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  PM TRACKER

From SHAMIM AHMED RIZVI, Islamabad
Oct 03 - 09, 2005

AZIZ'S MEETING WITH ULEMA RESOLVES MADARIS REGISTRATION CONTROVERSY

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz had a result producing meeting with a group of Ulema representing Ittehadul Madaris Denia, which resolved the controversy of registration of Deeni Madaris in Pakistan.

Besides the Senate and the National Assembly sessions, PM had meetings with many delegations, inaugurating the Population Summit. He also instituted the National Commission on Population Welfare, and presided over a regional training seminar on "Capacity Building for Self Help Organization of Persons with Disabilities". He also presided over a meeting of National Water Council and had a meeting with the representatives of Independent Power Producers (IPPs), Private Power Infrastructure Board (PPIB) and Ministry of Water and Power.

The months long tense situation prevailed between the government and seminaries, however, it came to an end with the consent of the government to amend the controversial Article 21 of Madaris Registration Ordinance (MRO).

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz observed that religious seminaries are a best source of education and there is no truth in the accusations that they preach terrorism. After talks with a group of Ittehadul Madaris Denia, he said our Madaris are open to every one and they are welcome to monitor whenever they want. If they find any kind of anti social activity then it will be dealt with according to Pakistani law.

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, while welcoming the decision to register Madaris, said it would help bring the religious seminaries into the mainstream and they would continue to play their role in religious and general education. "Their teachings are not related to violence or any activity prejudicial to the security of the state. They are against suicide attacks and any such activity which brings into bad light our faith," he added.

The Ittehad, comprising five organizations, displayed "a very mature, responsible and positive attitude". During the meeting, the Ulema expressed commitment to promote peace, inter-faith harmony, moderation, respect for each other's rights and assured not to propagate violence to solve any issue. "We want Madaris to register and come into the mainstream for their own good and for country's good and we also want to develop their educational capability because they have a role to play," the PM said. Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman, speaking on behalf of the organization, said the matter has been amicably settled and there would be no problem in the registration of the Madaris.

After attending National Assembly session, the Prime Minister held a press conference and strongly rebutted the statement of PPPP leader Aitzaz Ahsan about the future of the present political system. The PPPP leader had stated on the floor of the National Assembly that a speech was being drafted to send the Parliament packing. The Prime Minister dismissed all such rumors outright. He went on to term it a figment of the opposition legislators' own imagination.

Talking to opposition MNAs Liaquat Baloch and Sabir Hussain, the Prime Minister said the government and the opposition have a common responsibility to strive for strengthening democracy and democratic institutions in the country. The Prime Minister said the role of the opposition was very important and assured that the government would always welcome constructive criticism. He said during the recent session of the National Assembly, the treasury and the opposition worked in a spirit of accommodation and understanding in carrying out the business of the house. "The opposition and the government should have a smooth working relationship and consensus on important national issues," he said adding, a strong and stable Pakistan is in the interest of all. He said the government would welcome observers both from within and abroad to see for themselves the third phase of local bodies elections as it believed in transparency and free and fair elections.

Reiterating government's resolve to provide all resources to the disabled, the Prime Minister urged the private and public sectors to join hands to utilize their abilities for a stronger Pakistan. Addressing a regional training seminar on "Capacity Building of Self Help Organizations of Persons with Disabilities" (CBSHOD), Shaukat Aziz called for removing the physical and social barriers that hamper their progress. "We can be a prosperous nation only when every citizen gets equal opportunity to progress and prosper and we remain committed to our special people," he said.

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz who throughout his address referred to the disabled as people with different abilities said "denial of opportunities to the disabled persons aggravates the existing barriers and increases poverty as their exclusion also decreases the economic vitality of their families." Stressing the need for their inclusion at the center state of government's development agenda, he said, "we need to promote exclusive education for children with mild to moderate disabilities instead of isolating them in separate institutions, besides their inclusion in the workforce decision making." The government, he added, has already increased quota for the special people to two percent and they can compete in Civil Service Examinations in three categories. Prime Minister said the government would do all to ensure that the people with abilities get due attention. "We are legislating to make all public building and places disabled-friendly and barrier-free. Islamabad, Lahore and Peshawar have been declared as disabled-friendly cities," he added.

The Prime Minister said it was incredibly painful to watch someone you love struggling with a disability. The line between "abled" and "disabled" is thin and should never be allowed to define a human being or his or their opportunities in a society. "They deserve our understanding and excellent care. We have to confront negative attitudes and got to overcome barriers; the most important being the barriers of stigma that quite often leads to isolation or lack of attention from seeking the treatment or therapy they need."

Talking to a representative delegation comprising Senators and MNAs from Fata, the Prime Minister said that an amount of Rs. 8 billion will be spent on the development schemes in Fata during the current financial year. He said a senior government official would coordinate these development schemes in the Public Affairs Wing of the Prime Minister's Secretariat, with a view to completing them expeditiously. He called upon the elected representatives of the people from Fata to provide their input in this regard while keeping in mind the peculiar conditions and requirements of that area. Shaukat Aziz said the government attaches high priority to the development of Fata, adding that the people of tribal areas were patriotic and had always rendered sacrifices for the country. The government wanted to solve issues through consultations and he has directed the interior minister and the provincial governor to continue dialogue with the elders of South Waziristan so that peace could be restored there, he said.

Describing burgeoning population as a serious problem, Prime Minister said that the government was doing its utmost to cut down fertility rate through education and creating awareness on the issue. "We do not want to be a country No.1 on the list of high population growth , we rather want to be on the bottom of the list," he said this while inaugurating the population summit attended by national and international experts and representatives of donor countries.

Prime Minister Aziz appreciated the robust growth in the country's economy but warned that the present population growth rate of 1.9 percent would nullify all achievements. No country can afford to double the population, as it would negate all the present and future achievements. "We recognize that high population growth, high densities of population, a youthful age structure and increasing urbanization have implications on our economy, resources, planning and sustainable development," he added. Pakistan currently ranks sixth in the world in terms of population after China, India, USA, Indonesia and Brazil and tops the highest growth list in the region. The Prime Minister offered his vision of "3-Es" - Education, Empowerment and Enlightenment - to have a focused approach on the issue of population growth. He described increasing literacy rate among both male and female, as the best way of controlling population through creating awareness about the problem, saying no change was possible without education.

Prime Minister said a comprehensive national water policy was being prepared to ensure proper utilization, conservation and management of the precious natural resource.

Presiding a high level meeting at the PM House to determine major contours of the policy, he said National Water Council would be constituted to implement and supervise it. "The policy should cover all aspects besides creating awareness among the general public on the intelligent and efficient use of water to ensure conservation and optimum utilization of his precious resource," he said.

He said water security is essential to ensure future development of the country and modern technologies should be employed for management of water related issues. The National Water Policy would be formulated with the consultation of all the stakeholders, including the provincial governments, to ensure its implementation. He has directed the Private Power Infrastructure Board (PPIB) and Wapda to resolve the genuine problems of Independent Power Producers (IPPs), including fuel supply and payments. Pakistan urgently needs power to meet commercial and domestic demand, and the existing IPPs having ideally placed infrastructure, should expand it and generate more power for selling it to the utilities, he added.

IPPs were told that the government would prefer setting up of dualfired thermal power plants, however, fuel requirements of these units would be fulfilled on priority basis, whether these were of gas, furnace oil or water.

"The government will reorient PPIB, so that not only the existing IPPs are facilitated for enhancing capacity, but also new IPPs are encouraged and facilitated to invest in power generation," said an official announcement.

Minister for Water and Power Liaquat Ali Jatoi apprised the meeting that 17 Letters of Intent (LOIs) have been issued to new IPPs. Wapda Chairman Tariq Hameed said that the utility was ready to buy more power and would facilitate and assist the IPPs, said the announcement.

Talking to a delegation of UK Royal College of Defence Studies which called on him at the PM Hose, Shaukat Aziz said that Pakistan is a peace loving country and opposes terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. The delegation was led by Air Vice Marshal Chisnall and comprised defence personnel of Britain, France, Italy, Ukraine, Nigeria, Croatia and Canada.

The Prime Minister said Pakistan is cooperating in the global war against terrorism with other countries because it abhors terrorism and considers the fight against terrorism in its own national interest. Apart from fighting terrorism physically, the world must also address the root causes which create deprivations and frustration, he added.

The Prime Minister said Pakistan believers that peace can only be achieved through strength and maintains a minimum credible defence both in the conventional and strategic fields. He said Pakistan is presently engaged in a composite dialogue process with India to resolve all outstanding disputes including the core issue of Kashmir which should be resolved according to the aspirations and wishes of the people of Kashmir.

The Prime Minister said that Pakistan has strong relations with China which are multifaceted, deep and span across a wide spectrum covering all areas including defence, economic, social and cultural fields. Pakistan consults China and shares similar views on important international issues, he added. Turning to the regional situation, the Prime Minister said that Pakistan has close relations with GCC countries, Middle East, Iran and Afghanistan. He said Pakistan has close relations with Afghanistan and believes that a strong and stable Afghanistan is also in the interest of the peace in the region.

 
 

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