ISLAMABAD  -  As the Washington prepares for withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014 and the war-torn country struggles for peace, Islamabad has come up with another generous gesture of allowing the Afghan refugees to stay in Pakistan until 2015.

Meeting under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday, the federal cabinet considered the issue of repatriation of Afghan refugees beyond June 30 deadline and decided that the proof of the registration card for them may be extended uptill 2015.

In another major step, the cabinet approved a constitutional amendment providing another 20 years extension in quota of provinces for direct recruitment in the federal services; however, it decided to postpone amendment in the Civil Servants Act, 1973.

The cabinet also gave assent to the decisions of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) and to the recent agreements signed with China during Nawaz Sharif’s recent visit, including the major Pak-China Economic Corridor pact. Moreover, the construction of fast track and long term Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminals, which included setting up of a 1,000 million cubic feet LNG terminal in Karachi, was also approved.

It also considered and approved the amendment in the Federal Employees Benevolent Fund and Group Insurance Act, 1969 (Act-II of 1969). The amendment will remove the age limit of 70 years for the provision of Benevolent Grant to family members of an employee who dies up to the age of 70 years whereas the grants under other schemes viz. Marriage Grant, Burial Charges and Educational Stipends are admissible without restriction of any age limit.

Before the end of the meeting, the prime minister told his colleagues that keeping up with the best democratic traditions, the PML-N will neither make any effort to dislodge the sitting government in Azad Kashmir nor will take part in any move for no-confidence motion. He said the party men found violating the party discipline would be dealt with sternly.

Nawaz asked Federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan, Mr Barjis Tahir, to firmly convey the decision to PML-N leadership in Azad Kashmir and tell them to abide by the party discipline and abstain from indulging in any activity that could create political turmoil in Azad Kashmir. He said the PML-N had taken similar position during the formation of the governments in KPK and Balochistan after the recent elections.

Earlier, the cabinet gave its approval to the constitutional amendment in the first provision of Article 27(1) to extend the time for quota of provinces in the recruitment for federal services, which was to expire on Aug 31 this year. The amendment envisages that in the interest of national integrity and harmony, adequate representation in the service of Pakistan for persons belonging to any class or area is only possible when the period is further extended. The proviso provides for merit/regional quota for fulfilment of direct recruitment to posts in the federal government. The existing proviso will be extended for another period of 20 years from 14-8-2013.

The cabinet considered and gave its ex-post facto approval for start of negotiations and signing of MoU on the cooperation of developing “China-Pakistan Economic Corridor” long-term plan and action plan between National Development and Reform Commission of the People’s Republic of China and Pakistan’s Ministry of Planning and Development.

On the occasion, the prime minister also briefed the cabinet members on his ‘successful’ visit to China where he said he had mutually beneficial, productive and result-oriented interaction with the political and business leadership of the country. He said the mega project of Gwadar-Kashgar economic corridor would prove to be ‘a dream come true’ in terms of progress and prosperity not only for the people of Pakistan but for the whole region.

The prime minister said that Chinese companies are expected to relocate their businesses in the economic zones along the Corridor in Pakistan. It would also open avenues for Pakistan’s trade and commerce with other countries of the region, he said. The PM said both the countries have formed task forces to monitor and expedite the progress in implementation of the project.