Canadian diplomat meets Shahbaz

LAHORE: High Commissioner of Canada Perry John Calderwood called on Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Minority Affairs Minister Tahir Khalil Sindhu on Tuesday.

Mr Sharif sought exchange of trade delegations to promote relations between the two countries in trade, economic, education, health and energy sectors.

He also apprised the envoy of the steps his government has taken in education, transport and health sectors and the measures taken to prevent child labour.

The chief minister said Canadian investors could benefit from the investment opportunities available in Punjab.

Mr Sindhu informed Mr Calderwood about the steps taken to eradicate terrorism and extremism, and to promote interfaith harmony and tolerance at the grassroots level in the province.

He said a provincial task force was implementing and monitoring human rights laws and that the minorities in Punjab were quite safe and their children were getting scholarships and financial assistance at various levels.

He said the provincial government had also launched various schemes to provide better facilities at religious places, residential colonies and graveyards.


ECP to audit lawmakers’ annual statements of assets

ISLAMABAD: In what might come as a nightmare for many, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has decided to randomly scrutinise annual statements of assets and liabilities submitted to it by the lawmakers.

Informed sources told Dawn that the ECP headed by Chief Election Commissioner retired Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza had directed the secretariat to develop standard operating procedure (SOP) for the exercise including the modus operandi and timeline and put it before the Commission for approval.

Answering a question about the fate of the legislators found to be guilty of concealing their assets or making any other false declarations, an official of the ECP said they would be proceeded under Section 82 of the Representation of Peoples Act (ROPA).

All members of the national as well provincial assemblies are bound under Section 42A (1) of ROPA to submit a statement of assets and liabilities of their own, along with those of their spouses and dependents annually to the Commission by the thirtieth day of September each year. Members of the Senate are also required to do the same under Senate (elections) Act, 1975.

He pointed out that Section 42A (4) of the Constitution reads: “[w]here a member submits the statement of assets and liabilities under sub-section (1) which is found to be false in material particulars, he may be proceeded against under Section 82 for committing the offence of corrupt practice.”

Section 82 of ROPA prescribes punishment of imprisonment for a term up to three years for a person guilty of corrupt practice.

He said the Commission would do the audit itself and if need be would refer the same to judicial, administrative or revenue authorities. Answering a question, he said Section 104 of ROPA reads “[a]nything required to be done for carrying out the purpose of this Act, for which no provision or no sufficient provision exists shall be done by such authority and in such manner as the Commission may direct”.

The decision has been taken days after the ECP reactivated its political finance wing and suspended as many as 337 lawmakers who failed to submit their statements of assets and liabilities.

For over a decade, the submission of assets and liabilities has remained a formality, with the ECP simply receiving the statements of assets and liabilities and publishing the same in the official gazette without any attempt to verify the veracity of the information submitted.

Majority of lawmakers conveniently ignore the requirement of submitting statements of assets of their spouses and dependents, knowing well that no questions would be asked. There is a common perception that the value of assets is under-declared by most of the politicians. There are many politicians including some prominent ones who declare they do not own a car, but are seen moving in motorcades.

The decision to go for audit of statements of assets comes at a time when the ECP is seized with disqualification petitions against prominent political leaders including Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and his son Hamza Shahbaz, Prime Minister’s son-in-law retired Captain Muhammad Safadar, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan and Secretary General Jehangir Khan Tarin and some other PTI legislators, on the charge of concealment of assets.

Most of the parties in the case had challenged the jurisdiction of the ECP to take up the disqualification petitions directly filed with it. The ECP decided that it would settle the matter pertaining to its jurisdiction before proceeding with the petitions.

Protests not against CPEC, PTI chief assures Chinese envoy

ISLAMABAD: Chinese Ambassa­dor Sun Weidong called on Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan at the latter’s Bani Gala residence on Tuesday.

58068d4c7d0baThe gist of the meeting, according to PTI sources, was to dispel the impression that the party’s ongoing accountability movement against the prime minister was somehow meant to sabotage the China-Pakis­tan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

The two men had a frank discussion over how Chinese investment was crucial for Pakistan’s future and prosperity, sources said.

The PTI leadership waxed lyrical about China’s ongoing support for Pakistan at all regional and international forums during the hour-long meeting. In particular, the sources said, PTI leaders talked about how China — through its powerful and unequivocal diplomatic efforts — was defending Pakistan against hostile nations.

The meeting was requested by the Chinese ambassador and also attended by PTI vice chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi, chief whip in the National Assembly Dr Shireen Mazari and chief spokesperson Naeemul Haq.

Insiders said that the PTI leadership explained the ins and outs of the party’s protest movement and its planned lockdown of the capital city on Nov 2. According to party sources, PTI leaders clarified that its planned siege of the city was not meant to derail the present government, the system or create chaos in the country.

There would absolutely be no threat to the diplomatic corps, since the sealing of the city was only meant to force the government into accepting a resulted-oriented investigation into the Panama Papers leaks, PTI leaders told the Chinese ambassador.

Every now and then, the PML-N leadership has targeted the PTI chairman, saying that his continued protests have delayed ongoing development projects being carried out under the banner of the CPEC. The government, all the way from the prime minister down to his cabinet ministers, could also be heard accusing the PTI chairman of delaying the planned visit of the Chinese president back in Sept 2014.

For independent observers, the meeting carried critical importance in the background of the PTI’s plans to shut down Islamabad and its continued reservations over CPEC routes. Only recently, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak had again voiced concerns over the way the federal government was ignoring the province in setting up economic zones under the corridor.

Earlier this year, the Chinese embassy in Islamabad — in an unprecedented move — had issued a press statement calling on the political leadership of the country to resolve their issues for the smooth implementation of the CPEC.

However, both the current and former ruling parties of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa — the PTI and the Awami National Party — continue to claim and protest against what they call the unfair distribution of CPEC-linked investment that was flowing into the country.

“Certainly, given the billions of dollars in investment being pumped in by Chinese companies, China will always want political stability in the country,” commented a senior economic reporter, who has covered the regional economy for several decades.