ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf has said that the government is cognizant of its constitutional and political obligations and once again reiterated his government’s resolve to hold free and fair elections in time.Addressing the 11th meeting of Council of Common Interests (CCI) here on Wednesday‚ he said, “we believe in the strengthening of institutions in their own spheres,” adding that with the collective wisdom of federal as well as provincial governments‚ democracy is gaining strength in the country. The National and Provincial Assemblies will be completing their tenure successfully within a few weeks.He said that the nation is approaching towards general elections‚ going to be held within a couple of months. The government is committed to hold free‚ fair and transparent elections in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution and laws on the subject.The absence of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif from the meeting, who was represented by Punjab Minister for Law Rana Sanaullah, fully exposed the existing tension between the two mainstream political parties.Due to the absence of Shahbaz the issue of finalization of the elections date and decision on dissolution of both federal and provincial assemblies could not be taken up for detailed discussion.The CCI gave approval to a number of matters including regularization of lady health visitors services.The Prime Minister also directed the Ministry of Finance to process the request of Government of Sindh for providing sovereign guarantee to the Chinese company interested in mining of Thar Coal and setting up a power plant. The Finance Ministry informed the meeting that the request was being processed by the Ministry and would be put up before the next meeting of Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet.The meeting was also informed that out of the 3 million incandescent bulbs (Energy Saver) one million were expected in March this year which would be distributed among the consumers.The council also discussed in detail the issue of recoveries from the provincial government on account of electricity provided to them by the Distribution Companies.All the Provinces assured the Council of paying the actual amount and disputed the claims raised by the Federation.Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf said that the issues of recoverable was very important as the federal government has till date injected Rs 186 billion in the power sector this year. Unless the provinces and consumers paid the bills it would be difficult to maintain supply of power, he observed.The Prime Minister constituted a committee comprising Federal Ministers, Syed Khursheed Shah and Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh to reconcile the figures between Federal government and provinces and develop a mechanism to ensure that there is no discrepancy in figures in the future.The CCI also took up the issue of regularization of services of Lady Health Workers. It was decided that Federal Government regularize their services and cover till 2017.The representatives of provinces assured the Council that they would ensure that sugar mills paid the dues to the growers.Chairman Railways Board, Arif Azim in his overview about the current situation of Railways sensitized the Council about the problems facing Pakistan Railways.The Chairman in his briefing to the Council said that presently 152 locomotives are in operation and it is expected that an additional 302 locomotives, which are in pipeline would be added to the Railways fleet by the end of this year. The Prime Minister said, “We give respect to all democratic forces‚ the proof of which is amicable solution of the issue of Long March. The Government took a lot of care of the participants of the Long March‚ engaged them in peaceful dialogue with open heart. Resultantly‚ the Long March ended in a peaceful way.”He said that the CCI in its earlier meetings discussed important issues of national importance and took decision with consensus through active participation of federating units. The Council considered as many as 64 issues presented by the federation as well as the provinces. Most of its decisions have been implemented and quite a few are in various phases of implementation. Its second annual report will be placed before the parliament.The council of common interests at its meeting today will discuss the issues relating to Pakistan Railways and delayed payments to sugarcane growers.