ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet approved on Wednesday a Rs11.1 billion bailout package for the Pakistan Railways to enable it to repair 145 locomotives, improve dilapidated tracks and maintain strategic fuel reserves.
A meeting of the cabinet presided over by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani also enhanced the railway’s overdraft facility from the State Bank to Rs10 billion which would be converted into a long-term loan.
The cabinet decided to take up restructuring plans for the railways, Pakistan Steel Mills and Pepco prepared by a committee at its next meeting expected in the second week of January.
Restructuring plans for five other loss-making public entities — PIA, NHA, TCP, Utility Stores Corporation and Passco — will be taken up by subsequent cabinet meetings.
The cabinet ignored JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s call for removing Prime Minister Gilani.
Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira told reporters after the meeting that Mr Gilani had been unanimously elected and he would continue to hold the office as long as he enjoyed the confidence of parliament.
Answering a question about the blasphemy law, he said: “No faithful, not even minorities, in Pakistan would ever allow anyone to change the law which was framed to prevent blasphemy of the Holy Prophet (PBUH).”
He said there was a similarity between the ongoing ‘Namoos-i-Risalat’ campaign and a joint political movement against the late prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in the name of Nizam-i-Mustafa which died down after Gen Ziaul Haq’s takeover.
The minister said the Aasia Bibi blasphemy case had been decided by a lower court and the accused had an opportunity to appeal in higher courts before seeking pardon from the president who seldom accepted such pleas.
He said an investigation into the murder of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto was in final stages and whoever, including former president Pervez Musharraf, was found involved would be punished under the law.
Mr Kaira said the reformed general sales tax bill had not been abandoned but shelved for the time being because of opposition by most parties in parliament.
He said the government had decided to consult all parties on the need to reform the taxation system in order to revive the economy.
The cabinet ratified the Saarc Agreement on Trade in Services and an additional protocol of an agreement on simplifying visa procedure for businessmen of ECO member states.
APP adds: While agreeing to help the railways meet its immediate needs to keep it running till the implementation of the restructuring plan, the cabinet said it might divert resources from uneconomical to revenue-generating sectors and adjust fares to ensure feasibility of trains with least burden on the users.