Sep 05 - 11, 2005


Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz announced three major policy decisions/initiatives of his government at various public forums during his busy schedule last week. Following a presentation by the National Highway Authority the Prime Minister approved the construction of Motorway linking Faisalabad & Karachi, besides talking to AGN Abbasi, Chairman Technical Committee on Water Resources who presented committees report strongly recommending construction of big dams and water reservoirs. The PM said that the government would sincerely follow the recommendations and construction work on at least one big water reservoir that would start during the current year. Addressing a press conference in Lahore he categorically announced that Pakistan was opposed to any action against Iran for pursuing its peaceful nuclear programme.

The most significant action taken by the Prime Minster during last week with regard to the ongoing tussle between the stockbrokers and the Securities & Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) was the replacement of Badla financing with Margin financing. The new set of rules, Continuous Funding System (CFS) introduced by the PM from next working day proved highly effective and KSE gained 600 points in the next few days.

Besides, he met a delegation of Sarhad Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SCCI), and hosted a dinner in honour of the Executive Council of Association of Asian Parliaments for Peace (AAPP). He also held a meeting with IMF Executive Director, and met the media delegation from Malaysia.

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz approved in principle the construction of Faisalabad-Karachi Motorway as part of the government's policy to improve and expand existing infrastructure and strengthen the North-South corridor to augment the growing needs of the economy as well as its future requirements.

He was given a presentation by the Chairman National Highway Authority (NHA), Maj. Gen. Farrukh Javed on national highways and motorways in the country at the Prime Minister House. The Prime Minister said that with high economic growth, Pakistan needs a world-class logistic chain, which will include a controlled access motorway linking Faisalabad with Karachi. Motorway between Peshawar and Rawalpindi is under rapid construction, while the motorway linking Rawalpindi to Lahore and Faisalabad is already in operation.

Dilating upon the importance of an effective and reliable road network for accelerating the pace of economic development in the country, the Prime Minster asked the NHA to explore the right corridor as per requirements of the country. He also directed NHA that the present Grand Trunk (GT) Road be developed into a better quality road for providing improved access not only to the people but also for goods and services.

There can certainly be no disputing the Prime Minister's contention that Pakistan needs a world class logistic chain, which includes a controlled access motorway linking Faisalabad with Karachi, the two major business centers, as strategically located in the north and south of the country. As he rightly pointed out, the motorway between Peshawar and Rawalpindi being under construction and the one linking Rawalpindi with Lahore and Faisalabad being already there, the idea of creating a link between Karachi and Faisalabad will appear to be rather belated. But, as the popular saying goes, better late than never, the decision will be widely welcomed.

Talking to AGN Abbasi, the Prime Minister said, water security was extremely critical for future growth and development of Pakistan and required construction of storage and distribution infrastructure. Availability of water was critical for economic development, employment in rural areas and raising the quality of lives of the people, he said.

The Prime Minister, assuring equitable distribution of water, called for enhancing water storage facility to meet the demand and overcome the capacity loss due to the prevailing situation in the existing reservoirs. The Prime Minister said two-third areas were depending on agriculture and the availability of irrigation water was critical for their economic development, adding that the government would take all necessary measures in this regard. The Prime Minister thanked the Chairman for the hard work put in by his team for addressing a major issue of water availability.

The Technical Committee on Water Resources (ECWR), in its report to the Prime Minister, recommended that the construction of water reservoirs was necessary for surplus water to meet the irrigation needs of the country. The committee, comprising eight members, two from each province, submitted its recommendations after detailed discussions with all the stakeholders, covering all aspects of the terms of reference over a period of one-and-a-half years. Abbasi said the committee presented all its submissions, along with the documents following deliberations with representatives of the provinces, government officials' experts and the public.

Addressing a press conference, he said Pakistan will never support any military action on Iran with a view to destroy its nuclear facilities. Pakistan enjoys very cordial and friendly relations with its western neighbour and the two countries are in constant touch with each other on regional issues including that of Iran's nuclear capabilities, he added. He expressed the hope that initiative taken by the European countries to resolve the Iranian nuclear question would prove successful. The Prime Minister emphasized that all matters relating to that country's nuclear issue must be resolved through dialogue.

Highlighting bonds of strong and close friendship between China and Pakistan, he said relations between the two countries were growing in strength with the each passing day. "These relations are moving ahead on strong basis in every sphere of socio-economic and defence areas," he added. Shaukat Aziz said Pakistan was supportive of reforms in the United Nations but was not in favour of increasing the number of permanent members. "Instead we want the number of non-permanent members to be raised to provide maximum representation to countries in the most important organ of the world body."

Talking to 25-member delegation of Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which called on him at the Prime Minister House, Shaukat Aziz said the government was providing necessary infrastructure facilities to the business community. Describing the private sector as an engine of growth, he said that the government was taking steps to ensure conducive environment for business to flourish. He informed the delegation that a feasibility study of setting up a dry port in Peshawar was underway to exploit business potential of the province.

Speaking at the dinner hosted by him in honour of AAPP, Prime Minister said Pakistan's commitment to combat terrorism was firm and unwavering, but called for adopting a holistic approach to address its root causes. He said Pakistan itself has been a victim of terrorism for over two decades. "We have been engaged in counter terrorism cooperation with the international community much before 9/11," he said, adding that there can be no justification for terrorism, but we are opposed to any attempt that seeks to draw a linkage between terrorism and Islam or a particular country."

He said: "Terrorism has no religion and is a universal scourge. Blaming a particular religion or a country shall not bring us any closer to a victory against terrorists." He added that a successful strategy requires a holistic approach of addressing the root causes of terrorism.

Talking to Mr. Abbas Mirakhor, Executive Director IMF, the Prime Minister said that Pakistan's economy is on the path of high growth and the government is striving to pass on the benefits to the common man by creating more employment opportunities, curbing inflation and developing infrastructure.

Shaukat Aziz said Pakistan appreciates the Fund for extending support to the country in the past and hoped that the Fund would now focus on extending the support to sustain the high growth. The structural reforms agenda being pursued by the government has improved macro economic fundamentals, the Prime Minister said, adding that the IMF programme helped Pakistan implement its "home grown reforms agenda". Pakistan no longer needs IMF programme now as it is pursuing its economic policies in line with its own development priorities, he declared.

Talking to a Malaysian media delegation, the Prime Minister said Pakistan wants peace with all the countries including its neighbours. The media delegation from Malaysia comprised representatives of Malaysian newspapers and news agencies. Giving a brief overview of the foreign policy, the Prime Minister said Pakistan enjoys good relations with all the countries. He said Pakistan enjoys strategic relations with China and also has close relations with Iran and negotiating a gas pipeline project with it. Besides, Pakistan has close ties with Afghanistan and extending all possible help in its reconstruction, he added.

Talking about India, the Prime Minister said Pakistan has started a composite dialogue process for resolving all outstanding issues including the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir. He said the peace process is irreversible and expressed the hope that there will be progress in the relations between the two countries when President Musharraf and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will meet in New York next month.

Shaukat Aziz said the Kashmir issue can only be solved if both sides show flexibility, magnanimity and courage. "The Kashmir issue should be resolved in line with the wishes and aspirations of the Kashmir people," he added. The Prime Minister said Pakistan achieved a growth rate of 8.4% and attracted highest amount of foreign direct investment last year. The middle class is increasing and manufacturing and exports had showed an upsurge, he added.

Talking to the outgoing Ambassador of Bosnia Avdo Abdul Lah Hodzic at the PM House, Shaukat Aziz said the misperceptions against Islam need to be removed, adding that the Muslim Ummah must stand united to fight the scourge of global terrorism.

In this regard, he said, the Organization of Islamic Conference needs to be made more effective and vibrant. He said Islam is a religion of tolerance and preaches interfaith harmony and abhors violence, extremism and sectarianism. Rejecting the theory of clash of civilizations, he said Islam can be adapted to the changing times, without compromising on its basic tenets.

The Prime Minster referred to the concept of "Enlightened Moderation", and said it was aimed at removing any misperceptions against Islam. He said Bosnia being a Muslim country in Europe can do a lot by projecting the true image of Islam.

The Bosnian ambassador was appreciative of the Pakistan government for waiving the US $200million export credit, as well as sending a substantial number of troops to UN peacekeeping force and the hospitality extended to him during his stay.