Citing democracy as the solution for all of the problems facing Pakistan, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf on Tuesday called on the opposition to cooperate with the Pakistan People’s Party-led government to ensure free and fair polls and a smooth transition of power.
“A strong democratic setup alone can resolve all the issues facing Pakistan and ensure the country’s progress and prosperity,” Ashraf said in his speech at the flag hoisting ceremony on the 65th anniversary of the country’s creation.
He said said the government wanted to promote cordial relations among all national institutions, including the judiciary. “We hope all institutions will perform their duties within their ambits,” he added.
The prime minister outlined major aspects of his government’s futuristic plan on a host of issues, including next elections, relations with neighboring countries and other important policy issues. Ashraf gave references to several steps his government had taken to improve situation and meet challenges. He rebuffed media speculations about a possible announcement of a cut-date for holding next general election and possible caretaker setup, leaving with him political space for holding a dialogue with the opposition parties over the issue. Ashraf, however, blamed India for using “delaying tactics” on Kashmir issue hinting that the PPP government was not happy with the cold response from Indian government in the talks’ process.
The PM made specific comments about the ongoing covert talks between his party and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and said the opposition had an important role in any democratic system. “We believe in useful dialogue with the opposition on all issues of national importance, including the formation of a caretaker government, so that important national issues are resolved through consensus and the supremacy of democracy is ensured. We have extended the offer of dialogue to all political parties and hope that the political leaders will realise their national responsibility and cooperate with the government,” he said.
“We give importance to the positive role of opposition. For holding an impartial and transparent general election, we are taking the opposition into confidence, and for this we have taken a start with the consensus appointment of chief election commissioner.” He said his government wanted an impartial and transparent election, “so that transfer of power takes place in a democratic way, which would be a big success for the continuity of democracy in the country”. Ashraf hoped that all political parties would fully participate in the next general elections and would play their role for the continuity of democracy.
New Provinces: About formation of new provinces, Ashraf again rebutted official announcements being made by the Presidency and said only one new province would be made – Seraiki province. He said south Punjab had been neglected in the past in terms of development due to which the area not only remained under-developed but it also created a sense of deprivation among the people.
“We believe that the best solution to eliminate the sense of deprivation among the people of this area lies in their autonomy. The establishment of a new province in south Punjab would fulfill the longstanding demand of the people of that area. We have taken practical steps in this respect by adopting a resolution in the National Assembly in the favor of Seraiki Province. Insha Allah, the longstanding demand of Seraiki people will soon be realized” the PM said.
Media freedom: He said freedom of expression and independence of media had always been a vital part of the manifesto of the Pakistan People’s Party. “We consider media and democracy essential to each other. We have included the access to information as fundamental rights in the constitution. Today, media enjoys unprecedented freedom in Pakistan and we value and appreciate their positive role,” he said.
Foreign Policy: Ashraf said the people’s representatives had been made part of the process of shaping foreign policy for the first time in the country’s history so that the foreign policy was reflective of aspirations of the people. “We have opened Ground Lines of Communications (GLOC) for the NATO troops in accordance with parliament’s recommendations. In this regard we did not want to make the NATO countries, which include our brothers from Islamic countries, to remain indecisive, besides there was fear of damage to the ongoing war against terrorism in Afghanistan”. He said the act would not only promote national interest but also improve our relations with NATO. Ashraf said it would also prove helpful in increasing our resistance against terrorism as well and reflect our policy and practical steps for maintenance of peace in the region.
“We have preferred signed agreements over verbal ones with the US and inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in accordance with recommendations of parliament,” he maintained.
He said Afghanistan was a brother Islamic country and an important neighbor for Pakistan. “We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our Afghan brothers in every critical juncture and are playing the role of a flag-bearer in efforts to maintain peace in Afghanistan. We want a durable solution to the Afghan issue which has the full backing of the Afghan people”.
Ashraf said Pakistan wanted good relations with India for peace and prosperity in the region and desire to resolve all the disputes including the Kashmir issue.
“Let me reiterate Pakistan’s stance that we wanted the resolution of the Kashmir issue according to the resolutions of the United Nations and will continue political, moral and diplomatic support to the people of Kashmir. We hope that India while respecting the United Nations resolutions will avoid delaying tactics”.
Ashraf said talks were the best source of resolving the issues.
The PM said Pakistan wanted to maintain its ties with the US and European Union on the basis of mutual respect.
MANMOHAN GREETS ASHRAF: Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh felicitated Prime Minister Ashraf on Pakistan’s Independence Day. He hoped that Pakistan and its people would prosper in the years to come. Similarly, Ashraf greeted his Indian counterpart on his country’s Independence Day today (Wednesday).