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Pakistani PM Gilani pledges to take country out of crises


Islamabad : Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani pledged to the nation to render every sacrifice to meet the challenges facing Pakistan and urged people to support the government in steering the country out of the crises.

In his first address to the nation on Saturday, after taking oath three months ago, the Prime Minister said, long years of dictatorship have plunged the country into crises.

“We will take out this country from all the crises. We will give the people confidence, we will give the nation not just their dream but its fulfilment,’ he said in his address telecast live on television and radio.

Prime Minister Gilani gave an overview of the problems the government had inherited and various steps that have been taken to stem the economic down slide and provide immediate relief to the common man.

Gilani said Pakistan was facing the crisis of flour shortage, load-shedding, terrorism and extremism, restoration of judges, economic down slide and, above all, the inflation and unemployment which had their roots in the past.

“This situation sapped people’s confidence and kill their hope,” he said and added in this situation the government had only two ways; either to surrender to these problems or face them upfront.

“Like my political predecessors, I have chosen the second path (to fight against these challenges).”

Prime Minister Gilani attributed these problems to external factors, like rising oil and food prices in the international market.

Secondly, he said during the last eight years, neither the gravity of international challenges were realised nor any future planning was made that created multiple problems and plunged the country into crises.

He described inflation as the biggest challenge and part of a global crisis, saying Pakistan today is faced with an economic turmoil.

“Abundance of automobiles and mobile phones are not a yard-stick of progress,” he said and added that the previous government instead of setting up new industries, preferred imports and made Pakistan a consumer economy.

He said agriculture was totally ignored and inflation, the country faced today, was the result of running the country by printing money and heavy borrowing from the State Bank of Pakistan.

Outlining efforts of the government to counter these problems, the Prime Minister said the government was trying to overcome inflation while avoiding past mistakes.

Instead of cosmetic presentation of the economic situation, the priority of the government is to improve the situation in real terms, he added.

He said industrial and agriculture production would be increased to counter inflation and reduce financial deficits. Hoarding and profiteering will be done away with, he added.

Prime Minister Gilani asked the traders, industrialists and investors to make maximum investment in Pakistan.

“I appeal to my business community to keep their capital in Pakistan. We assure them every protection.”

He also appealed to the nation to reduce consumption of those items which were costing the country hugely in terms of foreign exchange.

The Prime Minister said that reduced consumption of fuel and edible oil can save billions of dollars in foreign exchange, which will not only reduce trade deficit but also gradually reduce the external debt.

Being an agriculturist, Prime Minister said he was fully aware of the problems of the farming community. He regretted that an agrarian country like Pakistan was facing the problem of food shortage.

The Prime Minister underlined steps the government has taken to overcome the problem.

The Wheat Support Price has been increased to Rs. 625 per 40 kg from Rs. 475 and the government will significantly increase the minimum support price before the next harvest.

The government is importing 2.5 million tonnes of wheat to ensure adequate supplies, he added.

Agriculture loans for farmers have been increased by Rs. 30 billion and an amount of over Rs. 20.50 billion has been allocated for the agriculture development programme.

He said the government has already announced a new policy for import of agriculture equipment and cheap tractors. Sizeable subsidy is being given on fertiliser and sales tax on it has been abolished, he added.
The insurance scheme for crop loans has been approved and he announced that the government will pay the premium for small growers.

The Prime Minister said water reservoirs will be constructed on priority basis as development of agriculture sector was impossible without adequate water supplies.

Prime Minister informed that the government was giving incentives to some 10,000 dairy farmers to increase milk production to bring about a White Revolution in the country.

Pakistan was facing the acute power shortage which, the Prime Minister attributed to neglect of the sector in the past eight years that created an imbalance in supply and demand.

The Prime Minister recalled that the country faced similar load shedding problem during the second government of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto.

At that time, he said, the private power producers were given incentives adding today a large portion of the total energy production is obtained from projects set up by these companies.

“Just think what would have been the situation if the government of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) had not started these projects 14 years back,” he posed a question.

The Prime Minister said the government has taken a series of measures in a short span of time which would help overcome load shedding significantly by next year.

Gilani said reposing confidence in the government’s policies, international companies have offered to make $ 4 billion investment in power sector and work on the proposals is being undertaken at fast track.

The government has taken practical steps to utilise the huge reserves of coal in Thar and for this purpose Thar Coal Authority has been set up.

He said he would chair a roundtable conference attended by international financial institutions on July 29 in Washington for investment in the sector.

Moreover, special attention has been focused on alternative sources of energy including wind, solar and atomic energy, Gilani said.

Under the programme to conserve energy, besides various other steps, supply of energy saver bulbs would be ensured and due to these steps the future needs of energy would be fulfilled, he said.

The Prime Minister pointed out that no country could attract investment, or make progress, if the lives of ordinary citizens are insecure.

“When we took over, hundreds of lives were lost in numerous suicide attacks in 2007, affecting lives of thousands of people,” he added.

He recalled that chairperson of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Benazir Bhutto also became the target of dreadful wave of terrorism.

The personnel of law enforcement institutions were also being targeted, he added.

The Prime Minister informed that an extraordinary meeting of the heads of allied parties would be held on July 23, in Islamabad to formulate a comprehensive strategy to end terrorism and extremism.

Prime Minister Gilani said Pakistan was fighting the war against terrorism in its own interest and added that the country for its geographical location can play a central role for economic progress and peace in the region.

“This role of Pakistan is being acknowledged all over the world.”

The Prime Minister said good relations with neighbouring countries were the major planks of the country’s foreign policy.

It was with this spirit that Pakistan has agreed to fifth round of composite dialogue to improve ties with India and resolve all disputes, he added.

Referring to his first speech in the National Assembly, the Prime Minister said that he had clearly stated that resolution of Kashmir issue in line with the aspirations of Kashmiri people is essential for durable peace and prosperity of south Asian region.

He said Pakistan wanted friendly ties with the entire world and vowed that sovereignty of Pakistan will never be compromised.

Gilani made it clear that no foreign power will be allowed to take action on Pakistan soil and added that any decision or action within its boundary will be taken by the country itself.

The Prime Minister said the government is preparing a comprehensive strategy to improve and reflect true image of Pakistani nation in the world, particularly in the west.

This “can tell the world that we are the victim of terrorism and will leave no stone unturned to counter the menace.”

The Prime Minister reaffirmed that by the grace of Allah Almighty, Pakistan’s defence is strong and “we are responsible nuclear power and our (nuclear) assets are in safe hands.”

The whole nation fully trust its armed forces and the government will utilize all resources to fulfil country’s defence needs.

The Prime Minister also announced a number of measures to provide relief to the common people.

The Prime Minister said under Benazir Income Support Programme, targeted support of Rs 1,000 each will be provided to the poor families to help them overcome poverty and inflation.

He said initially, 3.4 million families will benefit from the scheme which would be expanded later.

For this scheme, he added, special Benazir Cards will be issued and the scheme will be formally launched on August 14.

The Prime Minister said that another scheme has already been launched for free issuance of national identity cards, which would benefit some 25 million people.

He said Utility Stores would be established at every Union Council level to provide basic commodities of life including flour, ghee and pulses at cheaper rates.

Mobile Utility Stores in remote areas has already been started, while 1600 new Utility Stores are being set up soon.

The Prime Minister said 20 percent increase in salaries and pension of government employees has been made, while minimum wages of labourers have been enhanced from Rs. 4600 to Rs. 6000 per month.

Yousaf Raza Gilani said a revolving fund of Rs. 2 billion has been created under the Prime Minister’s Housing Scheme and he would soon inaugurate its pilot projects at the federal as well as provincial capitals.

Government employees and rural areas would be given special importance in this scheme, he added.

The Prime Minister said under the Green Transport Scheme the government has decided to run 8000 CNG buses in ten big cities. The scheme will cost around Rs. 40 billion and its investors were being given special incentives, he added.

He said the Lady Health Workers programme introduced by Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto in 1994 was appreciated and welcomed at the local and international level.

The government will add another 20,000 lady health workers this year in the existing number of 100,000, the Prime Minister said and added the quota of lady health workers for Balochistan had been doubled.

The Prime Minister said a mother child health-care programme had been initiated at a cost of Rs. 20 billion, under which 20,000 community midwives would be recruited this year.

He said for the first time a new programme would be introduced for diagnosing diseases, which would specially help in preventing hepatitis and polio diseases.

Besides, the Prime Minister said, a special programme for treatment and control of Hepatitis had been initiated, which was being supervised by himself. He also appealed for cooperation from the local and international institutions in this regard.

He said a new Rs. 5 billion school feeding programme has been initiated in rural areas to provide food to boy and girl students in the primary schools.

The Prime Minister said quota for women in government jobs has been doubled, while the legislation is underway for the protection of women and their rights.

He said government was focusing to make operational the Chinese Economic Zone, especially created for Chinese investors in Lahore.

The Prime Minister said the restrictions on trade and student unions had been lifted and in this respect legislation work had been initiated. The measures were afoot to restore the government servants forced out of jobs on political grounds, he added.

He said the government had regularized the services of contract employees from Grade 1 to 15.

The Prime Minister said the government believed in equal rights for minorities and would ensure protection of their religious sites as well as freedom of worship.

He said a bill had been tabled in the National Assembly for amendment in the PEMRA Ordinance to ensure freedom of media. The legislation work on the Freedom of Information Bill 2008 had been initiated, he added.

The Prime Minister said a Journalist Victim Fund had been created to provide protection to journalists. Consultation process on Wage Board Award had started to support the working journalists, he added.

The Prime Minister said the imprisonment of political leaders is nothing new across the world, but once they are out they do not bother to consider jail reforms.

However, Gilani said, on the basis of his past experience, he was supervising work on jail reforms on fast-track and measures are underway to convert jails into reformatory centers.

The Prime Minister said the concerned ministers will soon present the details of what he has announced for the reforms and improvement in various sectors.

He assured the nation of the government’s strong commitment and will to clear all the hurdles in the way of journey towards progress and prosperity, initiated by the present government.

The Prime Minister said Pakistan is not only a gateway to Middle East but also a corridor which links Asia and Europe, adding, the present government would make Pakistan corridor of trade and energy through the construction of highways of international standard.

He said the provision of education, health and job opportunities to every Pakistan was the top priority of this government.

The Prime Minister said, “We want to develop such a Pakistan, where there is no unemployment, the investors do not take their capital out of the country, the industries do not close and where every poor, labourer, farmer or skilled people are capable to get their children higher education.”

Prime Minister Gilani said it was an honour and a moment of immense pleasure for him that he was addressing the nation as the first head of any coalition government in the country’s history.

He said he was the traveller of a political caravan which brought the politics to people from palaces.

Prime Minister Gilani said those who are elected by the people consider themselves accountable to the people, and the people have the right to know, what the government is doing for their welfare.

Referring to the country’s history of the past 60 years, he said dictators ruled the country for the most part.

The Pakistan of the Quaid-e-Azam was not meant to be overshadowed by the horrible face of dictatorship, he said.

“Every dictator in a new garb promoted the only agenda of how to prolong his rule, even if it is at the cost of breaking the country, destruction of institutions, destruction of society, or the impoverishment of masses.”

After Quaid-e-Azam, he said Quaid-e-Awam Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto gave a new lease of life to Pakistani politics, created awareness among the people and organised them.

He said the Quaid-e-Awam fought a historical battle for the rights of the people and became their voice. A dictator snatched that voice from the masses but he is still alive in the hearts of the people.

Shaheed Benazir Bhutto, once again became the torch-bearer of peoples’ rights and moved forward with a new vigour and determination.
“She wrote a new chapter of struggle and her charismatic personality gave the poor people of the country a new lease of life.”

Paying glowing tributes to the Shaheed leader, the Prime Minister said, she set a new direction in politics and signed a historical Charter of Democracy with other political parties to put democracy on the right track.

“She was the hope of the country’s poor, she was the hope of the country’s farmers, and was the dream of the youth, she was strength of the labourers, she was the passion of country’s students.”

Prime Minister Gilani said the Shaheed leader refused to bow before dictators and terrorists and embraced martyrdom.

The Prime Minister also paid tributes to those political workers who laid down their lives and suffered the pangs of imprisonment.

He said, it was now the duty of the government to not only guarantee people their welfare and progress, but also give the political workers the good news of restoration of democracy and an end to dictatorship.

“We promise to our martyrs of democracy that the nation will always remember their great sacrifices.”

The Prime Minister described the PPP as the true symbol of federation and said he would fulfil all promises made by Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto.

Gilani thanked PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari and the party for reposing confidence in him.
He said it was unfortunate that PPP always took the reins when not only the governments but the entire country was mired in crises.

“We (always) inherit destroyed institutions, sinking economies, disintegrating destinies, impoverished people, youth committing suicide and a federation in perils.”

The Prime Minister said the party leaders and workers had to render sacrifices and faced unbearable hardship in their struggle for democracy.

“Thousands of innocent leaders and workers, including PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari are imprisoned sans justification and subjected to torture.

“But we never gave up, we have always confronted oppression and took the country out of crises.”

The Prime Minister said the results of February 18 elections gave a ray of hope to the whole nation and the political forces having divergent views became united for the common cause of the restoration of democracy and formed a broad-based coalition government.

“For this I felicitate and thank PML(N) and its chief Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, ANP and its chief Asfandyar Wali, JUI and its chief Maulana Fazal ur Rehman and my colleagues from FATA.”

He also thanked all the opposition parties including the MQM for giving him a unanimous vote of confidence.

The Prime Minister said at present all the state institutions are functioning in accordance with the constitution.

“The present parliament is supreme in its true sense and we on the very first day in the National Assembly decided about the leader of the opposition”, he added.

The Prime Minister said for the first time in Pakistan’s history the defence budget was presented in the parliament.

The Prime Minister said to keep the spirit of democracy alive, he ensured his presence in the National Assembly during the question hour and for the first time the National Assembly proceedings were aired live for the public.

He said all the members of parliament were given development funds without any discrimination and the government in order to achieve consensus among the provinces decided to activate the Council of Common Interests and National Finance Award.

The Prime Minister said it was for the first time that there was an atmosphere of complete harmony and cooperation between the center and the provinces.

He said the government after its formation issued orders for the release of detained judges, lawyers and political workers. “We will soon give a good news about the restoration of deposed judges as well.”

The Prime Minister said the government has made serious efforts to remove the bitterness created due to past mistakes in Balochistan. Appropriate measures are being taken to check political victimization, he added.

“I congratulate the nation on the victory of democracy”, he added.

The Prime Minister appealed that it was not the time to indulge in blame-game. “It is the time to save the country.”

Prime Minister Gilani said that he and the nation owed their existence to Pakistan.

He said the dawn of democracy which has been attained after years of sacrifices and struggle should not be let go out of hands.

“Trust and give the political government a chance to tackle the crises brought upon the country by the long years of dictatorship.”

“The vote you gave us to bring about a change is a debt we owe to Shaheed Benazir Bhutto that we have to re-pay. Support your government and the success is ours.”