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Last updated: Friday 23 Dec, 2005-12.30 P.M (PST)

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Tomorrow 11 27 38 Sunny
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KARACHI         - 021 LAHORE          - 042 ISLAMABAD    - 051 FAISALABAD   - 041 MULTAN          - 061 PESHAWAR    - 0521 CANADA          - 1 KUWAIT           - 965 INDIA               - 91 IRAN                - 98 U.K                   - 44 U.A.E                - 971 U.S.A                - 1

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  PM TRACKER

From SHAMIM AHMED RIZVI, Islamabad
Oct 17 - 23, 2005

NATION URGED TO STAY CALM

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, reviewing the overall situation in the aftermath of earthquake, has observed that all civilian and military organizations are participating in the relief efforts. "We shall meet all requirements for efficient efforts," Prime Minister said who earlier had an aerial view of the collapsed buildings. He also took an aerial view of Azad Kashmir and worst hit areas of NWFP.

Immediately after having a meeting with President Musharraf, the Prime Minister issued directives for immediate relief and rescue operations in the areas affected by the earthquake. Both expressed their profound grief over the tragic loss of life and damage to property as a result of the quake. They asked the federal and provincial governments to promptly mobilize all resources and speed up recovery activities, provide the best medical treatment to the injured and strive to minimize the effects of the earthquake.

The army was directed to extend all out help to civil population in the quake hit areas. All civil and military hospitals were directed to deal with the situation on an emergency basis. The president and prime minister appealed to the nation to stay calm in the face of the earthquake and directed the concerned authorities to carry out an immediate assessment of the extent of damage caused by it.

Meanwhile, massive relief efforts are underway for the victims of the earthquake, as Prime Minister Aziz announced Rs. 5 billion in immediate assistance for rescue operation and ordered dispatch of truckloads of goods to the affected areas. After a high level meeting at the Prime Minister House late evening, he told reporters the quake caused extensive damage in Azad Kashmir and Muzaffarabad, Rawalakot, Abbotabad, Maneshara, Gari Habibullah and Batgram where mainly mud houses were completely destroyed.

Prime Minister Aziz described the situation as very serious and said a massive relief and rescue operation involving army, police and other civil agencies have been mounted in the affected areas. He ordered an immediate dispatch of 10 truckloads of goods to Hazara division from where it would be airlifted to areas not accessible through roads. The government would welcome assistance from friends abroad, he added. The prime minister said with the assistance of the army, the work was on to open the road linking Murree with Azad Kashmir that had been blocked by the landsliding triggered by the earthquake.

All said and done by government agencies in these testing hours, this tragedy has once again brought to the fore the extreme inadequacy of our emergency services. There was a total lack of coordination in disaster relief operations and a virtual breakdown of the administrative structure without which such operations cannot be mounted or be effective. After we have buried the dead, tended to the injured and surveyed the destruction and damage caused by this catastrophe, we should, in addition to the rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts, consider preparing a blueprint for disaster relief and control operations for future emergencies and in this context set up a federal agency for such work.

Earlier, while returning from South Korea and Malaysia, Prime Minster Shaukat Aziz had a brief stopover in Thailand at the request of the Thai Prime Minister Shinawater. According to Shaukat Aziz, his meeting with the Thai Premier proved to be very productive as the two leaders held important discussions on Pakistan's status with Asean and in the context of speeding up ongoing discussion for an early signing of the FTA.

The Thai Prime Minister accepted an invitation to visit Pakistan in December this year, which would provide the two leaders further opportunity to take their talks forward on FTA. He reiterated Thailand's whole hearted support to Pakistan for its bid to upgrade its status with the Asean. Pakistan is currently a sectoral partner of the grouping. "We need to create an environment in which our country's economic potential is fully realized," he added.

Mr. Shaukat Aziz's visit to the three South East Asian nations was a manifestation of his government's East Asia Vision to enhance political and economic cooperation with the regional partners. The visit was also part of the drive to project Pakistan's soft image abroad for which periodic interaction between nations at the highest level is imperative. His main thrust during the visit was to create economic linkages with the regional countries. He has not only won solid support for Pakistan's full dialogue partnership in ASEAN, but has also been able to evoke considerable interest in the entrepreneurs of these countries to invest in Pakistan. He held wide ranging talks with the leaders of the three countries during which he not only focused Pakistan's principled position on UN reforms but also highlighted the country's role in the anti terror war.

Addressing a function in connection with the International Teachers Day (Salam teacher day) in Islamabad on Wednesday, the Prime Minister reiterated his determination for promoting education and improving its standard to move forward for making the country a real progressive, moderate, dynamic and enlightened state. He said the government is spending a huge amount of 160 billion rupees on education but it is the teacher who has to play a vital role in promoting the education at all levels. The quality of education can never be over emphasized, as it is the most precious investment for achieving a goal of development and prosperity, he added.

Shaukat Aziz said that the teachers' role is critical for quality education that lay the human foundation for sustainable development and knowledge based economy by developing a child's capacity and desire to learn. He said that at the dawn of the new century we are facing unprecedented challenges as the world is changing rapidly in political, social, cultural, technological and pedagogical terms and it is a teacher who has to help a student make the sense of all these. The government is focusing on promotion of education from primary to higher level with special emphasis on improvement of quality knowing that no nation can make progress without education.

A group of ministers, ministers of state and MNAs called on Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz at his chamber in the National Assembly on Friday. The discussed with him the current political situation, results of the 3rd phase of local bodies elections and the agenda of the ongoing National Assembly session. The Prime Minister expressed satisfaction over the holding of local bodies polls in a free, fair and transparent manner, and in accordance with the code issued by the Election Commission.

He said the masses have given their mandate to the pro-development and moderate forces. These elections, he said, would augur well for empowering the people through local participation and would help solve their problems at their doorsteps. The government has taken various initiatives to promote development in the country for the prosperity of the common people. In this connection, he referred to the Khushhal Pakistan Programme to provide electricity, gas, roads, and clean drinking water, besides focusing on improving sanitation.

On the social sector, the Prime Minister said the government has taken several initiatives like launching of a programme totaling Rs. 2.5 billion for controlling hepatitis and reinvigorating Basic Health Units to provide primary, secondary and tertiary health care to the people. The government, he said, is also focusing on improving education by increasing adult literacy and focusing on higher education. The government has allocated record funds for improving infrastructure like roads, electricity and telecommunication sector both to meet the increasing requirements of the growing economy as well as improving the quality of life of the people.

Talking to newsmen Mr. Aziz said full participation of the masses in the local elections is demonstrative of their confidence in the system introduced by President Pervez Musharraf. People have voted for their better and secure future, progress and to strengthen political process in the country. The system has the potential to resolve problems of the people at their door steps and hoped that this election would give added strength to the system.

Mr. Shaukat Aziz said the third phase of the local bodies polls was conducted in a free, fair and impartial manner with the people voting in favour of progressive and moderate candidates. The people have elected those who can take the country forward on the path of progress and prosperity. When asked about the allegations by the opposition, he said the opposition candidates did win at various places. "However, if they have any specific complaints, they may take the legal course of action through the courts," he said, adding that the transparent process of the elections was also witnessed by the international observers and the media who found nothing wrong.

Talking to the delegation of Deutsche Bank, which called on him at the PM House, the Prime Minister attributed the growing strength in Pakistan's economy to the six-year reform process, earning the country distinction of being one of the leading reformed economies in the developing world. The wide ranging structural reforms coupled with the consistency and continuity of policies have transformed Pakistan into a resurgent economy. "It is a fast growing economy with rapidly expanding middle class and growing purchasing power," he added.

Prime Minister Aziz while apprising the Deutsche Bank delegation of the rationale of the country's economic policies, pointed that last year Pakistan emerged as one of the five fastest growing economies in Asia. "This year the country's economy is expected to grow by 7 percent." Pakistan achieved the high growth rate while maintaining stability in the macro economic environment.

He said Pakistan was addressing its major challenges by allocating more resources for education, health and the social sector development as well as for improving governance. The growing strength of Pakistan's economy, he said, was also attracting increased foreign investment as last year the country received over US $1.5 billion in FDI. He described it as a significant achievement compared to 5.6 years ago when the average FDI was much lower. He attributed strength of growing economy to the reforms and said it was precisely due to this reason that the economy continues to grow despite unprecedented rise in the oil prices in the international market.

During a meeting with Secretary for Defence UK, John Ried, the Prime Minister said that illegal border crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan should be prevented from both sides. He said that such a step was essential as any undesirable elements coming to Pakistan was not in the interest of the country's security.

The Prime Minister told the British Secretary that Pakistan had deployed about 80,000 troops on its border with Afghanistan to prevent any illegal crossings. In the meeting held at the Prime Minister House, the two leaders also exchanged views on regional issues including Afghanistan and Iran. He said that Pakistan fully supports the government of President Hamid Karzai and the Bonn Process. A stable and peaceful Afghanistan was not only good for its people but for the entire region, he added. He referred to the recently held elections in Afghanistan, which were largely held peacefully and added that Pakistan played an important role in this regard.

The Prime minister said as Britain would assume the command of the International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan next year, there is a need for cooperation between Pakistan and the UK to go even further.

Talking to the Executive Director Asian Development Bank (ADB) who called on him at the PM House, Shaukat Aziz said Pakistan's economy has had a remarkable recovery during the last few years, owing to the far reaching reforms carried out in all sectors of the economy. He said that the policies of liberalization, deregulation and privatization have yielded rich dividends and the country has been able to achieve on economic growth rate of 8.4%. "These are having significant impact on our economic performance. It is precisely due to this reason that despite the adverse impact of the rising oil prices, growth in the economy is still impressive and the country has been able to absorb the impact", he added.

As a result of the policy of deregulation, the Prime Minister pointed out that telecom, banking and IT sectors constituted major success stories. The number of mobile phone subscribers has swelled to almost 16 million in the country in a short span of time, he added. While appreciating ADB's useful role in country's overall economic development he said that development of water resources; power generation and infrastructure development are some of the areas wherein the bank's assistance could be of immense use to Pakistan.

He informed the visiting dignitary that the country is currently focusing on building a reliable logistics chain. Efforts are also underway to build the North South corridor in this connection, he added. Moreover, health, education and income generation are also being accorded a high priority, the Prime Minister observed and also highlighted the role of the Khushhali Bank and SMEs in this regard. "We are keen to promote regional cooperation with a view to accelerating the pace of economic development in the region," the Prime Minister said and added that "linkages and inter dependencies could be extremely useful in this regard."

The ADB's Executive Director said that the country's performance during the last six years has been impressive and appreciated the reforms programme which provided a solid foundation. He said "Pakistan is our strategic partner", and regional cooperation is very important in speedy transition to economic prosperity. He assured the bank's continued support and cooperation in the country's economic development

Talking to a Pakistani national member of British Parliament Shahid Malik, the Prime Minister said that Pakistan is fighting war against terrorism for the sake of principles and protection of national interests. The country was neither under pressure whatsoever from any side nor will it accept any pressure in this connection. He said that Pakistan attached much importance to its relations with Britain and cooperation was growing between the two countries in the spheres of defence, trade, economy, investment, education and health.

The prime minister underlined that Pakistani nationals in Britain are playing vital role for the development of country. They have no connection with terrorism. On the other hand Pakistan is taking bold steps in fight against terrorism. "We are fighting against terrorism for the sake of protecting our national interests. He indicated that remittances from overseas Pakistanis are on increase and they are taking keen interest in the national development. Government was also taking several steps for the betterment of overseas Pakistanis, he remarked.

Prime Minister oversaw the signing ceremony of the agreement between Pakistan and Russia Gas Company to cooperate and help Pakistan in the development and operation of transnational gas pipeline, research and development of gas fields and conversion of diesel engines to run on natural gas.

Secretary Petroleum, Ahmad Waqar and Chairman of Gazprom Alexei B Miller signed the agreement.

Speaking on the occasion, Shaukat Aziz termed the agreement an important development, saying Pakistan has sought assistance of the Russian gas company to work on a "fast track basis" in natural gas development projects.

Gazprom is world's biggest company dealing in natural gas extraction, and has also shown interest in the construction of the $7.4 billion Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline that would bring gas from the South Paras fields in Iran.

The Prime Minister said Gazprom would also provide technical expertise in use of old gas fields for gas storage. The construction of underground gas storage facility would help the country meet its energy needs during the winters, when the demand is high.

 
 

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