PM chides ministers over Pemra row after Firdous grouse

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday reprimanded some federal ministers and senior leaders of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) for their statements against the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority’s (Pemra) recent move to bar television anchors from appearing as “experts” in their own and other channels.

Presiding over a meeting of the federal cabinet, the prime minister expressed resentment over tweets of Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry, Human Rights Minister Dr Shireen Mazari and MNA Asad Umar against the Perma move and warned them against criticising the government decisions ‘openly’.

“In fact Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan lodged a complaint with the prime minster that Fawad Chaudhry, Shireen Mazari and Asad Umar had given remarks through their tweets against the government’s decision,” a participant of the meeting told Dawn on condition of anonymity. He said the prime minister was of the view that the “government ministers should not have discussed such matters openly”.

At this, Fawad Chaudhry said to the prime minister that Pemra had not taken the decision in an appropriate manner, inviting criticism against the government.

The Pemra move has stirred controversy even in media and official circles.

In his tweet, Asad Umar had said: “Amazing decision by Pemra to stop anchors to go on any other talk show and express their opinion! Pemra should be doing a better job taking action against completely fake news and not suppressing the right of individuals, including anchors, to express their opinion.”

Cabinet allows construction of 50-storey buildings in Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and Multan

Shireen Mazari had tweeted: “Who is an “expert”? An interesting [and] unintended debate has been generated – so purely at an academic non-political level: Do I need a degree in politics to be an expert on politics? I have no degree in ‘human rights’ so should I go on TV to discuss ‘human rights’ issues?”

Fawad Chaudhry had described the Pemra directive as “illogical, unnecessary and uncalled for”.

High-rise buildings

The cabinet allowed four major cities of the country — Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and Multan — to have 50-storey buildings.

“The cabinet allowed 500-foot-high buildings even in the funnel areas (15km radius) of airports in the four cities,” Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan told Dawn after the cabinet meeting.

He said that earlier there was a ban on construction of high-rises in 15km radius of the airports, but now it had been relaxed.

However, it was observed that despite the ban multi-storey buildings were being constructed in the funnel areas of airports.

The restriction had already been lifted in Islamabad.

At a post-cabinet meeting press conference, Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said the prime minister had directed the authorities concerned to expedite the process of acquiring the assistance of foreign companies to run the country’s airports in a better way under the government’s policies and provide better facilities to the passengers, besides generating more revenue.

The cabinet was briefed on the progress in work on upgrade and reconstruction of Skardu airport. The meeting empowered minister for aviation to renew licences of airlines companies and expressed the hope that the decision would facilitate the companies and expedite the process of renewals.

National Executive Committee

The meeting approved the formation of the National Executive Committee headed by Minister for Economic Affairs Hammad Azhar and comprising directors general of the Military Operations and Inter-Services Intelligence. The committee will work to control terror financing and money laundering under the Anti-Money Laundering Act 2010.

It is for the first time in the country’s history that the heads of two highly sensitive military organisations have been made members of any national body on money laundering and terror financing.

Dasu hydropower project

The cabinet approved the release of compensation amount for the land being acquired for the construction of the 4320MW Dasu hydropower project. The meeting was informed that the government was bearing a loss of Rs330 million daily due to delay in the construction of the project which was to be completed this year.

The cabinet also approved restructuring of the board of governors of Sui Southern Gas Company Limited and appointment of former State Bank governor Dr Shamshad Akhtar as its member. Similarly, new board of governors of the Pakistan Liquefied Natural Gas Limited was approved with Rahat Konain as its chairman.

The meeting also approved restructuring of the board of directors of the Government Holding Private Limited which will be headed by Aaila Majeed.

The cabinet was informed that a proposal was under consideration to reduce electricity tariff for domestic consumers during the current winter so that consumers could meet their energy demands. The present electricity production in the country is 31,000MW.

The meeting was told that weather studios were being set up in Lahore to closely monitor weather with special focus on smog which mainly comes from India in winter.

The cabinet approved appointment of members of the Adjudicating Authority under Benami Transaction Act-2017.