ISLAMABAD - There will be a uniform loadshedding schedule and uninterrupted electricity supply during Iftar, Sahar, and Taraveeh across the country, the federal cabinet has decided.

Increase in the minorities’ seats in national and provincial assemblies was also agreed in a cabinet meeting chaired Wednesday by Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf.

Briefing the media after the meeting, Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said in response to a question that next general elections would be held on time but they could negotiate with the opposition parties (inside and outside the parliament) to hold them a couple of months earlier.

The cabinet has also approved Rs 2.5 billion Ramazan package, the minister said, adding that 57,000 utility stores throughout the country will offer a number of subsidised items. Kaira said the PM has directed the Utility Stores Corporation to arrange for this facility in Fata as well. He said that finance secretary told in his briefing that Consumer Price Index was on a downward trend, and government’s revenue collection has gone to more than Rs1,900 billion in 2012 from Rs800 billion in 2008.

Kaira said that water and power minister briefed the cabinet on loadshedding situation and told his cabinet colleagues that power generation has been increased from 10,000 to 13,650 megawatts (MW), reducing the shortfall to 3,500MW. He told them that 2,000MW will be added to the system by end of the year and generation will be gradually increased to 15,000MW.

Kaira asserted that federal government was not discriminating against Punjab regarding power loadshedding, saying that since the most populous province of the country receives 66 percent electricity from the system, so its share in loadshedding was also more than the other provinces. He said Punjab could produce 800MW through canal system but the provincial government was not taking any step in this regard. To a question, the minister said that Wapda and law ministry were holding consultations to introduce new laws to control power pilferage.

The information minister said the cabinet approved in principle to increase quote of seats in the assemblies of the non-Muslims in proportion to their population. For this, the cabinet has constituted a committee comprising ministers of law and justice, religious affairs and national harmony. It would require amending article 51 of the constitution, he added.

Benazir Bhutto had announced that women and minorities will enjoy enhanced protection and they will be allowed to contest elections on both the general seats and the reserved seats, he said, pointing out that government had already given representation to minorities in the senate. The information minister said that all citizens were equal and the government was abolishing all discriminatory laws.

About the dual nationality issue, he said there is a coalition government in power and there can be difference of opinion among the partners which can be ironed out. Ironically, he claimed that nothing new has been added in the new proposed law. He said right to appeal was genuine right of the parties concerned. On drone strikes, the minister said Pakistan’s stance over the issue was very clear that these not only damage our relation with US but were also against our sovereignty.

The minister said the cabinet also reviewed implementation of its decisions regarding ministries of communication and climate change. The cabinet was informed that ninety percent of decisions regarding communication ministry have been implemented. He said that the PM directed the ministry of climate change to expedite implementation of cabinet decisions.