The federal cabinet on Tuesday approved a request for granting powers of ‘inquiry commission’ to the committee formed to probe the recent wheat flour and sugar shortage in the country. “The committee, which is due to present its report on the shortage of two commodities before the cabinet next week, has been given powers of ‘inquiry commission’ under the Commission of Inquiry Act, 2017,” Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan told media here after cabinet’s weekly session. She said the Federal Investigation Agency’s director general, who is convener of the committee, sought some time from the cabinet for submission of the report, while updating it about the recent developments. She said most of the cabinet members stressed on making the report public at the earliest. The report will be submitted before the cabinet soon, she added. Dr Firdous said the status of inquiry commission will give legal cover to the committee to visit the relevant departments during the inquiry process and forensic audit of their accounts. The FIA DG told the cabinet that the forensic audit of accounts is imperative to expose elements behind the sugar crisis, she said. The cabinet also decided to include DG anti-corruption department and senior representatives of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, Intelligence Bureau and the Federal Board of Revenue in the commission. The inquiry commission will also be authorized to form special committees for certain matters, she said. Prime Minister Imran Khan directed the committee to step up its efforts to conclude the fact-finding process so that the culprits can be taken to task, she said, adding that the committee, which is probing the reasons behind the sugar shortage, has also been given the mandate to evaluate the role of Competition Commission of Pakistan during the situation. “The committee will also investigate that why the commission which ought to expose, punish and eliminate the cartels and mafias, has been playing the role of a silent spectator,” she said. Dr Firdous said the issue of protesting employees of Pakistan Secretariat, Islamabad, also came under discussion. The prime minister directed the department concerned for formulating a uniform policy regarding pay scales of government employees to avoid discrimination, she said, adding that Advisor on Finance Abdul Hafeez Sheikh has been assigned the task of having negotiations with the striking employees. He will also work with the federal and provincial governments to remove the pay disparity among the employees of the two governments. Both the federal and provincial governments had been asked to present their proposals to the cabinet in its forthcoming meeting for removing the employees’ sense of deprivation, she added. Dr Firdous said SAPM on Health Dr Zafar Mirza and SAPM on Overseas Pakistanis Zulfi Bukhari informed the cabinet about their interaction with the parents of students stranded in China due to the coronavirus outbreak. They also informed the cabinet about the welfare measures taken by their ministries in this regard, she added. Dr Firdous said the model of testing agencies, which conduct tests for recruitment in various government departments, also came under discussion. The adviser on establishment and special assistant on social welfare were asked to devise a comprehensive course of action regarding their process of testing for the posts of grades 1 to 5, she added. She said the cabinet approved the resignation of Board of Investment Chairman Zubair Gilani, who had quit due to personal reasons. The special assistant said the cabinet also decided that the pensioners’ proof of life will be linked with the biometric system. Now, the widows of pensioners will only have to submit the certificates of remarriage once a year instead of twice a year. Moreover, the condition for the widows of above 60 years of age has been abolished. The cabinet decided to relax ban on import of food for metabolic children with the help of Pakistan Baitul Maal and a statutory regulatory order will be introduced in the next budget, she said. On the issue of power, the SAPM said the prime minister informed the meeting that the government has saddled with energy crisis due to costly agreements of the previous government related to power generation, tariff determination and liquefied natural gas import. The prime minister decided to hold massive consultation on energy in the next cabinet meeting, where the agreements signed by former petroleum minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to benefit his family members and cronies during his party’s government will also be exposed, she added. The SAPM said the prime minister rejected a summary moved by Punjab government for import of anti-dengue vaccine from India owing to inhumane acts of Modi government in Held Kashmir and anti-Muslim policies, and stressed the need for exploring alternatives for the purpose. She said the cabinet has imposed ban on the export of personal protective equipment, including special dress, gowns, gloves and surgical masks to avoid their shortage in the market. The cabinet also resolved to ensure 50 per cent quota of federal capital’s dwellers on grade 1 to 15 government posts in Islamabad. The SAPM said SAPM Dr Ishrat Husain presented his committee’s third report of restructuring of the federal government institutions. He proposed complete privatization of 16 institutions and transfer of over 30 to the Pakistan Sarmaya Company. To a query, she said the coronavirus is not an issue of any political party but that of the entire nation. All the provinces will be provided full assistance for overcoming the epidemic, she added.