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NA passes 4 bills to meet IMF terms amid protest

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 Amid strong protest by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-backed opposition members, the National Assembly on Monday passed four bills to fulfill conditions of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to meet its structural benchmark and performance criteria of State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs).

The four bills are Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (Amendment) Bill 2024, the Pakistan National Shipping Corporation (Amendment) Bill 2024, the Pakistan Postal Services Management Board (Amendment) Bill 2024 and the National Highway Authority (Amendment) Bill 2024.

The amendment bills were okayed by the National Assembly to bring previous Acts relating to the SOEs in conformity with provisions of the SOEs (Governance and Operation) Act 2023.

Law Minister Senator Azam Nazir Tarar said that the SOEs Act had come into force to improve governance and operation of the state companies.

He regretted the attitude of opposition members who gathered in front of dais of deputy speaker while he was chairing proceedings to register their protest. They tore copies of agenda and bills and continued sloganeering throughout the legislative business. “The whole nation has seen behaviour of opposition members who are opposing legislation which is very much in the national interests,” the minister said.

The SOEs Act required that the independent or private members or directors should be greater in number than the ex-officio members of boards. Therefore, through fresh legislation, the composition of boards or councils of four SOEs had been changed.

There would a board for general direction and general administration of Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) to be headed by a chairman to be appointed by the federal government from amongst independent members.

The board will also comprise secretary of the division concerned (information secretary), Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General, additional secretaries of Finance and Foreign Affairs, Pakistan Television Corporation managing director. While in case of their absence an officer not less than grade-20 would represent them. The board will also have nine independent members including at least one each from the four provinces, Islamabad, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Gilgit Baltistan for a period of three years.

The board besides preparing annual budget of the PBC would also be responsible for formulation of implementation of all programmes and policies for infrastructural and technological development within the country and promotion of interests abroad.

Another amendment, as introduced in the bill by Aqeel Malik, says that there would be a director general of the PBC to be appointed by the board and he would be chief executive officer of the PBC.

According to another amendment, provisions of the SOEs Governance and Operations) Act 2023 would also apply on the PBC.

The management board of Pakistan Post Office Department would also be headed by a chairman to be appointed by the government from amongst independent members. Other members include director general or chief executive of the department, joint secretaries or equivalent of Finance Division and the division to which the department is concerned, two senior officers of postal group of not below BS-21 and six independent members.

The National Highway Council would also be headed by a chairman to be appointed by the government from amongst five independent members.

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