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  PM TRACKER

From SHAMIM AHMED RIZVI, Islamabad
Dec 19 - 25, 2005

SHAUKAT LAUNCHES 'SAFE DRINKING WATER TO ALL' INITIATIVE

Launching of a nationwide clean water initiative to provide "safe drinking water to all" was the highlight of the PM's activity last week. The week started with a day long visit to Multan, where he met various delegations representing Multan Chamber of Commerce & Industry (MCCI) growers, PML legislators, Nazims and local journalists.

He concluded the week with meetings with Dutch Minister for Development Cooperation and Irish Minister for State who called on him at the PM Hose after visiting earthquake affected areas and offered help in the rehabilitation and reconstruction work.

Talking to the media after the launching the clean drinking water programme in Islamabad, the Prime Minister said that efforts are being made to provide clean drinking water to every citizen and the federal government with the help of provincial governments has made a comprehensive plan under the Khushhal Programme. Initially 5,400 purification plants will be set up to cater to the needs of all the Union Councils. Earlier the Prime Minister presided over a high level meeting to finalize the strategy for the implementation of the programme. The meeting was attended by the Chief Ministers of Punjab, Sindh and NWFP, Federal Minister for Science and Technology, Chaudhry Naurez Shakoor and Minister of State for Environment Malik Amin Aslam.

The meeting was briefed about the progress made so far for the establishment of water purification plants and future plans for implementation. It was disclosed that 495 million rupees would be spent on the first phase of the programme and 445 water plants would be completed under this phase. Mr. Aziz said the provincial governments will establish special monitoring units at their respective capitals and will bear local expenditure while the federal government will provide major expenses.

"The provincial governments have also been given a task to choose the site of constructing water purification plants at the Union Council level," said the Prime Minster. He said under this programme overall 5,400 water purification plants in each Union Council will be set up during the next two years.

On the same day Prime Minster had a meeting in Islamabad with the Chief ministers of Punjab, Sindh and NWFP and discussed plans for the rehabilitation of earthquake affected areas. They also discussed the development programmes of their respective provinces. The Prime Minister appreciated the governments of Sindh and Punjab for helping NWFP and AJK by initiating programmes for relief, rescue and rehabilitation of the quake affected areas of NWFP and AJK. He said the entire country was united and the people belonging to all corners of the country whole-heartedly supported the victims of the earthquake-affected areas. The chief ministers briefed the prime minister about the law and order situation in their respective provinces. They also discussed the development schemes launched in their provinces.

Talking to newsmen after signing a form of "Support a Family Programme" launched by the Punjab Chief Minister in Islamabad the Prime Minister said that the federal government has approved a programme to construct permanent houses in the quake affected areas. He said the government is taking various initiatives with a view to bring life to normalcy in the earthquake-affected areas. Under this programme three samples of proposed houses have been approved and the government will provide all expenditures to construct these houses in three installments. These houses would be earthquake resistant and hoped these constructions would begin by February next year. The Prime Minister said Earthquake Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Authority has also been asked to launch a programme for the construction of schools and hospitals in the affected areas.

To a question he said efforts are underway to get winterized tents from all over the world and work is in progress for converting double ply tents into winterized units in the affected areas besides making provision of heaters in these tents.

To another question Mr. Shaukat Aziz said the government intends to take along opposition on all important national issues. He said government has sent back the reply to opposition on terms of reference for the parliamentary committee on Earthquake Rehabilitation. Parliament has an important role in supervising all-important affairs to ensure check and balance. The prime minister appreciated Punjab government's programme of "Support a Family" and said it will go a long way in helping the victims of quake. Shaukat Aziz gave a personal donation of Rs. 72,000 to the Punjab government for its Support a Family Programme under which the Punjab government has planned to provide support to 100,000 affected families.

In a message to mark the 20th anniversary of the signing of SAARC Charter, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz called for reaffirming commitment to the goals of SAARC for creating a peaceful and prosperous South Asia and improving the standard of life of its peoples. "Let us commit ourselves again to the principles and objectives of the SAARC Charter and reaffirm our determination to create partnership for peace, progress and prosperity of South Asia," he said. The charter was signed by the regional leaders at the first summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in Bangladeshi capital Dhaka in 1985.

Prime Minister Aziz said there was a clear recognition of the immense benefits that would accrue to all member states if they joined hands to confront the challenges of peace and development. "We all must work together to realize the primary objective of our Association, that is to improve the quality of life for the peoples of South Asia," he added. He noted that since the signing of its charter 20 years ago, SAARC has come a long way in its collective endeavors to establish a regional identity through the SAARC process. "SAARC has passed through difficult times. Only a few years ago, the circumstances were not conducive for regional cooperation and SAARC was not making substantial progress. Even summits could not be held on time," the Prime Minister pointed out. However, he added, the Islamabad Summit in 2004 re-invigorated SAARC and opened up new avenues of cooperation among the South Asian countries. "It contributed to climate of peace and stability in the region," he said, adding that the decisions taken in Islamabad reflected the resolve of SAARC member countries to address misgivings and misconceptions about each other and strengthen regional cooperation.

While taking to various delegations at Multan, the Prime Minister said that new water reservoirs, which are dire need of the country, will be built with unanimity. The whole nation is united on the urgency of this issue so that our irrigation needs could be adequately fulfilled, he added. Chief Minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, Federal Food & Agriculture Minister Sikandar Hayat Bosan, provncial Minister for Agricultural Marketing Rana Muhammad Qasim Noon and District Nazim Mian Faisal Mukthar were also present on the occasion. Shaukat Aziz said new dams will be constructed with consultation and the opposition parties will also be taken into confidence on this vital subject.

He said Pakistan has a great potential in agriculture sector and if new methods of husbandry are adopted the productivity will be increased and will ultimately bring prosperity to the farmer's community. Shaukat Aziz said this better income trend indicates farm sector's fast development during the last few years, which heralds the prosperity of the rural populace. He said there is a need to introduce bio-technology in the cotton cultivation which will drastically enhance our productivity and increase farmer's profitability. To a question he said companies of China and Thailand have been invited to set up pesticide industry in Pakistan. Shaukat Aziz, to a question on the oil price hike, said the government has so far borne a loss of Rs. 60 billion on its subsidy.

The Prime Minister said this better income trend indicates farm sector's fast development during the last few years, which heralds the prosperity of the rural populace. He said there is a need to introduce bio-technology in the cotton cultivation which will drastically enhance our productivity and increase farmer's profitability.

Addressing a gathering of PML leaders, Senators, MNAs, MPAs and workers at the Circuit House the Prime Minister urged the Muslim League workers to work hard for the development of the motherland. He said the party stands united under the leadership of its president, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, and will continue striving for the well-being of the nation. Shaukat Aziz said the opposition parties had predicted that the donors conference would fail but the same fetched aid to the tune of $ 6.2 billion.

Prime Minister said that talks are underway with all political parities including opposition on the issue of Kalabagh dam. "Water reservoirs are necessity of the country. We are in consultation process with leaders and stake holders. Decision on construction of water reservoirs will soon be taken in consultation with others, he added.

Meanwhile, Shaukat Aziz has setup a Task Force comprising representatives of Army, WAPDA and NESPAK to immediately take steps to deal with the situation arising out of accumulation of water in the form of a lake as a result of land sliding near Hattian Balla, AJK. Headed by Engineer-in-Chief Pakistan Armed Forces, Major General Shahid Niaz, the Task Force will start working immediately. At a high level meeting the Prime Minister directed that a well coordinated, integrated programme is needed involving WAPDA and all concerned agencies to tackle the situation. He also directed for preparing a contingency plan for downstream areas, which could be affected by the outflow of water. He directed that there should be a two-tier approach - short and long term steps - to ensure the safety of the areas. As an immediate step, the accumulated water should be drained using safe methods. Also the population living in the slopes should be shifted to safer places. In the long run, WAPDA and Geological Survey of Pakistan will carry out a survey of the entire earthquake affected areas to identify the high-rise points if any, he added.

Addressing a press conference at PM House, the Prime Minister reiterated that the government wants to take along all the members of the parliament in the relief and reconstruction work. He said he wanted to create consensus on all the national issues through consultation with the leaders in the parliament. Shaukat Aziz pointed out that he had always said that no body had exclusive access to wisdom. Therefore, he always made sincere efforts to take the opposition in confidence on all the national issues.

He said he met some opposition members and asked them to submit their proposals to the government regarding the parliamentary committee for oversight of the relief and reconstruction work in the quake affected areas. The government would consider these proposals and suggestions of the opposition seriously so that there could be a consensus on this issue and the parliamentary committee would have a role in these efforts, he said, adding that the government had already made arrangements for the audit of the accounts of expenditure on the relief and reconstruction work by external auditors and the country's Auditor General, with the parliamentary committee having an oversight role.

Talking to a six-member delegation of Mitsubishi Corporation of Japan headed by its chairman, at the PM House in Islamabad, the Prime Minister said the government's philosophy of liberalization, deregulation and privatisation as well as reforms over the past six years has turned around the country's economy putting it on a high growth path as well as increasing per capita income. "We are striving to make Pakistan a developed, progressive, modern, enlightened and democratic Islamic state and significant progress has been achieved in critical areas." The investor friendly policies of the government coupled with an enabling climate has increased investors' confidence making Pakistan one of the most attractive places for investment. Mikeo Sasaki appreciated the economic policies of Pakistan and said his company was visiting Pakistan to look into the possibilities of joint ventures with Pakistani companies.

In a message at the seminar on "Voluntary Pension System" organized by the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), the Prime Minister emphasized the need for long term savings for economic growth of the country. "Long term savings provide the foundations for the development of economy," he said, adding that not only do they provide for the desired lifestyle of the retired people, but the funds generated provide a stable base for the development of capital markets. He hoped and prayed that the Voluntary Pension System will be a giant leap towards better and faster socio-economic development.

Talking to a delegation of Pakistan Textile Value Added Products Manufacturers Association, the Prime Minister said the government was making efforts to have more market access for Pakistani goods in the international market, particularly in the European Union (EU) countries. The government was focusing on facilitating the private sector to take advantage of the abolishment of textile quotas in the international market to increase the country's exports. The government was trying for increased market access for Pakistani products and related issues are being raised at every level, he added.

The delegation discussed the challenges and opportunities being faced by the textile sector. The Prime Minister said the government's philosophy of liberalization, deregulation and privatisation as well as reforms regime over the past six years has turned around the country's economy putting it on a high growth path. The structural reforms introduced by the government have accelerated the pace of economic development and there was an increase in foreign and domestic investment, he added.

 
 

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