Government offers talks to Baloch leaders again
Shoaib A Raja
ISLAMABAD: Presiding over his first cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf welcomed new cabinet members to his team and said Balochistan was his priority and he had invited all Baloch leaders, in and outside Pakistan, to sit across the table and find an amicable solution to the Balochistan issue.
Speaking at the meeting, the PM promised that the government would go beyond the people’s expectations in helping the Baloch people and give them their due rights within the domain of the Constitution.
He paid rich tributes to his predecessor Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani for his principled stand to protect the Constitution and said the Pakistan People’s Party strongly believes that the politics of confrontation should be shunned for which all democratic forces needed to show sincerity of purpose, prudence and maturity, allowing space to their opponents.
He said all of his cabinet members were fully aware of the challenges, which were very serious in nature and if not addressed effectively and properly, could even shake the foundations of democracy. “In order to sustain and strengthen democracy, this cabinet will have to grapple with the issues and problems with zeal and dynamism,” he maintained.
The PM said that due to negative propaganda, the people are disheartened by the confusion that has befallen them in the last few weeks. “This throws additional responsibility on all of us as our people are looking for guidance and have high expectations for more effective leadership and better service delivery,” he added.
While following the PPP’s reconciliatory policy, he once again invited all political parties to move forward and join hands with him. He said that his cabinet will generally work in continuation of the policies already in place, with some necessary adjustments as may be warranted by the changing situation. He hoped that with the energy, zeal and experience of his cabinet colleagues, he would live up to the expectations of the nation.
He said that at the moment Pakistan was confronted with many critical issues and the government was committed to resolving the critically importantissue of energy, and achieving energy security for the country was a top priority. “The power sector is at present facing a wide demand and supply gap, which warrants immediate enhancement in generation and management of supply and distribution. If the situation is not improved, it can have serious economic and political consequences,” he added.
The PM opined that as the parliament represents 180 million people, the government holds it as a supreme and sovereign institution. “We will not allow any infringement of the sovereignty and independence of parliament, which is only answerable to its electorate,” he added. “We will not rush into a decision on our ties with the US.”
He said that he was aware that there was talk about governance issues in the print and electronic media and urged the management of PIA, Wapda, Railways, Steel Mills and other State enterprises to focus on their operational efficiency, cut down their non-development expenditure and wasteful expenses and bring in qualified professionals for meeting modern day management challenges.
“Let me categorically declare that we will not let our land to be used against any country for any terrorist activity. Simultaneously, we would expect our neighbours and other powers to refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of Pakistan,” the PM maintained.
The PM further said that Pak-US relations are passing through a very delicate and critical phase and Pakistan will not take hasty and emotional decisions that do not augur well. “Nato supply routes to Afghanistan were blocked because of an unprovoked attack on the Salala check post. The unconditional apology from the US for this blatant attack is the demand of parliament and we shall proceed by always keeping our national interests in view,” he demanded.
The PM said Pakistan’s exports were US$19.6 billion in FY 2010-11 and had now reached the US$25.4 billion mark in FY 2011-12. He said exports were likely to increase further with the passage of time, thanks mainly to textiles, pharmaceuticals and allied industries.