ISLAMABAD - A meeting of the federal cabinet, chaired by Prime Minster Raja Pervaiz Ashraf on Wednesday, agreed that the generals and the judges should also declare their assets and directed the Establishment Division to prepare a report so as to make it compulsory for the government servants to submit statement of their assets.

Addressing the meeting, the prime minister told the cabinet members that the political parties should start making preparations for the upcoming general elections, adding that the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) believed in the holding of free, fair and transparent polls.

During meeting, the special ministerial committee on Balochistan headed by Defence Minister Syed Naveed Qamar submitted its preliminary report to the federal cabinet. The committee – comprising Law Minister Farooq H Naek, Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira, Minister for Science and Technology Mir Changez Jamali and Minister for Postal Services Sardar Omar Gorgej - had been working on a ‘fast-track basis’ which was evident from the fact that it held some 10 meetings in Islamabad, Karachi and Quetta since its formation on July 25.

It had also held meetings with Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani in Islamabad and Governor Zulfiqar Magsi in Karachi.

The cabinet also discussed the worsening energy crisis in the country, which has crippled economy and routine life, resulting in widespread anger against the PPP-led coalition government. The issue is of great political importance given the fact that the elections are just round the corner.

Briefing the media on the cabinet meeting proceedings, Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira categorically denied reports of extension in the tenure of assemblies, saying the elections would be held on time and the PPP was not scared of polls

Criticising Sheikh Rashid, Kaira he said he had used un-parliamentary language against the country top leadership at the August 13 rally in Rawalpindi, adding that no sane person could respond him in the same language. “Sheikh Rashid is a confused person and people of Rawalpindi have rejected him since he left the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

To a question about Hindu community’s migration to India, he said a committee - set up by the prime minister comprising Federal Minister Maula Bakhsh Chandio and Senator Hari Ram Kishori Lal- would soon present its report to the cabinet for practical action.

He rejected the rumours of differences within the PPP over writing of the letter to the Swiss officials for reopening of cases against President Zardari and made it clear that there was no rift in the PPP and the difference of opinion could not be termed as clash.

Kaira said the PPP had been vindicated in the people’s court and former premier Yousuf Raza Gilani was accorded a warm welcome after his disqualification during his journey from Lahore to Multan. His son Abdul Qadir Gilani won the elections in his constituency despite the fact that all the parties had united against him, the minister added.

Kaira said the party would consider the statement of Gilani about the consequences of disqualifying the incumbent prime minister in the light of a confrontation-like situation between the judiciary and the executive, adding that everyone was perturbed as to what direction the system was heading.

Replying to a question about making mandatory the declaration of assets by government employees, he said the Cabinet and Establishment secretaries had been assigned the task to present a report to cabinet about making mandatory the declaration of assets by the persons taking salary from the national exchequer. If necessary the Law Ministry’s assistance would also be sought, he added.

Kaira said a special cabinet session would be held after Eidul Fitr to deliberate on electricity crisis and measures to reduce line losses and improve power distribution system.

“Government knows very well that the people are angry on scarcity of electricity. Extraneous efforts are being made to overcome power crisis in the country,” he said.

He admitted that the recovery of electricity bills was very low in some areas, including Balochistan and FATA, due to poor law and order situation.

Replying to a question, he said the special committee, which presented interim report in the cabinet meeting, needed more time and it would finalise recommendations before the next cabinet meeting.

He said the cabinet appealed to the nation to unite against terrorism, extremism and for an end to uncertain situation in the country.

Kaira further said the federal cabinet had so far regularised the services of over 30,000 contract and daily wages employees working in various departments, adding that the process was still on and the committee headed by Religious Affairs Minister Syed Khursheed Shah and constituted by the government had so far held 16 meetings.

The minister said the cabinet approved the July 24 decisions of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC). The meeting was also briefed about power situation and the steps taken to mitigate the problem.

Kaira informed reporters that in the first 12 days of August last, the power generation was 14274 MW whereas it was 14306 MW in the comparable period this year. He said at present, the day time electricity production was 13250 MW which increased to 14300 MW in the evening.

The minister said second nuclear power unit that had developed some fault would become operational this evening as a result of which 300 MW would be added to the system.

Kaira said the prime minister had constituted a committee comprising Water and Power, Petroleum and Natural Resources and Finance secretaries to hold daily meetings to look into the issues of power production, distribution and recovery.

He said the cabinet was informed that inflation had come down as compared to 2008-09. “The Consumer Price Index has come down from 20.8 per cent in 2008-9 to 9.6 per cent, food inflation from 23.7 per cent to 9.1 per cent, non-food inflation from 18.4 per cent to 10 per cent and core inflation from 17.4 per cent to 11.3 per cent.”

He said the cabinet noted inflation could come down further if provincial governments activate their price control mechanism and take action against the profiteers and hoarders.

A comparison of prices in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka was also presented before the cabinet and it was noted that the prices of some items like wheat, rice, sugar and petrol are on the lower side in Pakistan.

“Prices of fertilizer and diesel are on the higher side because other regional countries are offering more subsidies on them.”

Generals, judges should declare assets