Pak-India visa pact gets nod

Pak-India visa pact gets nod

ISLAMABAD: Federal cabinet of the PPP-led ruling coalition Wednesday approved a new election laws bill, reaffirming their commitment to holding free, fair and transparent general elections.

Chaired by Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, the cabinet considered the agenda, took decisions on various issues of national importance and ratified the Pakistan-India visa regime agreement.The agreement, signed between the then Indian External Affairs Minister SM Krishna and Interior Minister Rehman Malik, aims at giving more concessions and simplifying the procedure to grant visa with a view to promoting people-to-people contact.

It also envisages enhanced trade and business activities between two neighbours by giving the businessmen from both sides concessions such as multiple entry one-year visas, with exemption from police report and an increase in the number of cities the visa-holders may visit. The cabinet also approved the Election Laws Bill 2012, which aims at enhancing institutional capacity of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to ensure fair and transparent elections.

Addressing the meeting, PM Raja said that the international community was appreciative of the measures taken by the present government for holding of transparent elections.He said the government was about to complete its five-year term that would be a major milestone. He added that a strong democratic setup would help bring stability to the country. The PM said he would start a series of public meetings across the country and mentioned his last public address at Gujar Khan and the “unprecedented public response” which he said spoke of the successful policies of the government.The meeting also discussed the overall political situation in the country with special reference to Asghar Khan case.

Sources reported the PM as saying that the government would implement the SC judgment in letter and spirit. PM Raja took the cabinet into confidence over his plans to attend the meeting of Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Laos next week that would be attended by leaders from Europe and Asia. The prime minister said he was saddened to hear about the devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy in the United States of America and expressed solidarity of the people and government of Pakistan with the people and government of the US.

He said he had also directed the Pakistan embassy in Washington to reach out to the Pakistanis in US and set up a hotline to facilitate them.He also apprised the cabinet members about his recent visit to Saudi Arabia to perform Haj, on the invitation of Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz. He mentioned his fruitful meetings with the Saudi leaders including the Crown Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud. He said he invited the Crown Prince to visit Pakistan, which he accepted.Later addressing a news conference, Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said that the general elections would be held latest by May after the assemblies complete their term in March.

He rejected what he described as baseless propaganda about delay in the coming elections, saying in the presence of a free media and independent judiciary such a proposition was out of question.Answering questions, he said that the SC verdict in Asghar Khan case has proved that the government installed after the 1990 elections was illegitimate and its decisions need validation. “There is a serious debate over the legitimacy of the then government and the issue should be resolved. There is a need to hold trial of people like Lt-Gen (r) Hameed Gul,” he told a questioner. – nATION