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Decision on lockdown today: PM Imran Khan wants curbs eased

ISLAMABAD: The cabinet Tuesday deliberated on a proposal about easing lockdown and restrictions across country from May 9.

However, a final decision in this regard will be taken in the National Command and Operation Centre meeting on Wednesday (today).

This was stated by Information and Broadcasting Minister Shibli Faraz while giving briefing to the media about the decisions taken during the federal cabinet meeting, which was presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday.

The PM, addressing the cabinet members, again emphasised taking care of the vulnerable segments of society, and those who have been deprived of their livelihood in the wake of the lockdown. The PM backed the proposal of easing restrictions in the country, keeping in view the hardships being faced by people due to the lockdown. However, he warned of abrupt spike in infections if the standard operating procedures (SOPs) were not implemented strictly after easing of the lockdown.

The information minister said Punjab Governor Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar had remarked that the war against the virus could be won only by sitting back at home.

He said the prime minister and all cabinet members, including ministers, state ministers, advisors and special assistants decided to donate their one-month salary to Prime Minister’s Covid-19 Relief Fund.

The minister said the gesture had been shown in view of the prevalent situation and difficulties being faced by the people.

Federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar briefed the cabinet about the coronavirus situation in the country. The cabinet was informed that Pakistan’s situation was far better than many developed countries as far as Covid-19 infections and deaths from the virus were concerned.

The cabinet meeting was informed that the committee on election reforms had sent its report to the Ministry of Law and Justice. Shibli Faraz said the PM wanted the election process to be transparent and unbiased, and it must have trust of masses. The PM said reformation of electoral system was part of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) agenda and that would remain its topmost priority.

The minister noted that the PM raised a point that reformation of criminal justice system was imperative, as the cases keep lingering on for decades. He asked the law and justice minister to finalise reformation in the criminal justice system within six months.

The premier also advised that modern technology should be introduced at police stations to change ‘Thana’ (police station) culture. The meeting was given update on the conversion of police stations into model police stations with introduction of modern technology.

On the directives of the Supreme Court, he said the cabinet was informed that 76 illegal appointments were made to seven divisions on high posts during the previous government. “All ministries concerned have been advised to present the related report in the next cabinet meeting and decisions on these illegal appointments would be made soon,” he added.

The forum was told that during 81 cabinet meetings, a total of 1,630 decisions were made, out of which 1,376 (86pc) had been implemented, whereas decisions on 114 (7pc) were in the stage of implementation.

The minister said the cabinet deliberated on the issue of ban on import of goods from India, except for life-saving drugs. The PM ordered for ensuring that there was no violation of the ban.

Shibli Faraz said the cabinet gave approval to a proposal about appointment of a grade-20 officer of Audit and Accounts Service of Pakistan Naveed Asghar Chaudhry as Member Finance, Wapda. The cabinet also approved a memorandum of understanding (MoU), signed between Akhuwat Pakistan and Akhuwat USA, which would help collect donations for the PM’s Corona Relief Fund.

Shibli said the cabinet gave approval for export of locally-made hand-sanitizers after fulfilling the local needs, to earn foreign exchange. Noting that there was surplus quantity of rice available in the country, the cabinet gave approval for export of surplus rice.

The cabinet reviewed the process of implementation of its decisions for facilitation of overseas Pakistanis. He added the cabinet decided to include 61 food and non-food items in the Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority (PSQCA) list.

He said that Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Social Welfare Dr Sania Nishtar briefed the cabinet about the ongoing process of financial help of vulnerable segments of society through Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme. The cabinet was informed that in addition to 400,000 data of the previous governments, almost 810,000 new families have been added to the data. She said that Ehsaas Emergency Cash programme was being implemented in a most transparent manner on the basis of merit.

The minister said the PM listened to the suggestions given by various cabinet members and decisions were made taking all of them onboard. The new IT minister, Aminul Haq, of Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) was welcomed to the meeting.

Shibli Faraz said the cabinet also approved unanimously the reconstitution of the National Commission for Minorities, consisting of defined minorities, including Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and Parsis. To a question, the minister noted that what was reported was incorrect with regards to the commission.

The minister noted that instead of bringing the institutions under individuals, Prime Minister Imran Khan gave them independence by putting them under the law. He recalled that the incumbent chairman of National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was appointed after consultations between the then government and the opposition.

About those, appearing before NAB and then coming out making victory signs and behaving like tarzan despite having been grilled by NAB authorities, he said that the media could discourage that unfortunate trend by not giving coverage to them outside the Bureau offices.

Shibli informed the media that he himself underwent a corona test on Monday and its result was negative.

He parried a question about the arrest of Jang/Geo Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman in over 30 years old deal while no FIR had been registered hitherto.

Our correspondent adds from Lahore: Pakistan Railways has announced resuming operations from Sunday, May 10, a notification said on Tuesday.

In the first phase, according to the notification, 15 trains will operate throughout the country while social distancing will be observed strictly. Only e-ticketing will be allowed. All booking office and reservation office will remain closed. In line with social distancing guidelines, passengers will be required to keep their tickets ready and show them to the conductor to ensure no physical contact takes place between them and the train staff. The notification said that 50% of the booking for trains would be made available online. The Khyber Mail, Awam Express, Tezgam, Islamabad Express and a few others will resume operations.

According to the notification, Pakistan Railways is considering the restoration of passengers traffic operation on May 10, subject to approval from the competent authority.

News desk adds: After some hints from Centre about easing restrictions, the Punjab government Tuesday decided to also ease lockdown.

A decision in this regard was taken at a meeting, presided over by Chief Minister Usman Buzdar. Sources said the lockdown restrictions would be relaxed from Saturday, May 9 when shops selling iron pipes, steel, spare-parts, machinery and electrical items would be allowed to do business.

According to sources, glass manufacturers, shops selling construction and textile material will also be granted permission to resume operations. Besides, cloth shops will be allowed to operate for a period of six hours from the 15th of Ramazan.

It will be mandatory for all businessmen and traders to strictly follow the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to avert the spread of the deadly virus.

A formal announcement with regard to relaxation of the lockdown would be made on May 8.

APP adds from Quetta: The Balochistan government, meanwhile, extended the lockdown for 15 more days, till May 19, in order to control the spread of coronavirus.

According to a statement issued by the provincial home department, the government has imposed Section 144 in view of the spread of coronavirus and extended the period of lockdown for 15 days.

Gathering of 10 or more people and pillion riding have been banned, and inter-district and inter-provincial public transport has also been closed. Shopping malls, cinemas, wedding halls, hotels, showrooms and shrines will also remain closed in the wake of the coronavirus.

However, shops and warehouses providing construction material, medical stores, vegetable shops, agricultural goods, petrol pumps and call centres will be allowed to remain open.

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