ISLAMABAD: Minister for Information, Broadcasting, Culture and National Heritage Attaullah Tarar Friday said that the government had achieved a milestone with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s recent official visit to Tajikistan and Kazakhstan, especially on diplomatic and economic fronts.

“Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his delegation received a splendid reception during his visits to the Central Asian states,” the minister said while addressing a news conference.

The Pakistani ports were the mainstay of the discussions of the prime minister with the top officials of the Central Asian states that were landlocked countries and had a keen interest in increasing partnership with Pakistan, he said.

The land and railway routes also came under discussion to promote bilateral trade between them, he added.

For giving a boost to Pakistan’s bilateral trade with the two Central Asian states, the provision of facilities to the business community was also discussed during the meetings, he noted.

Tarar said PM Shehbaz Sharif’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Kazakhstan was held in a welcoming and friendly environment.

With President Putin, he said, the discussion encompassed promoting cooperation and partnership between the two countries’ diverse economic sectors including agriculture, mining, petrochemicals and others.

The delegations exchange was expected between the two countries which would eventually increase the bilateral trade, he added.

He termed the meeting between the two head of states “productive”.

PM Shehbaz Sharif, the minister said, also held discussion with the presidents of Belarus and Uzbekistan on road and rail links, and stressed on increasing bilateral trade and provision of facilities to the business community.

He called the meetings as of the utmost importance where the prime minister represented Pakistan and his vision unequivocally.

Tarar said the meetings would usher in arrival of delegations in Pakistan which would eventually have a greater impact on the economy in coming days.

He said an important agreement was signed between Pakistan and Tajikistan for high-level strategic partnership during the visit, thanking the President of Tajikistan who expressed real warmth for the people of Pakistan.

“There is a huge potential for solidifying partnership between Pakistan and Tajikistan through trade and investment which will not only benefit the people of both the countries but also further boost their economies.”

Highlighting exceptional diplomacy of the prime minister, regional peace and stability and strategic matters were discussed in a tripartite talk between Turkey, Pakistan and Azerbaijan.

At the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit, he said, Prime Minister Shehbaz presented Pakistan’s clear and unequivocal stance on Palestine “which is so far unprecedented and historical”.

The prime minister minced no words in saying that “Israel is not only carrying out genocide of unarmed and innocent Palestinians but also committing war crimes”, he added

Tarar said PM Shehbaz particularly mentioned martyrdom of 37,000 Palestinians, including children and women, and displacement of two millions who were forced to leave Gaza and Rafah due to the humanitarian crisis caused by the Israeli attack on hospitals and other areas.

The prime minister categorically said that “Israel must be held accountable” and demanded an immediate ceasefire, he added.

PM Shehbaz reiterated Pakistan’s support for a two-state solution where Palestine was given its independence with the pre-1967 borders and Al-Quds as its capital.

The prime minister had echoed sentiments of all the people of Pakistan for the Palestinians at a such critical forum in an “unambiguous way”, the minister stressed.

He said Islamophobia and Afghanistan were also discussed at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit.

A peaceful Afghanistan was critical for the peace and stability in the region, he cited the prime minister as saying.

He said the prime minister had taken a major initiative to digitizing the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) for boosting the revenue.

“Without spending the state money, the prime minister took an out of the box solution for digitizing the FBR,” he said. PM Shehbaz garnered the support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in engaging McKinsey & Co. for the ongoing digitization of the FBR, which was appreciable, he added.

During digitization process, the minister said, some 4.5 million people were identified who did not pay taxes despite their ability to fulfill the national obligation.

“Such persons will be immediately brought into the tax net,” he said, adding ironically the burden of non-filers was being borne by the filers.

He said the prime minister had directed to immediately end discretionary power of Customs appraising officers at the ports, besides establishing a digital system there. The concerned were asked to furnish a report within next 24 hours.

Due to the government initiatives, he said, more than 300,000 new taxpayers had submitted their tax returns during the last few days.

Over 4,000 people and companies had been identified for submitting fake sales tax refunds over the past two weeks, he said, calling under invoicing as a “serious crime”.

He said the prime minister had directed to stop the sale tax refunds to those companies that were involved in under-invoicing.

Several FBR officers had been made OSDs on corruption charges in the past few days, he said, adding those officers belonged to the Customs Service and Income Tax IRIS Service.

According to him, the actions were taken on basis of intelligence and internal department reports.

The prime minister also rewarded the efficient and honest officers, he added.

The minister said the government was paying full attention to the FBR’s digitization which would boost the revenue by billions of rupees in the coming days.

Stabilization of rupee, increase in foreign exchange reserves, decrease in trade deficit and increase in IT exports gave an indication of economic stability, he said, while highlighting the prime minister’s other initiatives such as low taxes and exemption in addition to increase in minimum wages.

Diplomacy and economic reforms, privatization of PIA and digitization of the FBR were moving forward rapidly in accordance with the prime minister’s vision which would benefit the masses, he noted.

To a query, Tarar said consultation with the allies on calling an All Parties Conference was underway to discuss the Operation Azm-i-Istehkam.

He welcomed the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) founder’s statement, expressing the hope that “he remains steadfast on it as this is the whole country’s matter so all political parties should be taken on board”.

He expressed his grief over the martyrdom of Senator Hidayat Ullah and others in a terrorist attack in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Bajaur the other day.

The minister reiterated the government’s resolve to root out the terrorism which was crucial to stability in the country and region.

He said terrorists did not have any religion, race or nationality and united efforts needed to root out the scourge of terrorism.

To a query, the minister said he would take up the issue of the killing of a boy, who was hit by a government vehicle a couple of years ago, with the Islamabad Police for its transparent investigation.



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