We need to swallow bitter pills, PM tells ministers

No decision on wheat export: PM Shehbaz

Shehbaz Sharif says he will not tolerate delaying tactics in implementation of downsizing agenda. Urges cabinet members to accept challenges and delivern Federal cabinet approves dissolution of Pakistan PWD. Grants one-year extension to 1.45m Afghan refugees legally staying in Pakistan.

ISLAMABAD   -  Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif Wednesday warned against any laxity in the implementation of the government’s downsizing agenda and asked the federal ministries to work hard for making a difference and meeting the nation’s expectations.

“I will not allow my time to waste and I am sure you will not allow your time to be wasted. The only thing that will make the difference is action and implementation. Roll up your sleeves as this is a matter of country, its resources and resolution of its issues,” the prime minister said in his remarks while chairing the meeting of the federal cabinet.

Apprising the members of his visits to Tajikistan and Kazakhstan, he referred to his interactions with world leaders particularly Russian President Vladimir Putin, and said he had formed a committee under Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal for follow-ups.

Similarly, he said he had chaired a meeting a couple of days ago to review the progress on the follow-up of “very productive” discussions with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Qiang during his China visit and would hold another meeting on July 20.

The prime minister said the government had launched solarisation of 28,000 tube-wells in Balochistan to save bleeding of annual Rs 80 billion. He also appreciated the Balochistan chief minister and other relevant ministries and departments for taking the project to the implementation stage.

He told the meeting that the finance ministry had been tasked to work out a business plan for solarisation of a million tube-wells in the country which were currently running on imported fuel, putting a burden of $3.5 billion in the form of foreign exchange.

The prime minister highlighted that Pakistan had immense solar energy potential which must be exploited to save energy costs and provide low-cost electricity to the farmers.

“Time is running fast and we are racing against time. You have to accept the challenge and deliver. You will become the nation’s heroes...  if you bring about a revolution of development in your ministries. For this, we will have to work day and night,” he remarked.

Coming to the downsizing agenda, the prime minister categorically said that he would not listen against the closure of PWD as the government had also found an alternative solution on the pattern of Punjab. He said the two-week time he had given for PWD’s closure, was already over.

“I will not tolerate if any ministry used delaying tactics. Please make no mistake about it. It is okay if there is any valid reason for any subsidiary but protecting any entity for the sake of perks and privileges is a thing of the past, not today. It will not happen and it must not happen,” he remarked.

The prime minister also highlighted that Pakistan spends $5 billion on freight of exports and imports but Pakistan National Shipping Corporation was running a fleet of just 12 ships while getting Rs5 billion for salaries. This is contrary to around 600 ships being run by Bangladesh and around 1500 ships by India.

“But no one cares. At least they should have flagged the issues to seek their resolution,” he said and also referred to the evasion of import duties worth Rs1200 billion on Karachi Port.

He told the meeting that on Tuesday, the government had announced a Rs 50 billion relief package to support the power consumers of the protected category for three months. “During these three months, I want massive fiscal space through enforcement like plugging financial leakages and addressing tax evasion,” he added.

He said the government had imposed taxes on the real estate sector to generate Rs100 billion in revenue and to do away with a culture of tax evasion. “This cannot go for long. We need to bring deep structural reforms and take bitter pills. I pray that this should be the last IMF program but it needs sacrifices,” he commented.

He reiterated his call for the ministers to work hard and sought plans from commerce and IT ministers to boost exports. “I beg of you in the name of Pakistan. Let us stand up and accept the challenge, move forward in unison and create a difference as the nation wants results,” he added.

Prime Minister Shehbaz asked the interior minister and interior secretary to ensure coordination with the provinces during the month of Muharram, and extend maximum possible support to provinces as well as Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan.

Earlier, the cabinet members offered Fateha for the soldiers martyred in Waziristan on Tuesday as well as a DSP of Counter Terrorism Department in Karachi.

‘Export of wheat’

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Wednesday told the National Assembly that the government had made no decision for the export of wheat. “No decision has been made for the export of wheat. I want to bring it on record before the House that there is no decision for the wheat export,” he told the National Assembly, while responding to a point of order, raised by a parliamentarian.

However, referring to the PTI government’s sugar and wheat scams, he recalled that it was also on record that in the past wheat and sugar were first exported and later imported and where the billions and trillions of rupees went, was part of the history.

The prime minister also appreciated National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq for showing “generosity” to give floor to the opposition leader which was not practiced during the speakership of Asad Qaiser.

Meanwhile, the federal cabinet on Wednesday approved the action plan for abolition of the Pakistan Public Works Department (Pak PWD) and decided the formation of a Pakistan Infrastructure Development Company to oversee federal development projects and Asset And Facility Management Company for repair and maintenance works.

The cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, also decided to hand over the federal government projects in the provinces to the relevant provincial departments.

Similarly, the Asset and Facility Management Company would be established to carry out the repair and maintenance work currently being done by the Pak PWD. After their classification, the PWD employees would be transferred to relevant ministries and a golden handshake scheme would also be introduced for them.

Moreover, the cabinet also decided to computerise the record of all PWD properties and called for completing the transition process within two weeks.

The federal cabinet was also briefed about the performance of the committee formed to reduce the government’s volume. It was told that the committee would complete the information gathering about the unnecessary departments of the ministries of IT, Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit Baltistan, States and Frontier Regions, Industries and Production, and National Health Services by July 12 and present proposals before the cabinet by first week of August, after consultation with the relevant ministries.

Moreover, it was told that after July 19, similar information would also be sought from other ministries and recommendations would be tabled regarding the closure or merger of their departments.

The cabinet granted a one-year extension till June 30, 2025, in the expiry period of POR Cards of 1.45 million Afghan refugees legally staying in Pakistan.

On the housing ministry’s recommendation, the meeting also approved transferring the building of Federal Lodges-II in Peshawar to the Election Commission of Pakistan for establishing the permanent office of the provincial Election Commission.

The meeting approved the repatriation of seven accountant members of Appellate Tribunal Inland Revenue to FBR and appointing 14 officers in the tribunal benches, as proposed by the ministry.

On the health ministry’s recommendation, the cabinet approved the appointment of Joint Secretary Muhammad Iqbal as Administrator of National Council for Homeopathy.

It also decided to revoke the accreditation of Bahawalpur Medical College for its failure to meet the required standards of Pakistan Medical and Dental Council. The students of the colleges would be shifted to other medical colleges.

The prime minister questioned as why the college was allowed to function despite not meeting the standards and asked the Prime Minister Inspection Commission to probe into the matter.

Prime Minister Shehbaz also formed a committee comprising Economic Affairs Minister Ahad Khan Cheema, Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission Jahanzeb Khan and PM’s Coordinator on Health Malik Mukhtar Ahmed asking them to present proposals for the third party audit of the PMDC.

The federal cabinet okayed running of 53 advertisements of the medicines on television, radio and newspapers as proposed by the DRAP’s committee on the subject.

The cabinet approved the appointment of Javed Qureshi as a Director in the Board of Directors of K-Electric, on behalf of the Government of Pakistan.

The prime minister instructed to appoint the well reputed professionals in all the non-functional and incomplete Board of Directors of government entities within two weeks.

The meeting endorsed the decisions of the Economic Coordination Committee made on June 27, 2024, and those of Cabinet Committee on SOEs taken on July 4, 2024.