ISLAMABAD: In what appears to be a tit-for-tat move, the government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Wednesday decided to place many members of the last federal cabinet on the no-fly list as it believed that they could escape abroad anytime with the “corruption” money allegedly collected during the PTI regime.
On the other hand, the new government decided to remove the names of present cabinet members from the Exit Control List (ECL), including PM Sharif and Finance Minister Miftah Ismail.
Presiding over a maiden federal cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Sharif held the last PTI government responsible for the prevailing challenges confronting the country like economic crunch, inflation, unemployment, poverty and loadshedding and urged the members of his team to be on their toes to defeat them.
Shehbaz Sharif later called on President Arif Alvi but the meeting could last only 15 minutes and it was quite “unusual” that no official photograph of the meeting was released by the Presidency.
Speaking at the cabinet meeting, the prime minister termed the present deteriorating economic situation of the country a “war” and vowed to fight it back through hard work and consultations [with allies] to bring some relief to the masses. “Today is very important day as we have come to the power by constitutionally and legally ousting the corrupt PTI government,” he said.
The premier thanked the government allies and said: “This coalition is the most extensive one in the history of Pakistan and I have no doubt that despite your political affiliation and struggle, this coalition will work for the people of Pakistan without any personal biases.”
He said the current government came into being consequent to a no-confidence motion against the former prime minister. He cautioned that there were a number of challenges being faced by the new government such as loadshedding, shortage of gas and oil prices. “You will be briefed about all of them with facts so that we can, together, explore the most beneficial measures for the public.”
Mr Sharif deplored that the country was drowning in debt and it was the government’s job to “sail this ship ashore”. “Dozens of warehouses and factories are closed due to lack of electricity and gas. We need to immediately find solutions. But growth, not politics, was the priority for my cabinet right now.”
Taking his coalition members into confidence, Mr Sharif said the prime minister’s post was theirs. “This is your struggle, your journey. You have to guide me; you have to advise me. This is the only way we can move forward,” he concluded.
Newly appointed Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb at a “meet the press” programme at National Press Club said the cabinet had formed an ECL committee headed by Law Minister Azam Nazir Tarar to review the list swelled during the last PTI government. Cabinet members Syed Naveed Qamar, Asad Mehmood and Ayaz Sadiq are members of the committee.
She said the prime minister had asked the committee to review the ECL and present its report to the cabinet in three days.
A source said it was expected that the names of the prime minister and finance minister and other cabinet members were likely to be removed from the list.
“In the last government, worst political victimisation was committed by PM’s Accountability Cell headed by Shahzad Akbar. Stop list and watch list were operated on the instructions of ex-prime minister Imran Khan,” Ms Aurangzeb added.
She said that more than 27 power plants were non-functional due to lack of fuel supply and most of the senior bureaucrats had told the prime minister that they had stopped working due to fear of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
About inflation, she said the price of a 10kg wheat bag had been reduced to Rs400 from Rs550 for the month of Ramazan, while that of sugar had been set at Rs70 per kg after a decrease of Rs10 at all Utility Stores.
The minister said the Punjab chief secretary had been directed to ensure the implementation of these prices by the provincial government. She said the premier would himself monitor the prices and take stern action in case of violation of his directives.
Ms Aurangzeb said PM Shehbaz had also issued directives for the authorities concerned to ensure the provision of sugar and flour across the country, adding that the Punjab government would supply flour to Azad Kashmir as a gift.
PM meets president
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif called on President Dr Arif Alvi, but unusually the meeting lasted only 15 minutes. Interestingly, the Presidency did not release official photograph of the meeting hinting that it was not held in a “cordial manner”.
A senior official of the Presidency, who did not want to be named, told Dawn that usually such meetings continued for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, Shehbaz Sharif on Wednesday appointed Syed Tariq Fatemi as Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs.
“The prime minister, in terms of rule 4(6) of the Rules of Business, 1973, read with Serial No 1A of Schedule V-A of the said rules, has been pleased to appoint Syed Tariq Fatemi, as special assistant to the prime minister on foreign affairs, with immediate effect,” says a notification issued by the Cabinet Secretariat.
Mr Fatemi had served at the same position during the previous PML-N government under Nawaz Sharif.
Published in Dawn, April 21st, 2022