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By Zaheer Abbasi | Nuzhat Nazar

ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet was informed that prices of essential commodities have been on the decline for the second consecutive week. It envisaged that a 30 percent subsidy through ration cards from January 2022 would provide further relief on essential items to the low-income group.

This was told by Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhary at a media briefing after the meeting of the federal cabinet presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday.

The minister said that for the second consecutive week essential commodities prices were on a decline and 30 percent discount to the low-income group on essential commodities through ration cards from January 2022 would provide them further relief.

He said that 20kg flour bag is being sold at Rs1,100 except in Karachi and Hyderabad and sugar is being sold at Rs90 and its price would further decline by Rs4 to Rs5 per kg.

He further stated that regional comparison shows that prices of essential commodities except tea are lowest in Pakistan. He said that the meeting was informed that farmers earned additional Rs400 billion in one year.

He said that a detailed briefing was given on five major crops. He said 70 percent of the DAP is being imported and the government had no control on its price; however, urea is being sold at Rs1,800 against the international market price of Rs8,000 to Rs9,000, and smugglers can earn around Rs6.2 million by smuggling one truck of urea out of the country.

Prices of essential commodities showing declining trend: Fawad

He said that there are bumper crops of wheat, sugarcane, maize, cotton, and rice in the country, adding minister Fakhar Imam would brief the nation in a day or two.

He said that the cabinet believes that Sialkot incident is against the teachings of Islam; therefore, it is being condemned in the strongest words. He added that Punjab government was directed by the prime minister and the federal cabinet to start the process of trial of the people arrested in the incident, at the earliest, so that they could be awarded punishment.

He said that the state of Pakistan is bound to provide all the rights to the minorities, adding Pakistan is not India, and the society and the government’s reaction show that it is entirely different from India and other countries where such incidents take place.

He said that such incidents have been happening daily against Muslims and nothing was done. He said the way that Pakistani society and the government reacted to the incident after the APS, paved the way for taking strong action against the perpetrators, which for some reasons could not be taken in the past.

The information minister said that the federal cabinet was given a briefing on the electronic voting machines (EVMs) and the government is very clear that the ECP must do all the things for its satisfaction in this regard.

The minister said that the best way would be for the ECPs to initiate tender as per its 27 conditions with regard to the EVM to conduct free and fair elections.

He said that the government was unable to understand the logic of the opposition parties with regard to resistance in giving right of voting to the overseas Pakistanis because all the overseas Pakistanis would not vote for the ruling party.

He said that the government would strengthen every institution that works for accountability, and the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), whose members have held a meeting with the prime minister a couple of days ago, would also be strengthened.

Fawad Chaudhary said Pakistan is trying to provide assistance to the people of Afghanistan on humanitarian grounds and 250,000 metric tons of wheat is being dispatched to Afghanistan including 50,000 metric tons from the World Food Programme. He said that import duty on 400 items has also been abolished to facilitate the people of Afghanistan.

Essential commodities: PM concerned at hoarding, smuggling

The minister said that the federal cabinet has ratified the ECC decisions of November 22 and December 1, 2021, which also included OMC and dealers margin. The Planning Division and the National Heritage and Culture Division briefed the Cabinet on the vacancies of MD and CEO in the subsidiaries.

The Planning Division informed the Cabinet that at present there are four vacancies which are being filled. The National Heritage and Culture Division informed the Cabinet that at present, there are only two vacancies which are being filled.

To facilitate the people of Afghanistan, the cabinet allowed air travel from Pakistan on humanitarian grounds. Afghans will now be able to travel easily to other countries from Pakistan’s airports. The Cabinet, on the recommendation of the Ministry of Energy, approved to delegate to the board the authority to decide the privileges of CEO Gujranwala Electric Power Company (GEPCO).

The Cabinet, on the recommendation of the Ministry of Energy, approved the appointment of Qazi Muhammad Tahir as CEO of Tribal Areas Electric Supply Company (Tribal Areas Electricity Supply Co.).

The Cabinet on the recommendation of the Ministry of Science and Technology, approved that Syed Atta-ur-Rehman (PAS BS-21) to be given additional charge of Director General of Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority for three months or till appointment of a permanent director general.

The cabinet approves appointment of Hanan Akram as private member on PPRA Board. The Cabinet ratified the decisions taken at the meeting of the Privatization Committee held on 22 November 2021. It was recommended to set up a sub-committee under the supervision of the Privatization Committee.

The federal cabinet also approved partial exemption from the PPRA regulations on import of 100,000 tonnes of urea to meet the urea requirements of the Trading Corporation of Pakistan.

This article was first published in Business Recorder on Dec 8, 2021.