PM TRACKER
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GOVT NOT TO VICTIMISE POLITICAL OPPONENTS, SHAUKAT TELLS NA

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From SHAMIM AHMED RIZVI,
 Islamabad

June 27 - July 03, 2005
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Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, explaining the rationale of the budget 2005-6 in response to the critical approach of the opposition in the National Assembly, said that the budget was aiming at the welfare of the people as well as strengthening the institutions of the state.

He made a passionate appeal to the opposition to extend help and cooperate with the government in this gigantic but noble task.

He also called on the President before he left for a week-long tour of Australia and New Zealand, met the ruling party chief Ch. Shujat Hussain and NWFP Governor, besides meeting an EU parliamentarian, a Pakistani expatriate, and inaugurated an exhibition of photographs organized by the Chairman Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front, Yasin Malik, in Islamabad. On a personal letter received from a member of his cabinet, Zubaida Jalal, from Balochistan, the Prime Minister ordered a probe into irregularities allegedly committed in the allotment of state land in Gwadar. He also inaugurated the first-ever solar energy plant at a village near Islamabad on Sunday last.

In his lengthy and forceful speech in the National Assembly, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz declared that the edifice of a strong and prosperous Pakistan is being consolidated on the bases of economic strength, viable foreign policy and credible defence. These are the cornerstones for the security and sovereignty of the country and the government is committed to provide all resources to make the defence impregnable. He said peace can only be achieved through a credible defence and strength. Pakistan is a declared nuclear state and no one can cast an evil eye on it, he declared.

The government is working on a single point agenda i.e to make Pakistan vibrant and strong in all fields. He said that with continuous efforts we have now been able to maintain economic sovereignty. He expressed satisfaction that the government had been able to present to people, growers, investors and traders a friendly budget. He said, "our efforts would continue to move forward the economy with full speed", and expressed the confidence that time is not far away when Pakistan would be a leading country in Asia.

The Prime Minister said Pakistan was now being appreciated by the international community as a country moving forward on the path of growth and stability. The government is determined to sustain the level of economic growth to ensure development and progress of the people and the country. All parties should take part in the national development by setting aside their political differences, he said, urging the opposition to give concrete suggestions for further improving the economy and avoid unnecessary criticism. He said, "we have seen IMF off forever and time will never come for its return to Pakistan as we are standing on our feet with complete economic sovereignty". We have closed the chapter of taking expensive loans from the financial institutions, he added.

The Prime Minister said Pakistan was taking loans from the international financial market but these are being taken only for the purpose of development and no one would be allowed to usurp these loans. It is for the first time that the government has enacted legislation to check foreign loans. Turning towards development, the Prime Minister said, it is pertinent to note that the government has announced a historic and record three hundred and six billion rupees development budget. Under this, the provinces and Tribal Areas would get more resources for the socio-economic development of the people.

The Prime Minister said special attention has been paid on the improvement of energy sector and announced that 13,000 villages would be electrified during the next financial year. It is also for the first time that a special programme is being launched to ensure provision of clean potable drinking water and pilot projects would be launched at Union Council level, he said and added that every citizen would be provided clean and safe water by the year 2007.

He said that a special programme to control hepatitis is also being launched to combat this deadly disease. Referring to the visit of President Pervez Musharraf to Australia and New Zealand, the Prime Minister said we could seek their technical assistance for dairy development to bring white revolution in the country. Concrete measure have been taken in the new budget to give a boost to agriculture sector and uplift the growers' community. He announced that the House Building Finance Corporation would be restructured to facilitate the common man so that he could easily construct his own house.

Talking about price hike and inflation, Shaukat Aziz said the main reason for this is continuous price hike of oil prices in the international market and the government has to pay fifty billion rupees subsidy on oil imports. However, he said tangible steps are being taken to control price hike and bring down the prices of essential commodities. Turning to the privatization process he said the process is moving forward in the right direction which has been beneficial to the country and people and these institutions which were running into losses have now become vibrant.

He said global situation has been changed and the whole world is moving towards free economy, which is essential for economic progress and employment generation. He announced that the government would make all policies keeping in view the national agenda and would never victimize any segment. He referred to the unprecedented press freedom ensured in the country and urged the media to make constructive criticism and give positive suggestions for good governance and national development. Shaukat Aziz said that despite tremendous economic growth we still have a number of challenges to face. These include unemployment, poverty alleviation, further improvement of law and order and speeding up development process. He thanked the members of the National Assembly and the Senate, particularly the opposition, for giving positive suggestions for the improvement of economy. The Prime Minister said Pakistan is an Islamic country and it has a leading role to play for the progress of the Muslim Ummah. He said strong Pakistan is in the interest of whole Ummah, which could help protect its interests.

"We are standing on our feet with complete economic sovereignty. We have closed the chapter of taking expensive loans from the financial institutions. We are taking loans for development purpose, not for self aggrandizement as was the practice of previous governments". The Prime Minister said it is the first time that the government has enacted laws to check foreign loans. "Under the law, limit for the foreign loans has been fixed and whenever the government wants to take a loan, it would have to seek the permission from the parliament , he added.

Referring to Musharraf's visit to Australia and New Zealand, the prime minister said that we could seek technical assistance from those countries for dairy development to bring white revolution in the country. "Concrete measures have been taken in the new budget to give a boost to the agriculture sector and uplift the grower's community," he said. The Prime Minister gave the assurance that nobody will be allowed to use state machinery for political victimization. Life, honour and property of the people irrespective of their political affiliations will also be protected, he declared in the National Assembly on Friday.

Inaugurating the photographic exhibition the Prime Minster said Pakistan wants peaceful solution of Kashmir issue according to the wishes and aspirations of Kashmiri people and Kashmiris are bound to get their freedom soon. Besides Kashmiri leaders, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Sheikh Rashid Ahmad and PML Secretary General Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed were present on the occasion. A large number of people and human rights activists also visited the exhibition.

 

 

The Prime Minister said that throughout the long struggle of Kashmiri people, Pakistan has provided full political, moral and diplomatic support to them. He said that human rights violations are continuing unabated in occupied Kashmir and Pakistan continues to seek peaceful and just solution of the problem. He said that President General Pervez Musharraf also talked to the Indian leadership in Delhi about the peaceful solution of the Kashmir issue. He said that Pakistan wants to see Kashmiri people enjoy full freedom, peace and prosperity. The Prime Minister said, "we are all part of Kashmir struggle and the solution of Kashmir issue is not a simple race but a marathon which we must cover together".

About photographs displayed in the exhibition, the prime minister said that these are not just photographs but they carry a message. Every eye and every face in the photographs rendered the message of peace and freedom, he said.

Talking to Mr. Sayyed A Karim, a Pakistani by origin and a member of European Parliament, on Friday, the Prime Minister urged the overseas Pakistanis to invest in Pakistan as the country's investment climate has significantly improved owing to the government's recent reforms. He said Pakistan has achieved a growth rate of 8.4% and was amongst the top five Asian countries in terms of growth. Pakistan has an open economy and an enabling environment has been created by pursuing a policy of privatization, de-regulation and liberalization, so that investors can operate without any restriction. Pakistan would welcome and encourage investors from Europe, he said and assured them of all possible assistance.

Talking to Governor NWFP, the Prime Minister assured him that the NFC will be finalized in the best interest of all stake-holders. He assured that the federal government has established the committee to resolve this outstanding dispute for all times to come in a just and equitable manner. The Governor NWFP appreciated the initiative and the personal efforts of Prime Minister for setting up an arbitrary committee for resolving the long-standing issue of net hydel profits, which had been lingering for the last 15 years.

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz also ordered an investigation into the irregularities regarding the allotment and sale of state-owned land in Gwadar and sought a report on the matter from Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Yousaf.

The probe has been ordered on the letter sent to the Prime Minister by Zubaida Jalal, Federal Minister for Social Welfare and Special Education. In her letter, Ms Jalal demanded that all allotments of state-owned land in Gwadar over the last two years be cancelled.

Sources in the Prime Minister's Secretariat revealed that Jalal, who belongs to the Kam Katch constituency of Gwadar, had written in her letter that during her recent visit to her constituency, a large number of people had complained about irregularities being committed in the sale and allotment of state owned land in Gwadar district. She wrote that in the wake of the mega projects initiated by the federal government in the area, the land prices had skyrocketed and as a result, there was no state-owned land left in the entire district. She requested Aziz to direct the provincial government to cancel all allotments, especially in the Aabad Dun, Karvat and Chatani Bal areas.

Addressing a public gathering at a village about 50 miles from the location of the first-ever solar energy project, the Prime Minister said that the country cannot progress till collective interests are preferred over individual gains. "The country will make progress when we leave up personal interests and prefer the collective approach," he added.

The Rs. 3.9 million project is being carried out by Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB) at Narian Khorian, two villages some 50 kilometers away from its location, to provide electricity to 100 houses with 600 population.

The assurance by Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz in the National Assembly that his government will not allow the use of state machinery against political opponents follows a series of events involving the arrest and intimidation of members of opposition parties, including legislators, over the past few weeks. Whatever happened to PPP legislators Qamaruz Zaman Kaira in Gujrat and Zahid Bhurgari in Hyderabad is condemnable. Equally shocking is the way the Punjab Assembly speaker is suspending the membership of opposition members on flimsy grounds, apparently on cue from the provincial chief minister. The arrest of Jam Saqi after his attempts to investigate a rape case in the fiefdom of the Sindh chief minister also reflects badly on how the state's coercive apparatus is being employed against those who deviate from the determined path.

It is against this backdrop that the prime minister's statement on the floor of the National Assembly becomes worthy of appreciation and may pacify the agitating opposition. However, such promises have been made in the past as well, not just by this government, but also by all its predecessors.

It has yet to be seen what the prime minister will do to see how his assurance is implemented. It will not be an easy task for him, considering that he is surrounded by a lot of politicians who may not be believing in the principle of political tolerance and dialogue to resolve issues.