Govt decides to liaise with ECP on EVMs use



The federal cabinet on Tuesday formed a ministerial committee to liaise with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to ensure implementation of the recently passed legislation on electoral reforms, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said.

The cabinet, which met here with Prime Minister Imran Khan in the chair, mulled over importing wheat worth “$700 million”, while criticising the Sindh government for the “missing wheat”. The cabinet also allowed India to transport 50,000 tons of wheat to Afghanistan via land route through Pakistan.

At a post-cabinet meeting press conference, the information minister announced that the next general elections would “surely be held” through the electronic voting machines (EVM) and that the overseas Pakistanis would be able to cast their votes.

Earlier this month, the government convened a joint sitting of parliament, which passes dozens of treasury bills, including the ones about the use of EVMs in the elections and the right to vote to the Pakistanis living abroad.

Chaudhry said that a ministerial committee – comprising Parliamentary Affairs Adviser Babar Awan, Railway Minister Azam Swati, Science and Technology Minister Shibli Faraz, Information Technology Minister Aminul Haq and Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan — had been formed.

The committee, the minister continued, would liaise with the ECP to ensure implementation of the recently passed laws. The committee would finalise all the nitty-gritty on use of the EVMs in the next election such as cost, numbers of machines and others, he added.

Wheat

The meeting came a day after Prime Minister Imran approved sending of 50,000 metric ton of wheat to Afghanistan. During the meeting, the cabinet mulled over importing wheat worth “$700 million”. The cabinet also allowed Wagah transit of the Indian wheat to Afghanistan.

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The ministers criticised the Sindh government over “missing wheat”. Chaudhry asked Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah to put his house in order, otherwise, the Centre would take necessary action about the “stolen” wheat.

“I want to tell Murad Ali Shah that he should put himself a bit in line of duty; don’t take people for granted; put your house in order because we [Center] will have to take action and then you would start complaining and suddenly the democracy would be in danger,” Chaudhry said.

The minister said that the federal government was spending “$700 million” on the wheat import because “it is being stated that local wheat has been stolen”. The Centre, he added, was considering action regarding the wheat theft if the Sindh government did not take action.

After the 18th Amendment, Chaudhry said, the federal government could only give policy regarding certain matters which had to be implemented by the provinces. However, he added that Sindh was asked to release wheat and start sugarcane crushing in time but it did not follow the directives.

On the Sensitive Index Price (SPI), the minister said that 40% of data for the SPI was based on the prices of essential commodities in Karachi, where inflation was higher than in the other provinces. He added that a wheat flour bag of 20kg was available at Rs1,100 in Lahore but it was being sold at Rs1,460 in Karachi.

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The cabinet approved the establishment of the Gems and Jewellery Development Authority and a framework between the civil aviation authorities of Pakistan and the United Kingdom to improve the standards of commercial airlines.

Besides, the minister said, the cabinet approved the inclusion of Pakistan into the Riyadh Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Port State Control. It would enable direct communication between Karachi port and Riyadh dry port.

A sum of Rs4.7 billion was being released to the ECP for conducting local government elections in the country, the minister said, adding that the Islamabad Capital Territory Local Government Ordinance 2021 was also approved to pave way for local elections in the federal capital.

(This story has been published from The Express Tribune feed, without modifications to the text)