Implications of Cabinet decisions

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THE Federal Cabinet, which met in Islamabad with Prime Minister Imran Khan in the chair, took important decisions on a host of matters with implications for the society, the system and the economy.

It approved the rules to tighten regulatory noose around the social media, a national action plan on business and human rights, legislation on sighting of the moon, expansion of e-visa facility to more countries and mulled over the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in the elections, right of vote for overseas Pakistanis, the issue of high rise buildings and the economic indicators.

It is a matter of pride that Pakistan has become the first country in South Asia and the 3rd in Asia by approving a national action plan to ensure that all businesses comply with human rights.

By approving the plan, Pakistan has adopted a pragmatic mix of mandatory and voluntary measures to promote the protection and respect for human rights in all forms of business activity, and provide remedies for adverse human rights impacts where they have occurred.

Its effective implementation by the public and the private sectors would, hopefully, not only safeguard fundamental rights of the work force in terms of safety, health and wages but also scuttle negative propaganda against the country by some foreign lobbies aimed at tarnishing the image of Pakistan and harming growth of its exports.

We hope that the federal and provincial governments would move quickly to initiative corresponding legal, judicial, administrative and other measures to give practical shape to the plan under the aegis of the Human Rights Ministry.

To begin with, the Government should provide safety gears and relevant tools to the personnel of electricity distribution companies that presently carry out repair and maintenance work at the peril of their lives in the absence of otherwise ‘must’ safety tools and dress.

As for rules about social media, the Government is well within right to ask the tech giants including Facebook, Google and YouTube to open their local offices as this is pre-requisite to increase revenue from e-commerce and other online activities.

However, imposition of 15% tax on digital services provided to consumers, including online buying and selling would be in direct conflict with the declared objective of the Government to promote e-commerce and e-payments.

The decision to ban private announcements regarding moon sighting is a step in the right direction given the tendency on the part of some elements to make the beginning of the Ramzan and celebration of Eidul Fitr controversial almost every year, harming national unity and cohesion.

It is, however, to be seen how the Government intends to enforce the decision when the proposal for five-year jail term for violators has been rejected by the Federal Cabinet, for understandable reasons.

Mere imposition of fine is hardly expected to dissuade the violators from pursuing the path of making their own announcements about sighting of moon despite presence of the Central Ruet-e-Hilal Committee.

The extension of the E-Visa facility to 191 countries (from the existing 50) would surely help promote economic interaction with the outside world besides tourism promotion.

The economic indicators highlighted by the Cabinet ($5.4 worth of foreign remittances, revenue collection of 858 billion rupees and a record level of foreign exchange at $27.2 billion in the first two months of the current financial year) augur well for the country, showing that targets for the year might be achieved if the existing momentum is maintained.

There is, however, dire need to curb growing exports through import substitution programmes and imposition of regulatory duties on luxury and non-essential items.

It would not be advisable for the Government to hide behind the lame excuse of ‘imported inflation’ as price-hike has much to do with the policies of the Government and its failure to check activities of various mafias than the import factor.

The decision to hold talks with the opposition on the ticklish and sensitive issue of EVMs has widely been acclaimed but the Government seems to be sticking to its policy of pressurizing the opposition on the matter.

The insistence on positive forward movement on the use of EVM in the shortest possible time and the threat of convening the joint session of Parliament to decide the issue conveys the wrong impression that the Government wants to impose its will at all costs, a tendency that needs to be curbed especially when the Parliamentary Committee is to discuss the matter threadbare.

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