ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Prime Minister (PM) Muhammad Nawaz Sharif while addressing the nation for the first time after since office in June, 2013, expressed his resolve to eliminate the menace of terrorism‚ improve economy‚ address power crisis and pursue good relations with all neighbouring countries in the region, including India, Radio Pakistan reported.
The Prime Minister said Pakistan was today facing serious challenges such as terrorism that was endangering the very survival of the country and a worst kind of load-shedding that had paralysed its economy.
Nawaz also promised major projects including a housing scheme for the poor, an improved road network. He also pointed towards the trade corridor which will run the entire length of Pakistan and connect the port of Gwadar with Kashgar. “This is a gamechanger, it will change the fate of Pakistan.”
The first part of the Prime Minister’s speech was dedicated to the chronic menace of load-shedding, and promised that his government would overcome it during their constitutional tenure.
Nawaz recounted the measures taken by the incumbent Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government to overcome the electricity crisis. He said despite financial constraints‚ the government had arranged a retirement of circular debt worth Rs480 billion as a result of which electricity generation had increased by 1700 MW.
The prime minister pointed that massive theft of electricity and gas was costing the country between Rs150-Rs250 billion annually and had exacerbated the load-shedding problem. Which was why, Nawaz said, the present government had launched an aggressive campaign against power and gas theft and the campaign and would continue with full resolve.
Nawaz said that a consensus national energy policy had been approved after incorporating input from all provinces which was an important milestone in efforts to overcome the electricity crisis.
He said long term measures were also being initiated to mitigate the electricity crisis and soon coal-based power plants with an aggregate capacity of 6600 MW would be inaugurated at Gaddani‚ followed by establishment of plants at Thar. The hydro-power project Neelum Jhelum had also been directed to be completed by 2016.
Referring to terrorism‚ the Prime Minister said that the government was determined to tackle the problem either through dialogue or with full might of the state and all state institutions were on the same page on the issue.
He added that Karachi could not be allowed to be lost to terrorism.
The government had more than one option to tackle the problem but wisdom demanded that there was no loss of innocent lives, he said, before inviting those treading the path of terrorism to a dialogue in order to end the vicious cycle of bloodshed.
The Prime Minister said that the Kashmir issue was a national issue and the jugular vein of Pakistan and resolution of the problem was as dear to him as it would be for any other Pakistani.
He however said that any target could not be achieved without strengthening the economy of the country. Alongside the issue of Kashmir‚ he said that attention to strengthen the economy‚ resolve the internal and external problems and tackle power crisis and terrorism should also be considered.
He said Pakistan and India would have to join their heads together so that they could address common issues, such as poverty and ignorance.
Healthy relations with neighbouring countries
The progress and development of a nation was deeply linked to cordial relations with neighbours, he said, which was why the current government wanted good relations with all neighbours including India.
Nawaz Sharif said that he had always wanted good relations with India, and people also supported his contention during the recent elections.
He said both countries should realize that instead of wasting energy and resources on wars‚ they should wage wars against poverty‚ ignorance and disease.
Pakistan was fully prepared to defend its land along with its valiant armed forces, he said.
The Prime Minister said that a strategy that highlighted a bright face of the country in the comity of nations on Afghanistan would be pursued.
Mian Nawaz Sharif said that it was time for a bold review of Pakistan’s foreign policy, after which the scant national resources of the country could be exploited for the good of the poor and progress and prosperity of the country.
He stated that this was linked to his dream to make Pakistan an ‘Asian tiger’.
The very foundations of the country had been shaken due to maladministration‚ rampant corruption in every sphere and inefficiency of the last fourteen years that has brought national institutions like PIA‚ Pakistan Steel‚ Railway and WAPDA to the verge of virtual collapse, he said.
These institutions were inflicting huge losses of five billion rupees annually to the national exchequer, he said. The PM said that national debt which stood at just three thousand billion rupees in June 1990 had now soared to Rs14,500 billion.
Nawaz Sharif said that one could gauge the insensitivity of the previous regime and the level of corruption from two instances of Nandipur and Neelum-Jhelum power projects. Their execution was either obstructed or criminally delayed leading to a massive increase in the cost and a delay in their completion at a time when the country badly needed electricity, the prime minister said.
US drone strikes in Pakistan
Nawaz said that the government had a clear cut position on drone attacks which were a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and international law.
He said that the government has raised the issue of the drones with US Secretary of State John Kerry, urging him to stop these attacks.
He said that the Un Secretary General had also expressed concern over the killing of peaceful civilians in these attacks.