Railways to get Rs11 billion
By Amin Ahmed
ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet directed the finance ministry on Wednesday to release Rs11 billion to Pakistan Railways as a bailout package.
Briefing journalists after the meeting, Information and Broadcasting Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan said Rs6 billion had been earmarked for purchasing locomotives and Rs5 billion for restructuring of Railways.
About the timeframe for releasing the funds, she said the prime minister issued `loud and clear instructions’ to the finance ministry, but it would take a few days to complete the formalities.
Ms Awan said that Mr Gilani, who presided over the meeting, directed the Railways to operate special trains on Eidul Fitr.
She said the prime minister had declared at the meeting that ending energy shortage was the government’s priority and asked the committee he had formed recently to deal with issues relating to the energy sector to hammer out an ‘out-of-box’ solution to avoid loadshedding, particularly during Sehr, Iftar and Taraweeh.
Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh is heading the committee, while ministers of water and power and petroleum and natural resources, the planning commission deputy chairman and the State Bank governor are its members. The committee has discussed categorisation of the issues of power sector with the objective to work out a plan of action.
The information minister said the cabinet had decided that the committee should meet on a daily basis to suggest most immediate and long-term solutions.
She said the government had made an investment of Rs1 trillion in the power sector over the past three years. There was still a wide gap between the demand and supply of energy, she acknowledged and said that long-term solutions were needed to bridge it.
Ms Awan said the cabinet had discussed the power supply situation in Karachi and reviewed the performance of the KESC. The prime minister directed the ministry of water and power to take steps to improve the electricity situation in Karachi, she added.
The minister said that Finance Secretary Waqar Masud briefed the cabinet on the consumer price index and the trends of the prices of essential commodities. He also presented a comparison of prices with other countries of the region.
She said the prime minister asked the provincial governments to take steps to control prices of essential commodities and assured that the federal government would extend every help in this regard.
Mr Gilani asked the cabinet members to ensure availability of good-quality food items at reasonable rates during Ramazan and directed the minister for industries to ensure adequate supply of essential items through Utility Stores which should be expanded throughout Balochistan and Fata.
Ms Awan said the cabinet discussed the issue of export of livestock and meat and asked the Economic Coordination Committee to work out a policy on the issue for the prime minister’s approval. Priority of the government was to make available mutton, beef and poultry to people at reasonable rates, she said.
Ms Awan said the prime minister set up a cabinet committee comprising ministers for defence and railways to decide the matter of renaming the Peshawar International Airport.
She said the cabinet approved the proposed agreement on economic and technical cooperation with China. The Chinese government has indicated to provide Rs70 million for the projects agreed between the two governments.
The minister said the cabinet approved the proposed amendments to the Airport Security Force Act of 1975 regarding re-designation of its rank structure on the lines followed by other civil armed forces, law-enforcement agencies and intelligence agencies like the Anti-Narcotics Force, Federal Investigation Agency and Coast Guards.
She said the cabinet approved tax exemptions for Oil and Gas Development Company’s exchangeable bond.
Ms Awan said the cabinet also granted approval for the signing of an agreement on the usage and replacement of driving licences between Pakistan and Tunisia.
The agreement will allow citizens of both countries to use their international driving licences while visiting each other’s country.
The cabinet granted permission to start negotiations with Mexico for a short-term bilateral agreement on mutual administrative assistance in matters of customs.
The cabinet allowed the ministry of information and broadcasting to sign a memorandum of understanding on the Pakistan-UK cooperation on counter-terrorism outreach and communication, which will allow capacity building of media professionals from far-flung areas.