President urges media to shun ‘negativity’
ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari Sunday urged media to stop selling negativity as a commodity and play its part in making Pakistan a strong and prosperous nation.
Addressing the 4th national conference of South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) here at Aiwan-e-Sadar, he said Pakistan People’s Party decided to stay away from a media group to say enough was enough and taking that decision was its political right.“It is a format of showing our displeasure,” he said adding the negative propaganda against his party was going on for years.
He said PPP did not take the route to dominate media as others before it did.
“We want you (media) to evolve and become strong,Â” he said adding media should also show the good that is happening in the country.The President called for cohesiveness in policies and said in the past discontinuity of programmes made the country suffer greatly.
“Too many cook spoil the broth. Growth of the country was stemmed because of lack of vision and abandoning of policies,” he added.
The President said once he had a discussion with Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi about production of edible oils and on cutting back its imports.
After that the Indian Prime Minister went back and put in place a policy to produce edible oils and this continued after even he left office.
Now India exports edible oil but Pakistan is still an importer and spends about $ 800 million of its foreign exchange on it, he added.
He said it was not necessary that everybody should be part of Pakistan People’s Party but some decisions should be beyond personal interests.
“We may have weaknesses but giving solution takes a lot and to cause destruction takes a little.”
The President referred to the destruction of infrastructure in Swat which was built over a period of 60 years.
He said Pakistan sent back home 1.8 million of its internally displaced people from Swat in months whereas people uprooted in countries like Afghanistan and Iran were still living landless and cultureless.
The people of Swat learned a lesson to not let the Taliban get back, he said adding the government gave political ownership to war on terror.
“When you have no political ownership, you are the bad guys,” he remarked.
The President said the government and people showed in places like Swat that they were fighting to save their way of life and they were not for hire soldiers or mercenaries.
Pakistan even stopped the Soviets from coming as its people did not want to live as robots, landless and without religion, he observed.The President said Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto taught him to follow the policy of political reconciliation which has taken forward the democratic system this far.
“We are open to dialogue. We have spoken to everybody. We do not want to lose the initiative. Democracy is as good as the people are,” he added.
The President said the government was spending a huge amount on schemes like smart card and Watan card to transfer cash grants to the poor people.
“You can’t find fault with them,” he said while emphasizing the transparency of the schemes.
President Zardari said Pakistan needed a double digit growth rate over a long period of time in a sustained manner to meet needs of its huge population, 65 percent of which consists of youth.
He said he was visiting China after every three months to learn from their story of successful economic transformation.
“They (China) have progressed through use of knowledge and good policies,” he added.
The President said the PPP and its chairman were answerable to the people and history books.
Briefing the media about President’s address to SAFMA’s Fourth National conference titled “Setting a National Agenda on Media, Democracy and Good Governance”, Spokesperson to the President Farhatullah Babar said the President said that economic growth has been stymied because economic policies adopted were not given the ownership and were reversed with the change of government.
“Our industrialists and entrepreneurs need to give ownership to economic policies,” the President added.
The President said that every dictator and adventurer had tried to reinvent the wheel and in the process took the nation behind by a decade.
The President said that militants and extremists not only want to impose their political ideology on the people of Pakistan, they also want to change the world order. “We cannot allow this, we will not allow itÂ”.
The Spokesperson quoted the President as saying “As a political party, we know that withdrawal of subsidies is an unpopular decision. No political party wants to pay political price of such decision. But how long can subsidies be given ? One day the subsidies will have to be cut down. A beginning has to be made and has been made even though it is a politically costly decision”.
The President reiterated that policy of consensus and reconciliation would continue.
“The alternative to reconciliation may appear tempting at times but overall national interest demands that the policy of reconciliation should continue if we have to move forward and stabilize the society,Â” the President said.
Talking about the damage done by dictators to PakistanÂ’s political and economic system, he said, Ayub, Zia and Musharraf even used the same speech writers and made similar speeches in their long rules.
Despite the setbacks, he said democracy has always made a come-back and the analysts and intellectuals in media should see and tell what was got destroyed during the dictatorial regimes.
President Zardari lamented that as dictators came and closed doors on democracy, people did nothing and sat back and took all the abuse perpetrated on them while the country’s system deteriorated and crumbled.
“Then somehow political forces made a come-back and started the rebuilding process. We value democracy more than anyone else.”
Talking about PPP’s efforts to bring back democracy, he said Yahya was also offered the deal to shed his uniform and put the country back on the path to democracy.
He said the government helped farmers with good prices for their produce as 67 percent of people live in villages and make a significant contribution to economy.
The President praised that people bravely faced the natural disaster of floods and the damage caused by it.
He complained that media reported baton charge on a centre distributing cash through Watan Card but failed to highlight the amount of money that people were getting through these projects.
He said the government was taking painful and unpopular economic decisions for the sake of future generations.
Â“I do not want to increase the price of fuel and electricity. I can keep postponing the difficult decisions,” he said adding the government took the decision to seek assistance from IMF as it saw the global recession and meltdown were approaching.
“We could have been declared defaulters. But we took necessary and difficult decisions. I don’t have the luxury of giving stimulus packages.”
He said Pervez Musharraf decided not to pass on the burden to consumers when the oil prices sky-rocketed in the world markets just to gain benefits in general elections.
He pointed out that Pakistan’s debt to GDP ratio was not still not that bad.
The President said the country needs to set its direction right by having a reality check and by talking about real issues.
“Let us not cut our nose to spite our face.”
He said for a country like Pakistan with population of 200 million, exports of $ 24 billion were peanuts when Vietnam can earn $ 80 billion in exports.
The President said his party was not responsible for the situation in Balochistan but still he apologised for the mistakes committed by the past regime and started giving rights and autonomy to provinces as part of a contract with people.
The President said PPP protected democracy through its sweat and blood.
He said the last government once kept him in a rest house for 25 days and a general said that they were ready to do deal with him.
But he said, he stood for democracy and faced the cases which were afterwards filed against him.
He said opponents of PPP castigated the energy policy formed by Benazir Bhutto.
But this policy was appreciated by the world and government had the support of dozens of banks including World Bank. The policy was meant to bring 40,000 megawatts to Pakistan but then things got derailed, he told.
The President said he gave up power through 18th Amendment when he could have managed to keep it as his party had enough support in the parliament.
“ We even made Ch. Nisar Ali Khan as Chairman of Public Accounts Committee, he said adding the performance and commitment of PPP to democracy could be compared to the past governments.
The President acknowledged the struggle of media for the cause of democracy despite the difficult conditions in which journalists work.
He assured that next elections would be free and fair.
President SAFMA Pakistan Nusrat Javed and senior journalist Ziauddin also spoke on the occasion and pledged their support for continuity of democracy, rule of law, across the board accountability, fight against terrorism and extremism and for a free media and independent judiciary.
Ziauddin said media will always be in a confrontation with a government as it is watchdog for the interests of society.
He called for job security and protection of the financial rights of journalists through Wage Board Award.
On the demand of SAMFA representatives, the President announced a grant of Rs. 50 million for the projects of South Asian Free Media Association.
Source: Business Recorder