ISLAMABAD - Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz on Monday said the Pakistan Railways , industry and small businesses, including shopping malls, had been allowed to resume their activities amid strict adherence to the standard operating procedures (SOPs).

Addressing a press conference here, he welcomed the Supreme Court’s directives for opening of markets and shopping malls in the suo moto case on coronavirus outbreak, which had vindicated Prime Minister Imran Khan’s stance of simultaneously fighting the pandemic and saving the vulnerable segments of the society from hunger and starvation.

The government was maintaining a balance between economic activities and preventive measures against the coronavirus pandemic, the minister added.

Shibli Faraz appealed to the opposition parties not to indulge in political point scoring on the coronavirus as national unity and cohesion was needed to defeat the contagion.

He said restart of the trains operation had been allowed from May 20, with Railway Divisional Headquarters having  the responsibility to implement the SOPs. Similarly, he said, the industrial sector had also been allowed to operate for facilitation of the business class. However, the industrialists would have to ensure implementation of the preventive measures against the coronavirus. The industry would be allowed to run even during the Eid holidays.

 

The minister said a long lockdown was not in the interest of the country as the daily-wage earners could not afford restrictions. However, following precautionary measures was vital to tackle the challenge of coronavirus, he added.

Shibli Faraz  said the production of protective equipment against the coronavirus had been started in Pakistan and the surplus products would be exported as well. He asked the masses to ensure social distancing in shopping malls and markets.

 

The minister said Prime Minister Imran Khan had formally launched the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme for those rendered jobless due to the coronavirus. Despite limited resources, the government was taking all possible steps to provide relief to the poor segments of society.

 

He said as per the vision of prime minister, there was need to speed up the reforms process in the health sector and the coronavirus pandemic had showed that it should be carried out on urgent basis.

Replying to the questions of media persons, the minister said easing the lockdown was aimed at facilitating the people, particularly the weak segments of the society, to earn their livelihood and it was everyone’s responsibility to make it successful.

 He warned that restrictions could be re-imposed if the public did not adopt self-discipline despite undergoing the painful experience previously.

 As regards massive increase in the rates of essential items during the holy month of Ramazan, he regretted that it had become a tradition in Pakistan to maximise profits, which was not the case in other countries. It was a serious issue.

The government, he said, had ensured uninterrupted supply of the daily use commodities. Moreover, inflation and interest rates had also been already brought down. The business community should cooperate and give relief to the people by taking advantage of the two factors, he emphasized.

About the Sindh government, the minister noted that the provincial government had done too much politics despite having its representation in the National Command and Control Centre, where no unilateral decisions had ever been made. Despite endorsing the decisions at the NCOC, the Sindh chief minister played politics, he said referring to the Supreme Court decisions on that count in support of his statement.

About non-payment of salaries by many companies and institutions, he said the State Bank of Pakistan had offered loans on minimal interest rate of 3 per cent to such entities to clear such payments. Despite its limited resources, he pointed out, the government had devised a strategy to support the vulnerable segments of the society.

The minister called on the opposition not to spread uncertainty, confusion and anxiety through holding news conferences at the critical juncture when the government and the nation were fighting the challenge of the virus. He said there would be acceleration in the distribution of cash among the deserving in the coming days under the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme and other initiatives.

First tranche of payment Rs63 million distributed to advertising agencies

Meanwhile, Information Minister Shibli Faraz has said the PTI government firmly believes in fundamental right of freedom of expression.

He made the remarks during a video link meeting with the office bearers of Council of Pakistan Newspapers Editors in Islamabad on Monday.

The Minister said it is our foremost priority to address the problems of journalists and media workers.  He said the outstanding payments of the media houses are being released from today. He said this process has been linked with the payment of salaries to the media workers. He said a mechanism is being evolved so that such issue does not crop up again. Shibli Faraz said regional quota of newspapers is important as many prominent journalists emerged from those papers.

The Information Minister assured to also address the problems faced by news agencies. The meeting was also attended by Secretary Information Akbar Durrani and Press Information Officer Shahera Shahid.

In the light of directions of Prime Minister’s office to clear outstanding payments to media, Press Information Department has taken up the issue with all Federal departments and expedited the payment process.

In this connection, the first tranche of payment worth 63 million rupees was distributed by Principal Information Officer Shahera Shahid to the advertising agencies. The advertising agencies have undertaken to clear the payment of newspapers and channels against the received amount within 48 hours.