Fawad Chaudhry says EVM, internet voting a key to poll reforms


ISLAMABAD: The govt on Tuesday made it clear that electronic voting machines (EVMs) and I-voting facilities for overseas Pakistanis are an imperative part of electoral reforms.

Speaking at a news conference after a federal cabinet meeting, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said Prime Minister Imran Khan had directed his adviser on parliamentary affairs Dr. Babar Awan and Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan to carry talks with the opposition on the 2 fundamental issues linked with electoral reforms.

Mr. Chaudhry said the govt was also able to discuss these issues during a joint session of the parliament.

He welcomed the talks between the govt and therefore the opposition within the parliament and said these should move forward. “…. we welcome talks with the opposition, but these must not be to waste or gain time but should make a headway. These matters should be concluded”.

The information minister said the remittances sent by the overseas Pakistanis played a big role within the country’s economy as these enabled the govt to deal with a difficult situation. “It would be an excellent injustice if they (overseas Pakistanis) are excluded from the country’s form of government,” he said.

Mega corruption of Rs1,000bn in 2013 road contracts unearthed, says Fawad

About EVMs, he said that 70 percent of election-related disputes cropped up after the conclusion of polling. “EVMs offer an answer thereto,” he stressed.

Mr. Chaudhry said 20 EVMs were being acquired from a personal company and hoped that after a month these machines would be utilized in major elections.

Replying to an issuethe knowledge minister said if the case against PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif was heard on a day to day and on merit, he could get a 25-year jail term in six months.

The minister hoped that the case against Mr. Sharif would be bound up soon. “People of Pakistan want recovery of looted money from the Sharifs,” he remarked.

He disclosed that a mega corruption case involving a loss of Rs1,000 billion had been unearthed. He said the contracts for the construction of roads awarded in 2013 were twice in cost as the expenditure on similar projects in 2021, despite a rise in the prices of fabric. He said the National Highway Authority was now building roads by spending Rs100 million per kilometer but it cost in 2013.

He said Communications Minister Murad Saeed had briefed the relevant committee on the scam and action had been planned against those involved in the corruption.

Highrise building

Mr. Chaudhry said the cupboard observed that the condition of seeking a no-objection certificate from the Civil Aviation Authority for construction of high rise buildings near airports in big cities should be done away with.

Observing that the policy of encouraging the vertical spread of buildings had not been implemented as desired, a cupboard committee had been formed to seem into difficulties during this regard.

The committee headed by Minister for Planning, Development, and Special Initiatives Asad Umar would give its findings within every week.

Private moon sighting

According to the knowledge minister, the cupboard approved replacement legislation on the Ruet-i-Hilal Committee under which it might now ban private announcements regarding moon sightings.

A proposal for a five-year jail term for violators floated by the Ministry of spiritual Affairs was rejected by the cupboard which decided to confine the punishment to the imposition of a fine.

Besides the federal level, Ruet-i-Hilal committees would be formed at the provincial and district level and for the primary time, the Ministry of Science, Ministry of spiritual Affairs, the Met Department, and Sparco are given representation within the committees.

Economic indicators

The minister said the cupboard was told that there had been a rise of $5.4 billion in foreign remittances and therefore the revenue collection had risen to Rs858bn within the first two months of the present fiscal, showing a rise of 42.3pc.

Likewise, he said, during an appointment given to the cupboard on economic indicators, it had been noted that there had been an encouraging growth in agriculture, manufacturing, and services sectors. Similarly, the exchange reserves have reached a record level of $27.2bn, a rise of 36pc.

The minister said a rise of $4.6bn or 35pc had been seen in exports also. However, he conceded that there had been an increase in the prices of imported items. There was an upward trend in oil prices within the international market hence the rise in prices of imported commodities.

He said the income levels, particularly in the agriculture sector, had increased. The cotton crop was better this year than the last year and other crops were also good resulting in a clear improvement in a rural economy, he said.

However, the minister noted that in cities, where imported items were used, prices had gone up.

He said the control of the phone Industries of Pakistan had been transferred to the National Radio and Telecommunication Corporation and therefore the jobs of its 158 employees had been protected.

E-visa service

According to the knowledge minister, the cupboard also approved the expansion of E-visa facility to citizens of 191 countries. Earlier, it had been available to only 50 countries, he said and added that the move was aimed toward encouraging investment and tourism.

He said the cupboard approved resignation of Mehmood Molvi of the board of Karachi Port Trust and appointed Saud Alam Hashmi in his place for the remaining term. the cupboard approved new prices of 34 drugs.

The cabinet also approved Business and Human Rights Action Plan aimed to deal with adverse right impacts resulting from business, including child labour, making Pakistan the primary South Asian country to possess this plan.

He said the plan would apply to all or any businesses, binding them to respect human rights by ensuring equal opportunities and doing away with discrimination.

The minister said the cupboard approved grant of humanitarian aid to Indonesia in reference to Covid-19 pandemic as a goodwill gesture from the people of Pakistan for the friendly nation.

The decisions recently made by the Economic Coordination Committee of the cupboard and therefore the agenda of the committee on institutional reforms were also ratified by the cupboard .

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