ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet on Tuesday decided to sell off property and assets of different federal ministries and allied departments worth trillions of rupees with a view to generating revenue to support the country’s crippling economy.
Interestingly, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leader Jehangir Tareen, who was disqualified for being ‘dishonest’ by the Supreme Court in a case in December 2017, made an appearance after a long gap and gave briefing on the Rs290 billion National Agriculture Emergency Programme (NAEP) to the cabinet that later approved it.
The cabinet also decided to change the procedures for appointment of the heads of departments of different government organisations, empowering federal ministers to appoint them.
The meeting was also apprised that 3.2 million gas consumers had suffered due to inflated billing during the past three months and decided to take action against bigwigs involved in the scam.
Sharing details of the meeting with the media, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry told a press conference that the government had decided to sell off assets and properties of federal ministries and allied departments which were not in use.
“Prime Minister Imran Khan has sought lists of properties of ministries for disposal,” the minister said, adding that the ministries had already finalised their lists and sent them to the federal cabinet.
Asked how the government could sell its assets without adopting proper liquidation process, Mr Chaudhry said the government would first adopt a uniform policy for disposal of all such properties, because every public organisation had their own disposal policy hampering the government’s plan to dispose of abandoned properties or those which were not in use. “The uniform policy will also describe a modus operandi to legally sell off the properties,” he said.
The information minister said a committee comprising ministers Zulfi Bukhari, Ali Zaidi, Murad Saeed, Ali Amin Gandapur and Hammad Azhar had been formed to sell the government assets.
The appearance PTI’s convicted leader Jehangir Tareen in the federal cabinet meeting stunned the opposition. Mr Tareen came up with the Rs290bn National Agriculture Emergency Programme (NAEP) and got it approved by the cabinet. The PML-N said Tareen’s appearance was another U-turn of Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Asked how Mr Tareen, being a convicted man, could attend the meeting of the federal cabinet, Mr Chauddhry said: “Mr Tareen is a seasoned agriculturist and he attended the meeting on special invitation of the cabinet to brief it on agriculture.”
On Dec 15, 2017, the Supreme Court handed down its much-awaited judgement in the Imran Khan-Jahangir Tareen disqualification case, rejecting Hanif Abbasi’s petition for Mr Khan’s disqualification but disqualifying Tareen for being “dishonest”.
Tareen was declared guilty on multiple charges including misrepresentation and short payment of agriculture income tax, inside trading and hiding off-shore assets.
The information minister said the government was spending over $4 billion on agriculture products’ import, which was $1.5 billion in 2015. “$2 billion are being spent only on the import of edible oil and oil seeds,” he said, adding that the government decided to spread awareness to reduce use of imported agri-products including edible oil.
He said the cabinet approved the NAEP and Rs290 billion would be spent on improvement of agriculture in five years. He added the government was also working on steps to improve fisheries and Halal meat industries by giving loans to farmers.