Prime Minister Imran Khan chaired a meeting of the Federal Cabinet in Islamabad on Tuesday, 30 November.
The meeting discussed the country’s overall economic and political situation and approved several developments and regulations, keeping in view the near-term outlook for progress as November draws to a close.
Federal Minister, Asad Umar, briefed the cabinet on the new variant of COVID-19, Omicron. The meeting was informed that the new variant originated in Africa. According to initial reports, the rate of spread is very high.
The cabinet called for the implementation of COVID-19 SoPs such as the use of masks in public places, social distancing, and vaccinations for public safety. Keeping the transparency in view, the cabinet directed the concerned departments to clarify the audit report on the package for COVID-19.
The cabinet was briefed regarding the introduction of electronic voting machines and the empowerment of Overseas Pakistanis to vote. Federal Minister Shibli Faraz gave a briefing on procurement of Electronic Voting Machines, training of staff, responsibilities of concerned agencies, public awareness campaign, and timely delivery.
The cabinet expressed grave concerns over the release of a video of alleged vote-buying during the by-elections in NA-133. The cabinet said such illegal actions were anti-democratic.
The Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue, Shaukat Tarin, presented a comparative review of the prices of essential commodities to the Federal Cabinet. As per revised statistics, it was revealed that the weekly inflation fell to 0.67 percent, and at the same time, the prices of 5 commodities have seen a declining trend.
The cabinet was informed that apart from the prices of ghee and tea leaves in the region, prices of all other household items were lower in Pakistan. These items include flour, grams, dal mash, dal mung, tomato, onion, chicken, and petrol.
The cabinet was informed that the prices of flour, sugar, lentils, and gram lentils in Sindh are much higher than in other provinces. While on the topic, the cabinet expressed grave concerns over the rising prices of essential commodities in Sindh.
The Petroleum Division briefed the cabinet on the vacancies of MD and CEO in the organizations under the division. The cabinet was informed that at present, 4 posts were vacant, for which the appointment process is in progress.
The Committee on Energy had recommended the Gas Load Management Plan for Winter 2021-22 and the setting up of the Oil Depot at Kemari Karachi. The cabinet ratified the decisions taken at the meeting of the Committee on Energy held on 18 November 2021.
Gas Load Management Plan for Winter 2021-22
The meeting participants decided that domestic gas will be reserved for domestic consumers only because of its low cost. The remaining miscellaneous items on the agenda were as follows:
- The CNG sector will be closed from 1 December 2021 to 15 February 2022
- Gas supply to Independent Power Producers (IPPs) and fertilizer factories will continue.
- Gas supply to export sector industries will continue.
- Power plants running on LNG will be provided 5% additional gas.
- Electricity prices have been reduced for domestic consumers in winter
(Rs. 12.96 per kWh) to meet the gas shortage.
- Gas saved from CNG, Cement and Captive Power will be used for domestic consumption.
- A public awareness campaign is being launched to save gas.
Subsequently, on the recommendations and directions of the Aviation Ministry, the cabinet approved the renewal of aviation licenses of M/S Serene Air, M/S Airblue, M/S PIACL, and M/S PrincelyJets under the National Aviation Policy 2019.
Further, on the recommendations of the Ministry of Aviation, the cabinet approved the delimitation of high-rise buildings around airports under the Civil Aviation Authority Rules. In this regard, it was informed that the height limit of buildings in the Islamabad Blue Area had been fixed at 1,000 feet. The decision will also help prevent the rampant spread of urban boundaries, save vegetation and preserve agricultural land.
Separately, on the recommendations of the Ministry of Commerce, the cabinet allowed the staff stationed at the Pakistani Embassy in Tehran to import personal vehicles on repatriation under the Hardship Policy.
Also, as suggested by the Commerce Ministry, the cabinet approved the import of Montanide Oil from France for the treatment of Foot-and-Mouth disease in cattle in Punjab.
Consequently, on the recommendation of the Ministry of Interior, the cabinet approved to increase the visa period from 120 days to 150 days for those from Tablighi Jamaat coming to Pakistan from foreign countries. It was also decided to grant 45 days Visa on Arrival for the Tablighi Jamaat. Visas can be obtained through the online visa portal.
On the other hand, the cabinet participants, on the recommendation of the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis, postponed approval to issue Overseas Employment Promoter Licenses. The cabinet directed for a procedure to be worked out within a week to review the work of these promoters. Special care should be taken that promoters should not be illegally charging extra money from those traveling abroad, it was stated.
Cabinet approved procedure for appointment of the Employees Old-Age Benefits Institution (EOBI) Chairman. This appointment will be carried out under the Competitive Process of Management Position Scale Policy 2020.
Moreover, the cabinet ratified the decisions taken at the meeting of the Committee on Institutional Reforms held on 12 November 2021. The meeting recommended the reorganization of the Pakistan Gems and Jewelry Development Company.
On the recommendation of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, the cabinet approved the setting up of a selection board for the appointment of Chairman ITNE and Chairman Press Council of Pakistan.
The Selection Board for Chairman ITNE will consist of the Minister of Information, Secretary Information, Additional Secretary Information, Grade 21 Representatives of Establishment Division, and Ministry of Law.
The Selection Board for the Chairman Press Council of Pakistan will consist of the Minister of Information, Secretary Information, Additional Secretary Information, Representatives of the Establishment Division, and Ministry of Law.
Federal Minister for Industries and Production gave a detailed briefing to the cabinet on the current stock and prices of fertilizers in the country.
The cabinet meeting was informed that this year, the fertilizer companies released 53 percent more fertilizer to the dealers in Sindh compared to the previous year, due to which there was a shortage of urea in Punjab and other areas, and the price had gone up.
However, on the directions of the Prime Minister, measures were taken against hoarders and to reduce this disparity, which resulted in an average reduction of Rs. 400 per sack. At present, a sack of urea is available in Gujranwala for Rs. 1,850.
There is also a surplus of 200,000 tons of fertilizer compared to the domestic demand.
Additionally, it was informed that an online portal had been set up to monitor the supply of fertilizers through which, the federal government, provinces, and administrations of all districts can monitor the movement and stock of fertilizers.
It bears mentioning that since November 13, Punjab has taken several steps to curb the hoarding of fertilizers. Among them, 347 FIRs, 244 arrests, 21,111 inspections, 480 warehouse seals, and fines of Rs. 2.79 crore has been imposed. In addition, control rooms have been set up in each district where complaints related to the shortage of fertilizers, hoarding, and profiteering can be lodged. Checkpoints have been set up at provincial borders to curb smuggling.
The meeting was informed that amendments are being made to the relevant laws against hoarding and profiteering in which informants will be rewarded in proportion to the confiscated property.
On the geopolitical level of affairs, the meeting members discussed and approved 50,000 tons of wheat aid to Afghanistan.
Besides the above, the cabinet approved the appointment of Muhammad Saleem as Chairman Privatization Commission. The cabinet also ratified the decisions taken at the meeting of the Economic Co-ordination Committee held on November 29, 2021.
In extension, the meeting participants also discussed and approved to hold a special meeting of OIC Foreign Ministers in Pakistan.