Show of hands: PM Nawaz backs procedural change in Senate poll

ISLAMABAD: 

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday warmed up to a political foe’s proposal for a constitutional amendment that would replace secret balloting with a show of hands in the Senate elections amid warnings from opposition leaders that any such switch could not be made in time for the March 5 polls.

During a meeting of the federal cabinet the prime minister signalled his approval for such a constitutional amendment – which Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf says is necessary to eliminate vote-buying and discourage political horse-trading.

The decision came after the prime minister showed his reservations over the purported use of money and influence in the upcoming Senate elections.

According to a statement, PM Nawaz wants a panel of legal experts to first examine the legal position for introducing a constitutional amendment. The panel is required to share its recommendations with the prime minister in the next 24 hours.

Two committees comprising Pervaiz Rashid, Khawaja Saad Rafique and Anusha Rahman were formed to coordinate with other mainstream political parties while the second committee includes Ahsan Iqbal, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Governor Mehtab Abbasi and Barrister Zafarullah.

Several leaders of opposition parties denounced the proposed change, saying it has come a bit too late. “It would not be appropriate to bring a constitutional amendment at a time when the election process has already started,” said Awami National Party (ANP) leader Haji Muhammad Adeel. “It seems the decision was taken after the ruling party realised that its people were out of control.”

At the same time, the ANP leader blamed political parties for the current state of affairs, alluding to the final award of party tickets in which relatively new party representatives were chosen over stalwarts.

According to Haji Adeel, the Senate elections should be open instead of via secret ballot.

Senator Farhatullah Babar of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) also cast doubts on whether the changes could be made in time. “Government must come out clean on it [decision of constitutional amendment] and explain how it can implement it when elections are just 10 days away,” he said. “Either the government is naïve or is resorting to political gimmickry.”

According to him, the move was the government’s response to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). “It seems it is a political response to Imran Khan’s demand,” he said.

Answering a question, Babar also said, “We [the PPP] agree that horse-trading should stop.”

On Sunday, PTI chief Imran Khan had renewed his demand for open balloting during the upcoming Senate elections and appealed to all political parties to back his demand.

PTI Information Secretary Dr Shireen Mazari was quick to claim credit for the ruling party’s acceptance of its demand. “It is because of PTI’s demand that the government is now considering a constitutional amendment,” she said.

Yet the PTI leader questioned the sincerity of the government. “The amendment should be passed before the Senate elections and in case the government fails to do so … the government’s announcement should be taken as a political stunt,” she added.

Wasay Jalil of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) said his party would support the move for transparency of the system. Talking to The Express Tribune, he said Khawaja Saad Rafiq had contacted Babar Ghauri and the government side will meet Dr Farooq Sattar for discussion over the proposal.

Under Article 226 of the Constitution, all elections other than those of the prime minister and the chief minister shall be held by secret ballot.

China-Pakistan corridor

The federal cabinet gave approval for the Pak-China economic corridor. “The cabinet also gave its ex-post facto approval to the agreement on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Project cooperation between the Government of People’s Republic of China and the Government of Islamic Republic of Pakistan,” said the statement.

The water and power secretary and petroleum and natural resources secretary gave a detailed presentation to the federal cabinet on energy related issues. The cabinet was informed that LNG based 3,600MW power generation projects would be completed by December 2017.

Upon hearing this PM Nawaz said that action would be taken against all those responsible for any delay in the energy projects as the whole nation is suffering due to energy shortages. He directed that the proposed projects should be completed by February 2017.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 24th, 2015.

Mother and child safety a top priority, says PM Nawaz

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minster Nawaz Sharif said on Friday that mother and child safety through proper immunisation and better nutrition are a major priority for the government.

He was talking to a high-level mission of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) led by GAVI CEO Dr Seth Berkley at the PM House. Other members of the delegation included WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean Dr Ala Alwan and Bill Gates Foundation Global Development Program President Dr Christopher Elias.

The prime minister said that routine immunisation is important and that  provincial governments have been directed to take effective measures for speeding up the process so that the areas lagging behind in immunisation can catch up.

The delegation appreciated the personal interest the prime minister took, and the Health Ministry’s role in the implementation of the polio eradication programme and routine immunisation. They also appreciated the Punjab government for setting a target of 80% coverage in routine immunisation in the province by the end of the year.

Federal Minister for Health Saira Afzal Tarar informed the premier that the confusion regarding procurement of vaccines in the aftermath of the 18th Amendment has recently been cleared and now the federal government will procure vaccines through a National Procurement Committee composed of representatives from all provinces. She said this would not only streamline the system but also save Rs1 billion annually.

Talking about the polio eradication initiative, she said a concrete and robust plan has been put in place and its proper implementation would bring about drastic reduction in polio cases.

The WHO representative informed the meeting that 25% reduction can be brought about in child mortality in Pakistan through immunisation and 30% cases of child mortality can be prevented through better nutrition.

The prime minister said these two are closely linked to each other and concerned provincial government departments should work in coordination with the Ministry of Health to overcome the challenges. He said international best practices should be replicated in Pakistan to achieve better results.

The delegation appreciated the ministry of health for taking the bold step of increasing tobacco health warnings.

Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal also attended the meeting.

Mother and child safety a top priority, says PM Nawaz

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minster Nawaz Sharif said on Friday that mother and child safety through proper immunisation and better nutrition are a major priority for the government.

He was talking to a high-level mission of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) led by GAVI CEO Dr Seth Berkley at the PM House. Other members of the delegation included WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean Dr Ala Alwan and Bill Gates Foundation Global Development Program President Dr Christopher Elias.

The prime minister said that routine immunisation is important and that  provincial governments have been directed to take effective measures for speeding up the process so that the areas lagging behind in immunisation can catch up.

The delegation appreciated the personal interest the prime minister took, and the Health Ministry’s role in the implementation of the polio eradication programme and routine immunisation. They also appreciated the Punjab government for setting a target of 80% coverage in routine immunisation in the province by the end of the year.

Federal Minister for Health Saira Afzal Tarar informed the premier that the confusion regarding procurement of vaccines in the aftermath of the 18th Amendment has recently been cleared and now the federal government will procure vaccines through a National Procurement Committee composed of representatives from all provinces. She said this would not only streamline the system but also save Rs1 billion annually.

Talking about the polio eradication initiative, she said a concrete and robust plan has been put in place and its proper implementation would bring about drastic reduction in polio cases.

The WHO representative informed the meeting that 25% reduction can be brought about in child mortality in Pakistan through immunisation and 30% cases of child mortality can be prevented through better nutrition.

The prime minister said these two are closely linked to each other and concerned provincial government departments should work in coordination with the Ministry of Health to overcome the challenges. He said international best practices should be replicated in Pakistan to achieve better results.

The delegation appreciated the ministry of health for taking the bold step of increasing tobacco health warnings.

Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal also attended the meeting.

Visitors from Europe: Nawaz takes up Kashmir issue with EU delegation

ISLAMABAD: 

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said the Kashmir issue should be resolved according to the wishes of the Kashmiri people in line with the UN Security Council resolutions.

He made the remark during his meeting with a delegation of European Parliament at the PM House Tuesday morning. The group, which was on its first formal visit to Pakistan during the present government’s tenure, comprised Lars Gunbar Wigemark, Jean Lambort, Richard Howitt, Michael Galhar and Sajjad Karim.

PM Nawaz noted that the country has benefitted from GSP Plus Scheme as our exports to EU have jumped to around billion.

He said Pakistan is deeply interested in its engagement with the European Parliament and emphasised that a mechanism for regular consultations between the two parliaments needs to be devised. The country attaches great importance to its relations with the European Union, he added.

While talking about fighting terrorism the premier said, “We are committed to eradicating the menace of terrorism from our soil.”

UK minister meets premier

Meanwhile, Rt Hon Francis Maude, British Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General, also called on PM Nawaz.

While welcoming him the prime minister said bilateral relations between the two countries are based on sound footing and rooted in shared history.

The premier expressed satisfaction on the overall upward trajectory of Pakistan-UK cooperation, saying frequent high-level exchanges and regular consultations between the two are a hallmark of this relationship.

Talking about Pakistan’s civil service structure, norms and practices the premier said they are largely a continuation of those that the British introduced in the Subcontinent but there is an urgent need to make the civil service more attuned and responsive to the present challenges and realities.

NA Speaker meets EU team

Speaker National Assembly Sardar Ayaz Sadiq explained to the European delegation the background of 21st Constitutional Amendment to set up military courts which he said was a “stop-gap” arrangement for two years.

“The extraordinary move was taken to counter extraordinary circumstances,” he said.

The Speaker said that these courts were time-bound and were intended to be a “stop-gap” arrangement with a two-year mandate, as envisaged by the National Action Plan [NAP], said a statement issued by NA secretariat

Published in The Express Tribune, February 18th, 2015.

Karachi sojourn: PM Nawaz to chair meetings on Karachi issues

LAHORE: 

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will chair a meeting on the law and order situation and attend a briefing on the Karachi operation during his visit to the port city today (Monday).

Senior party members in Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) told The Express Tribune that PM Nawaz would also get information on the Baldia Town incident and meet the MQM leadership.

“PM Nawaz Sharif will chair a meeting on law and order first and then get a briefing on the results of the operation against criminal gangs in Karachi. He will then go to Governor House where he will hold important meetings,” a senior party official said.

A meeting with PML-N MPAs in Sindh Assembly is scheduled in the afternoon, he said.

“We have been informed that PM will be in the city on Monday and he will meet with the MPAs. We will give our input on whatever issues are discussed in the meetings,” PML-N Sindh chapter president Ismail Rahu told The Express Tribune.

PML-N has eight MPAs in the Sindh Assembly and it has nominated Syed Zafar Ali Shah as its candidate for the Senate. A party official said that PM Nawaz will also discuss strategy regarding the Senate elections in Sindh with the party office bearers.

Three PML-N members who represent Karachi — Nehal Hashmi, Salim Zia and Mushahidullah Khan — have been awarded Senate tickets from Punjab. This reflects the PM’s faith in the party in Karachi and Sindh, he said.

As far as Baldia Town incident is concerned, the Joint Investigation Team conducted the inquiry, he said. Officials from different institutions were in the team and it was conducted independently. Those responsible for the incident will not be spared.

“It is not possible that you hunt down terrorists on mountains and let them operate in cities freely,” the PML-N office bearer said.

While all MPAs of PML-N in Sindh have been informed about the PM’s visit, but they don’t know what the agenda of their meeting with PM was.

“I have been informed that PM will meet MPAs at the Governor House, but don’t know what issues would be taken up at the meeting. The PM himself has said justice would be served in case of the Baldia Town incident. We will give our input if he asks for it,” said Humayun Muhammad Khan, a PML-N MPA in the Sindh Assembly.

PML-N Sindh Senior Vice President Saleem Zia, who has been awarded a Senate ticket from Punjab, said that though he would be with the PM in Karachi he was not aware of the agenda of those meetings.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 16th, 2015.

Focus less on ratings, more on helping govt implement NAP: Nawaz tells media



LAHORE: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said on Saturday that the media should assist the government in implementing the National Action Plan (NAP) against terrorism, Express News reported.

Addressing a ceremony of the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors in Lahore, the premier said that instead of only focusing on improving ratings, the country’s media should unite on national issues and work towards resolving them for the next two years.

“The media plays a key role in the development of a country and its independence is as important as the independence of the judiciary,” the premier stressed.

Spelling out the responsibilities of the institution, the prime minister said that the media should refrain from disrespecting anyone and should report impartially. He said it should fix a code of conduct for itself, and the government would extend its cooperation in this regard.

Appreciating the work of journalists, Prime Minister Nawaz said they have always supported democracy and have always helped the government in difficult times. “I continue respecting those journalists who abide by the Constitution” he added.

Speaking about sit-ins held across the country, the premier said he never understood their purpose, adding that they badly affected the economy of Pakistan

“One of the grieved protesters has already left the country,” he said, referring to Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Tahirul Qadri.

Baldia factory fire

The prime minister assured that the investigation of the Baldia Town incident would be completed soon. He confirmed he would visit Karachi on Monday in this regard.

Premier welcomes Indian Foreign Secretary to Pakistan

The prime minister also said he would welcome the Indian foreign secretary on his visit to Pakistan, adding that he would discuss the Kashmir dispute with the official.


High-profile cases: NAB challenges quashing of cases against Nawaz



QUETTA: 

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has filed two appeals in the Lahore High Court regarding two previous corruption cases against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the bureau’s chairman, Qamar Zaman Chaudhry, said during a news briefing in Quetta on Friday.

“The LHC had recently given a verdict on NAB cases against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. However, NAB has challenged the verdict about quashing the cases against Nawaz Sharif,” he added. “No one is above the law.”

The NAB chairman said the country’s top anti-graft watchdog is investigating the corruption cases against former chief minister Nawab Aslam Raisani and some 10 former provincial ministers of Balochistan.  “NAB is collecting concrete evidence in order to prove the charges of corruption,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 14th, 2015.


Modi phones PM Nawaz



ISLAMABAD: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi telephoned Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Friday morning, Express News reported.

Regional issues were discussed during the 10-minute-long conversation.

The phone call from the Indian premier came after a telephonic conversation between US President Barack Obama and PM Nawaz.

Obama had informed the premier about his recent visit to India and inquired about the ongoing military operation Zarb-e-Azb.

This is a developing story and will be updated accordingly.


Nawaz pushes Obama on NSG membership for Pakistan



Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif once again took up Pakistan’s case for Nuclear Supplier Group membership with the US after President Barack Obama called the Pakistani premier late on Thursday.

According to the PM House, the two leaders spoke for almost half an hour via telephone.

President Obama updated Nawaz about his recent visit to India, while Nawaz briefed the latter about Operation Zarb-e-Azb.

While appreciating Pakistan’s growing cordial relations with Afghanistan, the US president also lauded Pakistan’s effort to counter terrorism and successfully launching a military operation in North Waziristan.

Opposing the idea of India getting a permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), Nawaz said that India should not become a permanent member of UNSC since it has been violating UN resolutions on Kashmir.


Nawaz exhorts countries participating in TAPI to expedite pipeline construction



ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has asked countries part of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline to expedite construction to keep costs low.

While addressing a meeting on the project at the PM House on Wednesday, the prime minister said that the project was important for all countries in the region, and Pakistan is keen that it is expedited.

He emphasised that the states concerned should take all steps necessary to start the project as soon as possible since its cost would only increase with the passage of time.

“We have pinned lots of hopes with this project and want it completed as soon as possible,” a statement released from the PM House read.

TAPI is a 1,680km long pipeline project with design capacity to supply 3.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per annum (Bcfd) from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

Director, State Agency for Management & Use of Hydrocarbon Resources in Turkmenistan Yagshgeldi Kakayev, Afghan Minister for Mines and Petroleum Daoudshah Saba, Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas, India Dharmendra Pradhan and DG Asian Development Bank Manila, Philippines Klaus Gerhaeusser, among others attended the meeting.

The visiting ministers of member countries also shared their views, calling it a win-win project for all the countries. The meeting agreed that a Consortium leader would be finalised soon.