American statements detrimental to Pak-US relationship: cabinet

ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet observed that recent statements by the American leadership were detrimental to the Pakistan-US relationship that had developed over generations.

“Pakistan has rendered huge sacrifices, both in terms of loss of precious human lives and substantial damage to the economy as a result of partnering in the global war against terrorism. Achie­vements made by Pakistan in curbing the menace of terrorism have been acknowledged throughout the world,” reiterated the cabinet.

Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif briefed a meeting of the cabinet presided over by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on the background of the American statements and the discussion held at the 17th meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC).

The cabinet unanimously endorsed the stance of the NSC which had expressed deep disappointment over the statements of the US leadership.

Publication of census results

The cabinet removed the last hitch in the way of early delimitation essentially linked with timely general elections by approving the official publication of block-wise census results.

Informed sources told Dawn that this became possible by last-minute inclusion of the item in the agenda of the cabinet’s meeting on direct intervention by Prime Minister Abbasi after he received a communication from Chief Election Commissioner retired Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza.

They said the CEC’s communication received on Monday sought the prime minister’s intervention in timely publication of the provisional census results, without which the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) was unable even to commence the already delayed delimitation exercise whose completion had become an ever challenging task with each passing day.

“A prompt action by your good self will greatly help ECP surmount the hurdles causing delay in delimitation process and embark upon the journey to conduct of general elections 2018 as per schedule,” the CEC’s letter reads.

He had invited the prime minister’s attention to the challenges confronting the ECP in preparations for the elections and the circumstances having the potential to impact the conduct of elections in a timely manner.

The CEC also referred to a letter he had written to the law secretary, asking him to take all steps for necessary legislation to amend Article 51 of the Constitution. He recalled that the amendment had been passed by the National Assembly on Nov 15 and by the Senate on Dec 19 to allocate NA seats to the provinces.

He also mentioned the invocation of Article 220 of the Constitution by the ECP to seek assistance of the federal and provincial authorities, asking them to furnish within fortnight the prerequisites, which included publication of provisional results census being the backbone. “The results have not yet been published which enormously enhances the apprehension of the ECP with regards to timely completion of the task of delimitation. Let me stress that every day wasted in this regard is bound to test the timeline set for completion of delimitation in time,” the letter said.

Cards for Afghan refugees

The cabinet considered a proposal for extension of proof of registration (POR) cards and tripartite agreement (Pakistan-Afghanistan-UNHCR) for Afghan refugees beyond Dec 31, 2017. After a detailed discussion on the proposal, the cabinet agreed to grant only a 30-day extension for POR cards and decided that the issue of early repatriation of Afghan refugees would be raised with the UN refugee agency and the international community.

“Pakistan’s economy has carried the burden of hosting Afghan refugees for a long time and in the present circumstances cannot sustain it further,” emphasised the cabinet.

The agenda item of approval of maximum retail prices (MRPs) of additional pack sizes of already registered drugs and approval of increase in MRPs of drugs under Para 8 and threshold limits of lower priced drugs under Para 11 of the Drug Pricing Policy-2015 were discussed at length and the cabinet accorded approval as per the said policy.

The cabinet also approved proposals for placement of the Institute for Arts and Culture Bill, 2017 before parliament, permission to allow transit of 01×40 feet STC container containing 51 package of spare parts for vehicles of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan from Karachi to Kabul, signing of a memorandum of understanding on bilateral consultations between the ministries of foreign affairs of Pakistan and the Portuguese Republic, signing of a memorandum of intent between Pakistan Stone Development Company and Confindustria Marmomacchine of Italy for cooperation in the stone sector, signing of an MoU between the ministries of defence of Pakistan and Egypt, ratification of the agreement on military, technical, science and education cooperation with Bosnia & Herzegovina, execution of gas development schemes during the present government and ratification of recommendations of the Cabinet Committee on Disposal of Legislative Cases in respect of the Gas Infrastructure Development Cess (Amendment) Bill, 2017.