Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz spent most of his time in
the National Assembly and the Senate participating in the marathon
discussions on the federal budget 2005-06, listing to critical speeches
from the members of the opposite side of the table last week.
On the sidelines he, however, addressed a press
conference as the current chairman of the SAARC to announce that the
13th Summit of the SAARC will be held on November 12-13 in Dhaka, while
the standing and programming committees will be meeting from 9 to 11
The much awaited meeting of the National Security
Council (NSC) was one of his significant preoccupations, where members
apart from other items expressed concern over rising inflation. The
meeting urged the Prime Minister to take effective measures to bring
down the prices of essential commodities and provide some relief to the
The Prime Minister assured the NSC that the
government was fully cognizant of the issue and the inflation rate would
be brought down to 5 percent during the coming financial year from 10
percent of the out going fiscal year.
Besides having a meeting with the Secretary General
World Muslim League, the Prime Minister also held an important meeting
with the Chief Minister NWFP in view of the threatening stand of the
provincial government that they were finding it difficult to make next
year's budget without enhanced financial resources under the proposed
6th NFC award or substantial special grant from the federal government.
Members of the National Assembly and the Senators
belonging to the opposition as well as some from the ruling party
including former Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali blasted the
budget terming it pro-rich, pro-business, elite-oriented, and not
pro-poor as claimed by the government during the five-day budget
"It will make rich richer and poor poorer.
Majority of the people were already suffering from the tortures of
unemployment and rising prices of essential commodities.
The opposition members also criticized what they
called the delay in the announcement of the NFC award, accusing the
government of creating a sense of deprivation among smaller provinces by
avoiding announcement of distribution of resources according to the
Describing the salary increase for government
servants as too little the opposition members resented exemption of tax
on the real state business. Some saw a hidden hand which forced the
government to withdraw this proposed tax in the budget".
"Which was the secret hand and how did it work
and influenced the draft speech of the Minister of State for
Finance," they questioned the government to which no reply has come
Immediately after the meeting of the NSC, in which
the Prime Minister was directed to take some immediate measures to bring
down the prices of essential food items, Shaukat Aziz announced sale of
wheat flour at Rs. 11.50 per kg. through utility stores. Briefing
newsmen after presiding over Price Control Committee in Islamabad, Aziz
said Utility Stores Corporation has also been allowed to add more mobile
vans for supply of Atta to the areas not covered by its outlets.
Prime Minister said there was absolutely no
justification for increasing flour prices especially when the country is
expected to produce more than 21.6 million tons of wheat this year. The
federal government and provinces have already procured 4.2 million tons
of the commodity.
The federal government would release wheat from its
stocks to the flour mills for distribution of Atta through utility
stores at reduced prices, the PM said and added, the provinces have also
been asked to ensure liberal supplies from their stocks and the federal
government would meet their shortages if any.
Shaukat Aziz pointed out that the prices were rising
because of our deficient agriculture marketing system. It has been
decided to allow two international chains of wholesale companies -
Macros and Matros - to establish their stores in Pakistan for
distribution of agricultural products locally as well as arrange their
He was confident that with the elimination of middle
man, the consumer would not only get agricultural products on reasonable
rates but the quality would also be maintained. Similarly the government
is contemplating opening of more than one fruit and vegetable markets to
forestall against the possibility of cartels manipulating the demand and
supply in the prices.
The meeting also decided to launch a comprehensive
program to bring about a white revolution in the country. PM said in
view of the fact that Pakistan stands at number six in the world in
respect of milk production; it has been decided to establish dairy farms
through public private partnership.
In the fist phase, hundred model farms would be set
up by the end of 2006. The government would provide technical assistance
and subsidy on equipment for the purpose.
Under the package, farmers would be provided soft
loans for live stock farming.
He said during President Pervez Musharraf's visit to
Australia and New Zealand Pakistan would be seeking technical assistance
from these countries for improvement of agricultural and dairy sector.
Pakistan will ask these countries to invest in agro and meat processing
and dairy sectors as the government has already allowed duty-free import
of machinery for these sectors.
During his meeting with NWFP Chief Minister Mohammad
Akram Durrani, the Prime Minster assured him that his government will
provide all necessary funds for speedy development of the province.
Durrani, before going to meet the PM, had indicated that he needed at
least Rs 14 billion for the province to enable it to present a
meaningful budget otherwise he will not be able to spare funds for
development program and raise salaries of public sector employees.
While talking to Muslim World League delegation led
by Dr. Abdullah Ibu Abdul Mohsin Al Turky, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz
said that the Muslim Ummah has to unite and work hard with determination
to project Islam in its true spirit. "Islam is a complete code of
life and we need to seek guidance from the Holy Quraan to resolve all
our issues," Aziz said. Islam is a religion of peace, harmony and
understanding but unfortunately, the Prime Minister noted, Islam is
misunderstood in the world. "We need to work collectively as an
Ummah to remove misunderstandings about Islam and project its true
image," the PM emphasized.
Today's world is global world where all faiths have
to learn to live with peace, harmony and tolerance, he said. Islam
abhors extremism or violence. However, the world community should also
look towards the root causes that lead to such extreme behaviors, he
said. "Inshallah, we will work together with the Muslim Ummah and
Muslim organizations like yours, to raise the flag of Islam higher with
hard work and determination," the PM added.
The PM said that the Muslim countries have a lot of
resources and strength and have the capacity to meet all challenges.
"We must not miss any opportunity in projecting our views at
international forums and interact with political leaders, opinion
leaders, and the intellectuals will be visiting international
universities to present the true image of Islam and remove misconception
"We have to recognize our shortcomings and that
we have not done enough for the purpose. What we need is unity and
understanding and plan for the world of today and tomorrow as well as
learning from the past," the premier observed.
The delegation thanked the government for the
hospitality extended to it and said that they fully support Pakistan and
believe that Pakistan can play a leading role in resolving various
issues and challenges confronting the Muslim Ummah. The delegation
informed the Prime Minster that they had very useful discussions with
Pakistani officials and intellectuals on various issues.
Announcing the new dates for 6th SAARC Summit, Mr.
Shaukat Aziz said the Summit in Dhaka will build on in the various
initiatives launched during the highly successful 12th Summit in
Islamabad in January 2004 and review progress in SAFTA, the SAARC Social
Charter and SAARC development goals for poverty alleviation, education,
health and environment.
In addition, the leaders of SAARC member states would
also discuss ways and means to give further impetus to the SAARC process
and make the organization more effective as it enters the 3rd decade
since its inception. The Prime Minister said Pakistan believes that
regional cooperation is an important vehicle for faster economic growth
and development. It attaches high priority to the effective functioning
of the SAARC to promote greater cooperation in diverse fields and look
forward to meeting South Asian partners for a constructive and fruitful
Summit in Dhaka in November.
Commenting on the rumors about his resignation which
caused a mini crash at the Karachi Stock Exchange, the Prime Minister
said that he had directed to hold an inquiry to probe the source and
purpose of spreading rumors. "You should dismiss rumors of my
resignation and move on, Aziz said in a press conference at his National
Assembly chamber. He had already ordered an enquiry into the whole
episode. "I have asked the Securities and Exchange Commission of
Pakistan (SECP) and other agencies to investigate the whole affair and
report back," he said.