Saudi delegation to arrive in Pakistan on Sunday: information minister

Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry on Thursday announced that a high-level Saudi delegation is due to arrive in Pakistan on Sunday in line with an earlier government announcement about Riyadh being invited to invest in China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as well as other infrastructure projects across the country.

"The delegation will consist of the Saudi investment head, minister for petroleum and minister for energy," the information minister announced during a post-cabinet meeting press conference.

"As I had said earlier on our return from Saudi Arabia, the kingdom has expressed interest in investing with us for CPEC projects as well as infrastructure development and to that end is bringing major investments here. The first step has been taken (three grant agreements have been signed) and this is a very positive step and bodes well for relations between the two countries."

He followed the announcement by highlighting major decisions which took place in the cabinet meeting today.

"First of all, I would like to announce that it has been decided that a comprehensive policy will be formulated for Afghan refugees, on which the prime minister wishes to be briefed urgently," he said.

"There are only two ways to go about this issue: either we let things remain the way they are, or [do something about it]. There are 879,198 Afghan refugees with citizen cards issued by Afghanistan [living] in Pakistan; 1,394,000 refugees who have POR (refugee) cards; and 500,000 who are undocumented," he said, quoting from a document.

He said that two million Afghan refugees had been documented and were being treated according to international conventions. They had been given an extension till June 2018 for the renewal of their accreditation cards.

"The prime minister wishes to draft a comprehensive policy before the next extension," he added.

Editorial: Citizenship promise

Besides this, he announced measures the government was taking to resolve the Financial Action Task force situation, including an appointment to the Directorate General of the financial monitoring unit in the State Bank, a post which until now was non-existent.

"Mansoor Hussain Siddiqui has been appointed as the DG financial monitoring unit," Chaudhry announced.

Separately, the information minister said that Justice Abdul Rauf has been appointed as the new chairman for the Wage Board. He will "decide within 120 days the matter of [low and untimely] wages put forth by various journalist movements".

Moreover, Chaudhry said that the first stage of reforms in the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) was complete. He said details regarding these will be provided by Finance Minister Asad Umer beginning next week. He also said that the government will be launching a major operation soon against 100 major FBR defaulters.

The federal minister also declared that an anti-encroachment drive will be undertaken in Karachi to reclaim "large swathes of land belonging to KPT and railways".

He also highlighted the need to strengthen the federal Right of Acess to Information Act, saying that the government has observed that the right to information is closely linked with government policy.

"Only with the right to information and transparency can journalism [flourish], and facilitating journalists with easy access to information is the most important part of democracy," he asserted.

Also read: KP sets an example: Right to information law

He then moved on to discussing the Federally and Provincially administered tribal areas, which were previously being run under independent systems outside the jurisdiction of Pakistani laws. He said that Pakistani tax laws will not apply to these areas for a further five years and they will continue to enjoy tax exemptions.

This means that these regions will continue to enjoy the use of non-custom paid cars up to June 30, 2023. Similarly, residents will be exempt from paying sales and withholding tax in these areas.

Chaudhry also emphasised the prime minister's narrative of protecting the weak and the need for the rich to give back to society. He said that all the ministries have been instructed to not only stop making selective appointments in their own ministries, but also to desist from forwarding their 'recommendations' for candidates for other ministries.

"When we talk of anti-encroachment operations, it has been observed that some very big favours are called [to thwart them]; and so, all ministers have been specifically instructed not to entertain such requests," he said.

He also informed media persons that the prime minister has urged ministries to move towards more technologically-savvy practices and adopt e-communication practices instead of wasting paper for printing agendas and budgets.

"All ministries have been instructed to go paperless in our efforts to be an e-government," he said, adding that the ministry for IT had been tasked with implementing this initiative and will give a presentation in two weeks' time regarding the same.



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