Budget on June 11 – Cabinet Expresses Solidarity with Victims of N-Waziristan Incident

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Islamabad, May 28 (Staff Reporter+APP): Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan Tuesday said the next budget to be presented on June 11 would focus on moving the economy towards stabilization, reducing fiscal deficit through mobilization of revenue and managing of current account deficit by reducing imports.

Briefing about cabinet decisions here at a press conference, she said expenditure would be brought under control in the upcoming budget setting path for public debt reduction.

Vulnerable sections of society would be protected and top priority would be to reduce financial burden on common people, she added.

Dr Firdous said Advisor to Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh presented before the cabinet outlines of the next budget.

The Special Assistant said further steps would be taken to improve growth prospects and create jobs, adding the provincial governments which through National Finance Commission Award got a major share of resources would be taken on board to tackle the challenges faced on the economic front.

She said ultimately the economic roadmap given by the government stabilized value of rupee against the dollar and put an end to uncertainty and rumours affecting stability of the economy.

Stock exchange had responded positively setting new records, she observed adding the economic measures would ultimately bring down inflation minimizing economic difficulties of the people.

She said the government would announce a comprehensive and well defined trade policy to increase exports, reduce imports and balance the trade deficit.

The focus would be on revival of sick industrial units. In the past, interests of industries were not protected under the Free Trade Agreement with China which created a consumer economy that led to expansion in imports, she added.

The Special Assistant said the latest incident in North Waziristan was unfortunate as the miscreants challenged writ of the state by attacking an army check post and a personnel of Frontier Corps was martyred.

The cabinet condemned the incident and expressed solidarity with the injured and prayed for the departed soul, she added. She said tribesmen had rendered great sacrifices and paid with their lives and now some miscreant elements were putting at stake peace and development of the tribal areas.

Prime Minister Imran Khan led efforts for peace in tribal areas and decided to spend Rs 100 billion for development of infrastructure, she added.

She said a conspiracy was hatched and some elements played in the hands of international powers to endanger peace of the area.

The Prime Minister had persuaded the provinces to give three percent  share of their National Finance Commission award to the erstwhile FATA areas, she added.

Dr Firdous said the cabinet expressed concern over the misuse of content on Internet and increase in incidents of child molestation.

The Interior Ministry was given responsibility to take steps for stopping the rising incidents of child abuse, she added.  The Special Assistant said the Ministries of Law, Human Rights and Interior were asked to re-examine the laws regarding crimes against juvenile and the prime minister was of the view that capital punishment should be given to persons involved in child abuse cases.  She said the cabinet decided to bring into use all available assets of the ministries including 31 of their properties.

The cabinet was told that National Accountability Bureau (NAB) identified and recovered 17 properties from a grade 19 officer in audit department of Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA).

The properties were made from misusing the funds allocated for ERRA to build houses for earthquake affected people. The cabinet also took note of identification of misuse of funds in the Kaachi Canal Project by different departments. A committee headed by Justice (Retd) Tasaduq  Hussain Jillani identified the culprits in its findings but no action was taken. The cabinet referred the matter to Federal Investigation Authority (FIA) which would take action against the culprits within a month.

Dr Firdous said the government was focusing on health issues and the cabinet after discussing the health hazards posed by cigarette smoking, decided to generate more revenue from cigarette industry so that the amount could be spent on prevention measures in health sector. She said the cabinet considered the mechanism for running the hospitals in provinces which were handed over to the Cabinet Division by the Supreme Court. The law, health and finance ministries would devise a budget support mechanism to protect rights of staff working in those hospitals.

She said Saudi King Salman on the request of Prime Minister Imran Khan increased Hajj quota for Pakistanis by 15,790. Earlier the Hajj quota for Pakistanis was 179,210 in which 60% was government quota and 40% quota was given through private Hajj operators. Under the newly given quota, preference would be given to those who had applied for Hajj three times but remained unsuccessful while the remaining quota of 9400 persons would be given on the basis of hardship cases. The prime minister directed that transparency and better facilities should be ensured for pilgrims.

Firdous said this time 20,000 Pakistani pilgrims would be given immigration clearance at Islamabad airport while later on this facility would be made available at other airports.

Dr Firdous said Sharif family never missed the opportunity to target the prime minister and this time too at an event in Lahore they kept their focus on Imran Khan and showed their animosity and envy.

The Sharif family had a flop show in Lahore and their only agenda was to raise hue and cry about the actions taken by NAB against them, she said.

The Sharif family wanted that nobody should ask them from where their money came, how they made properties in foreign countries and why they looted assets of the country, she added.

Pakistanis needed to get united on Youm-e- Takbeer – the day when the country became nuclear super power, she continued.

In an apparent reference to Khawaja Asif, she said a political midget was always talking against the prime minister but he could not raise his political stature with such acts.

She said the credibility of Prime Minister Imran Khan convinced friendly countries to come to assistance of Pakistan resulting in an economy getting stable.

Dr Firdous said if hands of leader of opposition and former finance minister were clear, they should return to Pakistan.

To a question about new tax measures in the budget, she said the government would broaden the tax base as among 55 million bank account holders only few hundred thousand were paying taxes.

While only 300 companies out of those registered with Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) were showing profits.

She said producers and consumers in the economy were paying taxes but middlemen were still avoiding taxes and they would be brought in the tax net to reduce burden on the common man.

Responding to another question, she said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi ran all his campaign on anti-Pakistan rhetoric and fanned extremism.  Pakistan did not invite Modi to the swearing in ceremony of its prime minister, so Modi would also not invite on his oath taking, she added.

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