ISLAMABAD - To make the austerity a meaningful national campaign, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday announced to attend the UN General Assembly session in New York in September strictly in accordance with government’s austerity drive.

“I along with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi only will attend the UN General Assembly session in New York in September as part of austerity drive of the government,” Prime Minister was quoted as telling his Cabinet ministers during a meeting he chaired here.

“Pakistan’s brief delegation will comprise the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister to avoid burden on national exchequer,” Special Assistant to PM on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said at a media briefing following the Cabinet meeting.

Firdous said during the official visit to UNGA, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister, unlike their predecessors, would not stay at the seven-star luxurious hotels, but at the residence of the ambassador or consul general at the embassy. She said the decision was in line with the spirit of austerity to save public money and divert it towards the betterment of people.

She recalled that family members of a former prime minister attended in private capacity, the official events including UNGA, which was totally an unjustified act.

In her media briefing, Dr Firdous said Prime Minister Imran Khan explained to the Cabinet of all those initiatives that he personally took for austerity keeping in view the current economic challenges faced by the country.

Cabinet orders to curb Rs150b mobile phone smuggling

“Prime Minister Imran Khan has directed the Cabinet members that austerity measures be implemented in letter and spirit. Cabinet members should set an example for others by adopting simple lifestyle,” she added.

Firdous said the media did not accurately report the amount allocated for Prime Minister House in the new budget.

She said the previous budget allocated to Prime Minister House was Rs 1.10 billion. The incumbent government spent Rs750 million out of it and saved 32pc amount.

Firdous said in budget 2019-20 there is already a cut of 13pc for the PM House expenses.

She said the incumbent government is even paying a sum of Rs280 million in terms of outstanding bills of electricity left by previous government.

Criticising the role of Opposition in the National Assembly, she said that undue criticism by Opposition on budget is illogical. She also criticised the besieging of NA Speaker at his chamber.

Glorification of crime will not be allowed and chief ministers have been directed to discourage giving of protocols to criminals in their court hearings.

She said prerogative of issuing production order lies with the Speaker of National Assembly and he should see the merit of it. She said that no production order was issued for Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad during the tenure of previous government, despite the fact that he had no criminal case against him.

The Cabinet was informed that 157 Rest Houses of various government departments in addition to PTDC motels and NHA rest houses will also be opened for public.

Cabinet was informed that 88 percent of its previous decisions have been implemented while work on rest is ongoing.

It was decided that Ministry of Agriculture would devise a course of action in cooperation with provincial authorities regarding the situation of sugarcane crops in the country.

Minister for Food Security was directed to work on National Agricultural Plan, presented in the budget, with provincial governments to disseminate the information at the level of farmers.

In order to stop mobile phone smuggling of Rs150 billion, the Cabinet directed the concerned ministry to take steps to check this trend.

It was informed that Ministry of Finance has devised a mechanism under which rules will be amended regarding passenger baggage at airports, so that people do not misuse the facility of bringing mobile phones in the country without paying taxes.

The Cabinet was also updated on new visa regime in order to attract more tourists to the country.

Cabinet approved licence renewal of Serene Air and Air Falcon.

MoU signed between a Chinese University and Pakistan Industrial Technical Assistance Centre was accorded approval by Cabinet. Issue of regularisation of contract workers in various government departments also came under discussion of the Cabinet.

It was informed that a database of these employees is being prepared to further work with individual departments on the issue.

The Prime Minister took the Cabinet into confidence regarding upcoming visit of Emir Qatar to Pakistan.

Cabinet was also informed on Amnesty and Asset Declaration Ordinance that is going to expire on 30th of this month.

It was apprised that NADRA is setting up E-Facilitation Centres from 21st of this month at its various counters with the information of all the financial records and assets of individuals.

Any person can check his records in order to avail the asset declaration scheme.