN’s case was brought forward by the PTI in 2020.
The information minister congratulated the Punjab government for its new local government legislation, claiming it would decentralize governance to district level and allow mayors to have their own cabinets that would result in speedy redress of people’s issues. He claimed this fulfilled Prime Minister Imran Khan’s promise of introducing a truly empowered local government system and urged the Sindh government to adopt similar legislation rather than lashing out at the federal government.
To a question, he said the local government elections should be held via electronic voting machines, claiming that the ECP could tender and purchase the devices within two months.
To another question, Fawad claimed the country’s inflation rate was on the decline and prices of most essential commodities had reduced in the past 3 weeks. He said the government had assumed responsibility for health related expenditures of the public through the Sehat Insaf program, adding that this would allow them to use their personal funds for other purposes.
On the protests under in Gwadar, the minister said the PTI government had been striving to resolve the issues of the people of Balochistan since coming into power and would continue to do so.