Dar removed as ECC Chairman, PM takes over the task himself

  • Govt to fulfill Quaid-i-Azam's promise with minorities; Khaqan
  • directs to ensure timely completion of all ongoing uplift projects
  • Reaffirms resolve to continue political, moral, diplomatic help to 
  • Kashmiris; Expresses grief, sorrow over losses in China's quake 


ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Friday reconstituted the cabinet's most powerful body - the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) - and decided to become its chairman, which will squeeze the space for Finance Minister Ishaq Dar in the new set-up.
It is for the first time in the past 10 years when a prime minister has decided to be the ECC chairman. For most of the tenure of the previous PPP government and the past four years of the PML-N administration, the finance minister had been the chairman of the ECC.
The decision shows that Abbasi wants to steer the energy agenda, unlike during Nawaz Sharif's tenure when he had to repeatedly request Dar to call ECC meetings for taking decisions on important matters.
Former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Shaukat Aziz used to chair ECC meetings. However, ex-premier Sharif never chaired the ECC sittings while former premier Yousaf Raza Gilani chaired ECC meetings for a few months until Shaukat Tarin was appointed the adviser on finance in August 2008.
"The prime minister has been pleased to reconstitute the ECC of the cabinet and its chairman will be prime minister himself," said a Cabinet Division notification of August 10.
The ECC will comprise ten regular members including the finance minister, minister for commerce and textile, minister for communication, minister for industries and production, minister for law and justice, minister for national food security, minister for privatisation, minister for railways, minister for statistics and minister for water resources, according to the notification.
However, in the absence of the prime minister due to other commitments, the finance minister would chair the ECC meeting, it said.
The ECC takes decisions on all economic matters including changes in tax rates and setting sector-specific economic policies. The ECC chairman used to exercise powers of the prime minister.
Agencies add: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has assured the minorities that the PML-N government will fulfill the promise made to the non-Muslim citizens by Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah on August 11, 1947.
"We will make Pakistan such a tolerable society where basic rights of every citizen are protected and where all Pakistanis, either they are Muslims or non-Muslims work collectively for progress and prosperity of the country," the Prime Minister said in his message on the occasion of "Minorities Day" being observed on August 11.
He said that it was on this day in 1947, when Quaid-i-Azam in his historic address to the Constituent Assembly outlined the contours of a modern and tolerant Pakistan in which people of all faiths would have equal rights and opportunities. He said the vision of a tolerant and modern Pakistan was also embodied in the consensus Constitution of 1973. 
Besides this, the Prime Minister said it was also a historic truth that the minorities in Pakistan had worked shoulder to shoulder with their majority in all walk of lives. Their contributions in social sector in general and health sector in particular were admirable, he added.
The Prime Minister said those living in majority in Pakistan were bound to fulfill the promise made by the Quaid-i-Azam with the minority communities on August 11, 1947.
He said rights of all citizens in Pakistan were equal and it would be ensured as a citizen and as a state to accord equal treatment to all the citizens irrespective of their religion, caste and creed.
In this connection, the Prime Minister said the government was aware of its responsibility to protect the rights of minorities at all costs.
He said the government had taken a number of steps for the welfare of minorities by allocating five percent quota in jobs for them at federal level, besides allocating seats in the Senate, National Assembly and Provincial Assemblies according to their population ratio.
The Prime Minister said religious festivals of the minority communities were also being celebrated at the government level.
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has directed the Ministry of Water Resources to focus on all the ongoing development projects and ensure their timely completion.
Presiding over a meeting to discuss the affairs of WAPDA in Islamabad on Friday, he said the new Ministry of Water resources had been constituted for better resolution of the issues.
He said the present government initiated several mega water projects. The Prime Minister said we must make Ministry of Water Resources productive and renew our efforts in this regard.
Chairman WAPDA, Lt Gen Muzammil Hussain (Retd) briefed the meeting about the ongoing and future water and power projects.
The meeting was further informed that among the ongoing projects, work on Kachhi Canal having capacity of irrigating 72,000 acres of land in Dera Bugti has been completed and it would be inaugurated very soon.
The Prime Minister expressed satisfaction over the project and said the entire demography of Dera Bugti and other areas of Balochistan would benefit from this canal. It was further informed that first unit of 969 MW Neelum Jhelum Hydropower Project would be commissioned in February next year.
Regarding 1,410 MW Tarbela IV Extension, the chairman informed that its first unit would be ready for power generation by February 2018, second by April, 2018 and the third by May, 2018.     
The meeting was also briefed about work on Dasu Hydropower Project and Diamer Bhasha Dam Project.       
Prime Minister directed to control the cost escalation in these projects without compromising quality of work.
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has said Pakistan will continue to extend its political, moral and diplomatic support to Kashmiris for their just right to self-determination.
In his letter of thanks to Prime Minister Azad Kashmir Raja Farooq Haider Khan, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said Pakistan would continue to raise strong voice for the fundamental rights of Kashmiris.
He assured the AJK Prime Minister that federal government would extend its full cooperation to state government for the development and prosperity of Azad Jammu and Kashmir. Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has expressed grief and sorrow over the losses caused by recent earthquake in China.
In a message to Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, he extended sincere condolences over loss of lives and damage to property.
The Prime Minister said the government and the people of Pakistan stood shoulder to shoulder with their brothers and sisters in China in this hour of grief.
It may be noted that an earthquake hit in southwestern Sichuan province of China which left as many as nineteen people dead and around two hundred fifty others injured during last week.