Subsidised ration programme from next month, says Fawad


ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet Tuesday decided that from January, a ration programme would be started, under which 30 per cent subsidy would be given to those earning less than Rs31,000 per month.

Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain briefed the media about the federal cabinet meeting, presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan, and replied reporters’ questions.

He said the cabinet was given a comparative briefing on the prices of essential commodities and it transpired that during the past two weeks, Sensitive Price Index (SPI) had shown downward trend.

Fawad said those getting benefit from the scheme would get flour on less than the price in 2018. He appreciated the Sindh government for taking some steps to control daily use items’ prices in Karachi and Hyderabad. Now, a bag of 20-kg wheat flour was being sold at Rs1,456 in Karachi and at Rs1,316 in Hyderabad while it was available in the rest of the country at Rs1,100.

Likewise, he said per kilogram sugar was available at Rs90 across the country except Karachi and Islamabad, where the sweetener was being sold at Rs97 per kg, whereas up to Rs4 per kg reduction in the sugar price was also expected in the coming days.

Fawad said vegetable oil was being sold at Rs399 per kg across the country. Though, it was included in the list of essential items, being imported from abroad and if its price would increase in international market, definitely, it would also have impact in Pakistan.

He said it was ridiculous to criticise the government on drawing comparison of Pakistan with regional countries on inflation. “We are not drawing comparison of the country with France and UK; rather it is being compared with Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India and except tea, every commodity including wheat flour, lentils, sugar, onion, tomato, chicken, eggs, fresh milk and even petrol was cheaper in Pakistan as compared to other regional countries,” he noted.

The minister contended that it should be appreciated instead of pursuing a specific propaganda as we are not living on a separate planet and that the comparison with the regional countries was aimed at sensitising the masses about realities around the world.

He said there had been inflation in the country for salaried class, but there was a need to adjust with the situation: there has been an additional income of Rs400 billion in agriculture sector this year and that the comparison could be done in contemporary times instead of past; There is need to draw comparison of income and expenditures to know the exact situation.

The minister said the cabinet strongly condemned the lynching of a Sri Lankan manager in Sialkot and noted it was against Islamic teachings and tantamount to distorting the image of Pakistan.

The cabinet paid tribute to the bravery of Malik Adnan, who risked his life to save the Sri Lankan manager from the mob.

He said prime minister and the cabinet directed the Punjab government to start the trial of the arrested accused as soon as possible and take steps to punish them. He emphasised that the Islamic Republic of Pakistan was committed to protecting the rights of every individual belonging to minorities.

Fawad said the way Pakistan’s society and government have reacted to the tragedy showed “we are very different from India and some other countries”. He said that in India, such incidents against Muslims happen on a daily basis, but its government was reluctant to take any action against the culprits.

“The whole nation is united on the Sialkot incident. Earlier, it was the APS tragedy that every citizen was condemning that incident,” the minister maintained.

Fawad Ch said the opposition was committing ‘political suicide’ by participating in a campaign, launched by some elements against the provision of voting rights to the overseas Pakistanis. He remarked, “It appears that only the PTI is responsible for welfare of the overseas Pakistanis, but the fact is that entire diaspora is not associated with the party”.

He said it was beyond his comprehension that the Pakistan People’s Party and Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz were taking part in a campaign launched to deny vote right to 10 million expatriates whose families live in Pakistan, and he believed the move could also antagonise the expatriates.

Fawad emphasised that almost the entire family of Nawaz Sharif was also abroad and Hassan and Hussain Nawaz might have torn Pakistani passport, but they would get an opportunity to vote for their father’s party if expats were given voting right.

He continued that Bilawal Bhutto’s objection over the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the elections was also beyond understanding as he had lived abroad for many years. Fawad added the stance of the PTI was that the opposition should first understand the EVMs working and then give their opinion on the matter.

The minister said they should take some time out to understand the system, as it was unrealistic to criticise the initiative without getting any insight. He added the ECP had already given 27 recommendations for the EVMs, so it should issue tenders on the same conditions and ask the manufacturers to follow the same while the objective of the introduction of EVMs was to make election process free and fair.

Federal Minister for Science and Technology Shibli Faraz gave a detailed briefing to the cabinet on the schedule regarding delivery and use of EVMs to all polling stations in the country and training of staff.

The cabinet expressed its determination to hold the next elections through EVMs after implementation of electronic voting machines and laws to give voting rights to Pakistanis abroad.

The minister said members of the PTI in the Public Accounts Committee met the prime minister recently and it was decided to strengthen all the institutions that could bring transparency in the governance. He noted a committee had been constituted comprising Adviser Finance Shaukat Tarin, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar and PTI Chief Whip Amir Dogar to suggest steps for strengthening the PAC.

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