Prime Minister won't write letter: government

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Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Firdous Ashiq Awan made it clear that the Prime Minister would not write a letter to Swiss Courts to open graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari on the instructions of Supreme Court of Pakistan. She made these remarks at a press conference after the federal cabinet meeting was presided over by Prime Minister, Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani.

The 'Swiss letter issue' did not come under discussion, she added. "It's a consensus viewpoint of the party and the cabinet that the Parliament has granted immunity to the President and the Parliament has the sole power to withdraw it. Prime Minister will not register his name as the Constitution violator," she added.

Replying to a question, she said, Prime Minister's legal team had been representing him in the Supreme Court. Prime Minister also shared his own viewpoint on immunity issue with the media a couple of days ago in Lahore. Prime Minister also vowed to use his right to protect his Constitutional jurisdiction and boundaries. She maintained that the Prime Minister would appear before the Supreme Court as he had been summoned.

Responding to a question on reshuffle in the cabinet, the Information Minister said that Cabinet's formulation and dissolution were part of the democratic process and changes in the cabinet in accordance with the political situation was the prerogative of the Prime Minister and party leadership. "Government will not take any decision without consultation of its political allies. We have to go for general election in the fifth year. Our target will be presentation of a budget in consultation with the allies so that maximum relief could be provided to the masses," she maintained.

However, when a questioner asked the Minister to itemise a single relief given to the masses so far by the incumbent government, she did not offer an reply the question. However, she stated that she would like to have a full session with journalists on four years' achievements of the government and relief measures. Answering another question on reports of a further increase in electricity rates, the Information Minister said the government had two options to deal with the issue. First option was to extend subsidy to keep the tariff frozen and the second one was to pass on the increase in fuel prices to consumers. She maintained that if the government opted for the first option, it had to provide subsidy and print more currency notes to keep the tariff unchanged. This would fuel inflation. The second option, according to her, is to pass on the increase in fuel prices to people to fill the revenue gap directly.

"Though second option is painful for the masses but it is better to bridge revenue gap by increasing tariff instead of printing more currency notes," she said, adding that the government was raising tariffs in a phased manner and it could not stifle economy by freezing tariff. In reply to a question, she said the government had not yet decided to increase power tariff and any such decision would be taken keeping in view the ground realities. Answering another question, the Information Minister said that completion of Iran -Pakistan gas pipeline project was the priority of government as this project was vital in dealing with the country's energy crisis. "Finance Ministry is determined to complete this key project," she maintained.

When asked if the President would announce creation of Siraiki province in his fifth address to the Parliament, she did not respond. "The President will definitely mention implementation of the promises that he made in his first speech to the Parliament but I cannot disclose the contents of his next address to the Parliament," she added.

Replying to a question, she said it was not a fact that corruption did not exist in the Punjab which was being governed by the key opponents of the PPP-led federal government. "You (journalists) do not challenge who benefits from construction of overhead bridges in the Punjab and from which company and at what price and what terms are laptops being purchased," she said.

The case of Mehran Bank was being heard by the Supreme Court of Pakistan and its decision was awaited as this will decide who are involved and responsible in this scam, she said, adding that it will also determine the definition of 'corruption'. She also informed the media that the Cabinet discussed the reasons behind the increase in price of pulses. One of the reasons, she said, was a delay in gram crop due to prolonged winter season.



Courtesy: B R


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