ISLAMABAD, (APP): Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain on Tuesday urged the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for early release of its scrutiny committees’ reports compiled after auditing bank accounts of three major political parties, including PTI, PML-N, and PPP.
“From the first day, we want that the Election Commission make a comparison of all the parties’ foreign funding before the public so that it could be known where they all stand,” the minister told the media after the Federal Cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Flanked by Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Farrukh Habib, Fawad said the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Prime Minister Imran Khan took that stance from the very beginning as they believed that it was only the PTI that had an elaborate system for ‘accounting’ and ‘funding’.
All the other parties had no such system as they were patronized by some ‘feudal’ or ‘businessmen’, who gave them funds which were in fact used to run house affairs of their leadership.
Fawad lashed out at Nawaz Sharif for using the accounts of his party Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) to launder ill-gotten money. An amount of Rs 80 million was deposited in the PML-N account which was later withdrawn by him using certain tactics.
He said, “The PTI is the only party in the country, which has an extraordinary legal, detailed and elaborate system for funding.”
Under the system, he said, the PTI workers from across the globe funded the party according to their capacity.
Citing the example of Shaukat Khanum hospital, he said Prime Minister Imran Khan was the only person who had been entrusted by the people of Pakistan with their money.
About 70 percent of the patients at Shaukat Khanum hospital were getting free treatment as it received donations worth billions of rupees from across the globe in the name of PM Imran Khan, he added.
The information minister said the public had full trust in the prime minister and “this also has a reflection on our party’s organization”.
Small donations poured in the party accounts, taking the collective amount to millions, he added.
He appreciated PTI’s Chief Accountant Siraj and his team, who were maintaining the party funds very well.
About the ECP’s findings on PTI’s foreign funding surfaced on Tuesday, Fawad said the prime minister and the whole party were grateful to the Almighty that they had emerged clean and clear as the matter seemed to have been closed.
The ECP scrutiny committee’s report was based on the details provided by the State Bank of Pakistan during the tenure of the PML-N government, he added.
According to the report, he said, there was a total of 26 accounts of PTI, eight of them were non-active, while only eight among the rest 18 were functional through which transactions were made.
As regards some media reports that funds amounting to Rs 310 million, out of the total funding of Rs 1.68 billion received by the PTI, were not explained, he clarified that only eight out of 18 active accounts were declared. The rest 10 were not treated as the main accounts as six of them were subsidiary ones. If there was a welfare wing of the party which opened its account, then it had been registered as a separate entity, he elaborated.
Only four accounts were disowned by the PTI, he added.
Responding to the queries about reportedly ‘unexplained’ funds of Rs 310 million, the minister said there were two transactions of Rs150 million and Rs160 million.
There was duplicity in the report that the transaction amounting to Rs 160 million was counted twice as the amount had first come into the PTI’s central account and then transferred to another account, he added.
Likewise, he said, Rs150m was transferred by the party from a subsidiary account to the provincial set-ups, which was also counted twice.
Such facts would be presented before the ECP during the arguments in the case, he added.
Recalling a petition filed by PML-N leader Hanif Abbasi against PM Imran Khan’s disqualification before the general election, he said the prime minister had submitted the record of even a penny in the apex court.
Rubbishing the allegations of foreign funding on PTI, he said the party had submitted its complete financial record to the ECP.
The Election Commission, he said, should also conduct scrutiny of the accounts of both the PML-N and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), and make the comparison of all three parties’ funding public.
To a query, he said only 26 accounts of the PTI were mentioned on page number 84 and the figure of 56 accounts did not figure anywhere in the ECP’s report. Whosoever had released such information in the media should have first verified it, he added. Moreover, he said, the ECP should ensure that the contents of the report were not made public, and if shared, it should be correct.
Fawad said the PTI requested the ECP to simultaneously make scrutiny reports about the funding of all the political parties public.
The PTI had complete details of all the 40,000 donors, while no other party had such a record of donations, he added.
As regards the Federal Cabinet decisions, the minister said Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Health Services, Regulations & Coordination Dr. Faisal Sultan and Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar briefed the forum about the new variant of coronavirus – Omicron.
The number of cases had started increasing across the country, he said while urging the masses to strictly adhere to the standard operating procedures to suppress its spread.
He said the rise in import bills was due to the procurement of the coronavirus vaccine from abroad. So far an amount of Rs 2 billion was spent in that regard.
Fawad pointed out that the Sindh Government had not procured even a single dose of vaccine. The Federal Government, on the other hand, had spent some Rs 111 billion to procure vaccines for the people of Sindh and provide them relief under the Ehsaas Programme.
He said the Federal Government had launched a countrywide National Health Card program, but unfortunately the people of Sindh were deprived of the facility due to the reluctance of the provincial government to make its contribution. The Punjab Government, however, had allocated Rs 400 billion for the purpose, he added.
The minister clarified that the heads of families should be registered with the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) to avail the facility. Initially, the program was launched in Lahore, Sahiwal, and DG Khan divisions, while the people of the whole Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province were already its beneficiaries.
Under the scheme, he said, the families could avail of free medical treatment of up to Rs1 million per year in case of hospitalization. The government hospitals were already providing free medical treatment outdoors, he added.
He said some sections in the media were misinterpreting the initiative that it would encourage the private sector hospitals at the cost of government institutions. The private sector was, in fact, included to provide quality health facilities to the people.
Fawad said the cabinet was told that the Election Commission had written a letter to the Ministry of Science and Technology for the provision of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).
The cabinet directed the ministry to take steps as per the ECP’s directives and finalize the procedure for purchase of EVMs to use it in local government elections in the Federal Capital, he added.
The minister said the Federal Cabinet was told about the availability of essential commodities. It was informed that a sharp decrease was registered in essential food items during the last week. The Sensitive Price Index (SPI) posted a decline of 0.50 percent with food items contributing 33 percent. Likewise, the prices of tomatoes, potatoes, and other food items prices also decreased.
Giving a comparison of tomato prices, he said on December 31 last year its price was Rs 91 against Rs 55 per kg today. Similarly, the potato price was high last week, which was now available at Rs 41 per kg. Likewise, the onion price was Rs 43 per kg against Rs 35 per kg today.
The media, which always highlighted the high inflation rate, should show a decline in the prices of essential items, he stressed.
He said the cabinet accorded approval to table the Statement of Contingent Liabilities related to the Supplementary Finance Bill in the National Assembly.
He urged the media houses to stop splashing news about the cabinet’s agenda before its briefing to avoid embarrassment.
The cabinet endorsed the appointment of Nadir Mumtaz Warraich as Chairman of Karachi Port Trust and the restructuring of the Pakistan Tobacco Board.
It also gave approval for an agreement between the Pakistan CPEC Authority and the Chinese Ministry of Climate Change for the provision of 3000 solar power generation systems to be provided to the households in Gwadar free of cost.
The cabinet approved the appointment of Brig Muhammad Asim Ishaq as Managing Director of National Radio Telecommunication Corporation (NRTC), and Bilal Anwar as Chief Executive Officer of National Disaster Risk Management Fund.
Fawad said the cabinet lauded the performance of Advisor to the Prime Minister for Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam and his ministry for effectively highlighting internationally Pakistan’s efforts for climate change mitigation.
About another audio leak of PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz, the minister said such tapes posed threat to the press’s freedom.
The media organizations should take stock of the matter as such audiotapes revealed as to how the PML-N did media management during its government, he added.
Fawad said he wanted to bring major reforms in the media sector. The media ownership should be separated from the editorial policy which was supposed to be overseen by the working journalists, he added.
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