First-class air travel by Pakistan's top officials banned
In what appears to be unfolding of its agenda for ‘change’, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government on Friday revised working hours in government institutions, abolished discretionary funds of the prime minister, federal ministers and members of the National Assembly and imposed a ban on first-class air travel by the president, head of the government, chief justice, Senate chairman and NA speaker.
The decisions were taken at the second meeting of the federal cabinet in a week presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan.
The cabinet rejected a proposal for declaring only one official weekly holiday on Sunday and withdrawing the second weekly holiday on Saturday.
The meeting also decided to conduct audit of all mega transport projects carried out in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa during the last government. It was decided that the prime minister would use the official aircraft only for domestic tours and not for foreign visits.
Another important decision taken by the cabinet was formation of task forces for upgrading katchchi abadis (shanty settlements) across the country and launching tree plantation in main cities.
The meeting decided to abolish the Ministry of Capital Administration & Development Division (CADD) and merge its departments into other ministries.
Dawn has learnt that the interior ministry had prepared a proposal for withdrawing the official holiday on Saturday in view of austerity measures and improving the performance of government departments.
However, the cabinet rejected the proposal and it was portrayed that working hours of government employees have been increased. While the span of working hours will remain same — eight hours — the new office timing will be 9am-5pm. The previous timing was 8am-4pm.
Cabinet bans first-class air travel by top officials, retains two-day official weekly holiday; PM Imran to use official plane for domestic visits only
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry told Dawn that the proposal regarding office hours had suggested that they should be from 8am to 3pm.
However, the cabinet decided that the working hours should be from 9am to 5pm. “Although earlier the office timings were 8am to 4pm, people used to come to their offices at 9am. Therefore, we have decided that the new working hours should be 9am to 5pm,” he added.
Earlier at a press conference held after the cabinet meeting, the information minister said that a proposal was discussed that there should not be two weekly holidays and the Saturday holiday should be withdrawn. He said it was decided that the weekly holiday on Saturday would remain in place but working hours would be from 9am to 5pm.
The second weekly off on Saturday was introduced in 2011 on the recommendations of the water and power ministry to save electricity. However, no significant power saving was witnessed.
Luxurious air travelling
The information minister said that only the president, prime minister, chief justice, Senate chairman, NA speaker and chief ministers had the facility to travel in the first class of international flights. However, it has been decided that now they will be travelling in business/club class.
Prime Minister Khan has decided that he will not use a special plane for foreign visits and will travel in business class. However, he will use official plane for domestic travelling.
It has been learnt that the first class is not available in the flights being operated from Pakistan as this is offered by other international airlines and its fare is said to be three-hundred times higher than the business/club class.
When asked if the army chief also fell in this category, Mr Chaudhry said the army chief was never allowed the first class and he used to travel in the business class.
The minister said former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had spent Rs51 billion government funds only in one year by exercising his “discretionary powers”. Similarly, President Mamnoon Hussain also distributed public money of Rs90 million on his own discretion. He said that of the Rs51bn funds, Mr Sharif gave away Rs30bn to his MNAs and Rs21bn was given or spent on different occasions.
“That was taxpayers’ money which was lavishly used by the ex-prime minister. Now the incumbent prime minister has ordered that he and any other government functionary will not spend even a single penny in the name of discretionary funds,” he added.
Mr Chaudhry said now the government’s funds would be released only after the approval of parliament so that taxpayers’ money could be utilised in a better way.
Dissolution of ministry
The information minister said that as part of the government’s austerity plan, the cabinet decided to dissolve the CADD ministry and the departments working under it would be merged into other ministries.
The CADD ministry was created by the last Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government and its main departments were the Capital Development Authority, Federal Directorate of Education and two hospitals of the federal capital — Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences and Poly Clinic.
The cabinet decided to conduct audit of mega transport projects in Punjab and KP, including the former’s Lahore, Multan and Rawalpindi Metro projects, to ascertain if the funds allocated for them were actually spent on them or not. “We have learnt that billions of rupees corruption had been committed in these projects; therefore we want forensic audit of all metro projects and orange line project of Lahore,” the information minister said.
He, however, clarified that the projects executed under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor would not be disturbed and the required funds would be released for their early completion. In case of any irregularity, the case of metro bus would be referred to the Federal Investigation Agency, he added.
Responding to a question about loadshedding during Eidul Azha holidays, Mr Chaudhry said Prime Minister Khan had taken notice of it and sought a report from the Wapda chairman. He said the country had sufficient electricity but problems in the distribution system caused power breakdowns.
About the failure of the Results Transmission System (RTS) during on July 25 night, he said that like opposition parties, the PTI had also expressed concern over it and one of the party’s senior leader Azam Khan Swati had taken up the issue with the Election Commission of Pakistan.
He said the appointment of Azam Khan as principal staff officer of the prime minister was based on merit.