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POLICY

Jan 21 - 27, 2002

Next polls on basis of joint electorate

The federal government, which is set to unveil the election schedule in July, announced on Wednesday the first part of the constitutional package by declaring that elections would be held on joint electorate basis.

It was also announced that existing seats of the National Assembly had been increased from 237 to 350, including 60 seats for the women.

Reserved seats for the minorities have been abolished and 25 new seats created for the technocrats.

National Reconstruction Bureau (NRB) Chairman Lt-Gen Tanvir Hussain Naqvi (retired) said at a press conference that only educated persons, with the minimum qualification of graduation, would be able to contest the polls. Polling method for the general seats would remain same but for the election of women, proportional representation system was being introduced.

The system of separate electorate was introduced by the late Gen Zia and it was included in the Constitution through the controversial 8th Amendment. Last elections on joint electorate basis were held in 1977.

In a related development, Chief Election Commissioner Justice Irshad Hasan Khan (retired) took oath on Wednesday.

The president also issued an order under which the Election Commission will be reconstituted, having a member from each province. Earlier, the EC consisted of two members and a chairman. Now it will have four members and a chairman.

The retired general said special seats for women, which ceased to exist in 1993, had not only been revived but also increased to 60.

Ten special seats for the minorities had been abolished, and now they would be eligible to contest against any general seat from any constituency and cast their votes in their respective constituencies, he pointed out.

Private television channels allowed

The federal cabinet on Wednesday approved an ordinance allowing establishment of TV channels in private sector.

The cabinet meeting, which was presided over by President Pervez Musharraf, approved the draft of PEMRA Ordinance 2002, allowing the setting up of Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority.

The PEMRA will have a chairman and nine members to be appointed by the president. The chairman of the authority will be a prominent professional.

Smeda to get $200m from ADB next year

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) will provide $150-200 million loan to the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Authority (Smeda) by April next year under Trade Enhancement Finance Programme for the SMEs development.

This was stated by the chief executive officer, Smeda, Iqbal Mustafa in a press conference on Wednesday.

Under the first phase, he said, the Bank will provide one million dollars grant to Smeda in April for technical assistance.

Smeda is also likely to get $10 million from the European Union (EU) for undertaking institutional building of SMEs in Pakistan, he said adding that the Ministry of Finance is currently in the process of negotiating these loans with the EU.

Besides this assistance, the World Bank has also provided $200,000 to carry out investment climate survey for promotion of local and foreign investments.

USAID set to reopen mission

The United States Secretary of State, Colin Powell, announced on Thursday that the United States had decided to reopen the mission of the US Agency for International Aid and Development in Pakistan.

Resumption of USAID mission will allow the US government to target its assistance programme to areas identified by the government of Pakistan as priority areas, including education, health and human development.

Shaukat leaves for Tokyo

Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz is scheduled to leave for Japan on Friday to attend the meeting of 'Steering Group on Reconstruction Assistance to Afghanistan' to be held in Tokyo from Jan 21-22.

Units merger

Kohinoor Textile Mills Limited has announced swap ratios for merger of other two group units with the company.

Shareholders in Kohinoor (Gujar Khan) Mills Limited (KGM) will receive one share in Kohinoor Textile Mills (KTM) for 3.422 shares held in their company, while shareholders in Kohinoor Raiwind Mills Limited (KRM) would get 2.326 shares in Kohinoor Textile for each share held in Kohinoor Raiwind Mills.

Defence cooperation

China and Pakistan renewed their commitment on Tuesday to continue cooperation in the defence sector.

The top-ranking military officials of the two countries at their formal talks discussed ways and means to further strengthen their cooperation.

Consultants

The Ministry of Finance is paying Rs42 million every year to its 23 consultants posted in various sections and attached departments besides $3.9m (Rs234m) a month to a foreign consulting firm , and logistic facilities to five advisers.

Pricewaterhouse Coopers, the foreign consulting firm, is being paid $3.9 million under the Project for improvement in Financial Reporting and Auditing (PIFRA).

Restructured IDBP

Industrial Development Bank of Pakistan, one of the country's oldest DFI, that helped build the country's industrial edifice, will be privatized with a clean balance-sheet and on the franchise value of its commercial banking licence, sources said.

For the past few years, the State Bank has suspended issuing licences for commercial banking. Those wanting to float a commercial bank are intended to be tempted to purchase IDBP. The bank has 370 employees and 19 branches in major cities. The staff is expected to be reduced radically through a separation scheme.