INDEPENDENCE DAY 2005

Pledge renewed to build Pakistan's image

By AMANULLAH BASHAR
Aug 22 - 28, 2005

People of Pakistan celebrated 58th Independence Day with renewed zeal and fervour to rebuild the image of the country as an enlightened and moderate society.

The slogan of enlightened and moderate society in fact was the need of the hour in the backdrop of accusing fingers being raised by the Western countries towards Muslim society by painting a distorted version as the society of extremists.

Practically speaking, economic stress has always been the core issue in Pakistan. Poorly managed economy, health and education have been the basic issues for most of the time since the inception of this country due to lack of direction and priorities.

There was the time when the country had fallen into vicious circle of debt trap and there was no hope of getting rid of the formidable foreign debt burden. At that time the country has not enough funds even for debt servicing. Most of the time, it had to borrow for payment of the heavy interest on the borrowed money.

Till the year 2000, the GDP growth rate was even less than 2 percent with the population growing at the rate of more than three and a half per cent, implying that whatever we were earning was being eroded by the high rate of population growth.

In fact, controlling population growth rate to the level of 1.98 percent in 2004 and an impressive GDP growth rate at 8.4 percent, placing the country amongst the fast growing economies in this region, was the most prestigious achievement of the present leadership.

Today, the strong economic fundamentals portraying a promising future of this country are the real cause of perturbing the minds of the anti-Pakistan lobbies within and outside the country. They are out to devising nefarious designs against Pakistan to distract and disrupt the economic movement and momentum it has achieved.

On this historic occasion, President Pervez Musharraf urged the people of Pakistan to reject extremists who want "to drag Pakistan into darkness". In his message Musharraf said his government was striving for "improving Pakistan's image and would encourage the projection of its rich culture".

The day began with a 31-gun salute and special prayers at mosques for the country's progress and prosperity.

A massive fireworks show was held in the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi overnight while public and private buildings were illuminated all over the country to mark the day.

In his message to the nation, President Musharraf appealed to the nation to reject the retrogressive elements politically and socially as they are opposed to progress. "The nation should reject elements who want to drag Pakistan into darkness," he said in a message released through television network.

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz unfurled the national flag in Islamabad's main Convention Centre rather than at the usual outdoor venue outside parliament. "Pakistan is against extremism," Aziz said, urging the nation to unite and defeat terrorism. "Terrorism is also a threat to Pakistan's freedom. There is no specific threat in the country and the security forces are already on high alert following a crackdown against extremist elements."

Pakistan, a key ally in the US-led war on terror, ordered a crackdown against extremists last month and security forces netted more than 800 suspected militants in raids across the country. Pakistan has also promised to expel some 1,400 foreign students mostly Afghanis from madressas.

The bias of the West again Pakistan was exposed in the unfounded allegations that at least two of the London suicide bombers had visited the country before the attacks last month and that one may have visited an Islamic religious school. Though the words of allegation were later withdrawn, it shows the mindset of certain elements against Pakistan.

PM SHAUKAT AZIZ

Pakistan must unite to reject and defeat terrorism which poses a threat to the country's independence, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said on the occasion of Independence Day.

Speaking at a ceremony to mark Pakistan's Independence Day, Aziz also said a solution of Pakistan's long-running dispute with India over the Kashmir region was vital for peace in South Asia.

"We have to send a message to the world that our society rejects extremism and is united against it," Aziz said. "Pakistan itself has suffered from terrorism. Terrorism is a big danger to Pakistan's independence. We will fight this danger for the sake of independence of Pakistan and will defeat it at all levels," Aziz said.

Speaking of the peace process with India, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said the disputed Muslim-majority Himalayan region of Kashmir was key to the solution. "Kashmir is a burning issue. Its solution is indispensable for durable peace -- a solution that is in line with the wishes and aspirations of the people of Kashmir," Aziz said. India and Pakistan have fought three wars since 1947, two over Kashmir. They went to the brink of a fourth in 2002 but agreed to a ceasefire in Kashmir in late 2003.

Since then the two countries have restored diplomatic, travel and sports links but have yet to achieve significant progress on Kashmir, where rebels are battling Indian rule. Prime Minister Aziz, citing Pakistan's testing of its first nuclear-capable cruise missile recently, said that Pakistan would maintain a balance of power in the region. "We will keep on harnessing our nuclear and missile capabilities in line with the changing situation," he added. Prime Minister Aziz is credited with turning around Pakistan's economy that had virtually gone bankrupt.

BACKGROUND

Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the world, faced with a number of challenges on the political and economic fronts. However, Pakistan's economic outlook has brightened in recent years in conjunction with a great improvement in its foreign exchange position, notably its current account surplus and rapid growth in hard currency reserves. Additionally, the reduced tensions with India and the ongoing peace process has raised hopes for a prosperous and stable South Asia.

Pakistan's economy, thought to be highly vulnerable to external and internal shocks, was unexpectedly resilient in the face of adverse events such as the Asian financial crisis, global recession, drought, the post-9/11 military action in Afghanistan, and tensions with India. In the two-and-a half year period since the 9/11 attacks, Pakistan's KSE-100 stock exchange index has been the best-performing in the world.

The Government of Pakistan has, over the last few years, granted numerous incentives to technology companies wishing to do business in Pakistan. A combination of decade plus tax holidays, zero duties on computer imports, government invented venture capital and a variety of government programs to subsidize technical education, have lent great impetus to the fledgling Information Technology industry. Many of Pakistan's technology companies are supplying software and services to the world's largest corporations.

PAKISTAN IN THE EYES OF QUAID-I-AZAM

Inaugurating the Pakistan Broadcasting Service on August 15, 1947, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah issued following message to the nation:

"It is with feelings of greatest happiness and emotion that I send you my greetings. August 14 is the birthday of the independent and sovereign State of Pakistan. It marks the fulfillment of the destiny of the Muslim nation which made great sacrifices in the past few years to have its homeland.

"At this supreme moment my thoughts are with those valiant fighters in our cause. Pakistan will remain grateful to them and cherish the memory of those who are no more.

"The creation of the new State has placed a tremendous responsibility on the citizens of Pakistan. It gives them an opportunity to demonstrate to the world how can a nation, containing many elements, live in peace and amity and work for the betterment of all its citizens, irrespective of caste or creed.

"Our object should be peace within and peace without. We want to live peacefully and maintain cordial and friendly relations with our immediate neighbors and with the world at large. We have no aggressive designs against any one. We stand by the United Nations Charter and will gladly make our full contribution to the peace and prosperity of the world.

"Muslims of India have shown to the world that they are a united nation, their cause is just and righteous which cannot be denied. Let us, on this day, humbly thank God for His bounty and pray that we might be able to prove that we are worthy of it.

"This day marks the end of a poignant phase in our national history and it should also be the beginning of a new and a noble era. Let us impress the minorities by word, deed and thought that as long as they fulfill their duties and obligations as loyal citizens of Pakistan, they have nothing to fear.

"To the freedom loving tribes on our borders and the States beyond our borders, we send our greetings and assure that Pakistan will respect their status and will extend to them its most friendly co-operation in preserving peace. We have no ambition beyond the desire to live honorably and let others live honorably.

"Today is Jummat-ul-Wida, last Friday of the holy month of Ramazan, a day of rejoicing for all of us wherever we may be in this vast sub-continent and for the matter of that throughout the world. Let the Muslim congregations in their thousands, in all the mosques, bow in all humility before the Almighty and thank Him for His eternal kindness and generosity, seeking His guidance and assistance in the task of making Pakistan into a great State and themselves into its worthy citizens.

"Finally, let me tell you, fellow citizens, Pakistan is a land of great potential resources. But to build it up into a country worthy of the Muslim nation, we shall require every ounce of energy that we possess and I am confident that it will come from all whole-heartedly."

Pakistan Zindabad!