Govt bans private moon sighting: Fawad Chaudhry

Federal Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry addressing a post-cabinet press conference in Islamabad, on September 28, 2021. — PID

Federal Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry said Tuesday the government had decided to ban private moon sightings, and only official or Ruet-e-Hilal Committee’s announcements would be considered.

Addressing a post-cabinet press conference in Islamabad, he said the decision was taken after new legislation on moon sightings was formulated. “Only announcements from the Ruet-e-Hilal Committee or the government will be considered final and binding.”

Besides the federal government, provincial and district committees for moon sighting will also be formed, the information minister said, noting that officials from SUPARCO, Pakistan Meteorological Department, Ministry of Religious Affairs, and Ministry of Science and Technology have also been included in the Ruet-e-Hilal Committee.

Govt welcomes discussion with Opposition on electoral reforms

The information minister said the PTI-led government also welcomed the Opposition’s readiness to discuss electoral reforms with the Centre, days after a committee from both houses was formed to address the matter.

He said the committee should move in the right direction to resolve the matter and not waste time.

The information minister said the electronic voting machine (EVM) and i-voting were a crucial part of the reforms. “If we exclude overseas Pakistanis from the voting process […] it will be an injustice with them.”

Chaudhry said Prime Minister Imran Khan, during the cabinet meeting, directed Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan, Advisor to PM on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan, and others who oversee parliamentary matters that these two elements — EVMs and i-voting — be discussed as a necessity with the Opposition.

The information minister said a majority of the conflicts arise as the vote count comes in and that the government had shared a study of the Philippines with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), where 300 officials had died during conflicts when the final count came in. “This happened when the Philippines did not use EVMs.”

The federal minister said the government had imported 20 machines and hoped that they could be used in upcoming elections.

“No sitting government in Pakistan has ever focused on electoral reforms, it is the PTI-led government that aims to introduce them,” the minister said, highlighting that the incumbent regime had also run campaigns in this regard.

The federal minister said the government would bring its agenda to a joint session of the parliament and stressed once more that the government is willing to talk to the Opposition on electoral reforms.

Expansion of online visa system

The federal cabinet has expanded the Pakistan Online Visa System (POVS), through which the country issues e-visas, Chaudhry said, pointing out that from 50, it is now available to 191 countries.

“The aim behind this is to promote tourism and business — and through this, nationals from 191 countries will be able to get Pakistan’s visas, while at home,” the information minister said.

Aid for Indonesia

Chaudhry said the federal cabinet, as a goodwill gesture, has approved humanitarian aid for Indonesia — a country that he said has stood firmly by Pakistan. “This is a gesture of goodwill as they battle coronavirus.”

Economic indicators

The economic indicators presented before the cabinet showed that foreign remittances have gone up by $5.4 billion, revenue collection during the first two months of the fiscal year has increased by Rs858 billion, agriculture, manufacturing, and the services sector have also witnessed an upward trend, and foreign exchange reserves are at a record level, $27.2 billion, while exports went up by $4.6 billion, Chaudhry said.

He noted that inflation had increased, but that agricultural income has also gone up alongside.

Shahbaz’s case in the UK

Responding to a question, the information minister said if the case of PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif is heard on a daily basis and on merit, he would “soon be in jail”.

The information minister hoped that the case of Shahbaz is wrapped up at the earliest so that the people of Pakistan could “finally get rid of” the Sharif family.

Chaudhry’s remarks come a day after a British court ordered the unfreezing of the Opposition leader’s bank accounts and those belonging to his son, Suleman Sharif.

The decision was taken by the court after the UK’s top anti-corruption body, the National Crime Agency (NCA) concluded there was no evidence of money laundering, fraud, and criminal conduct against the two, according to evidence seen by Geo News exclusively.

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