MUZAFFARABAD: The federal government is committed to continuing the reconciliation policy in accordance with the spirit of the Charter of Democracy, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said on Thursday.
Chairing the Kashmir Council’s budget session 2016-17 here, he said: “Power outages will end in 2018. Democracy means patience and positive criticism needs to be welcomed. Patience and maturity for governance.”
The prime minister said that Azad Kashmir was part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which will usher in an era of prosperity in the region and is the government’s priority.
Terming CPEC a game-changer, he said: “Azad Kashmir has tremendous potential for generating hydro-electric power and local investors must invest here … The government will facilitate them … Roads, motorways, highways and railway tracks are being laid to bring lasting economic stability,” the PM said.
Earlier, the prime minister approved the Kashmir Council’s budget amounting to Rs22.55 billion for 2016-17, showing an increase of Rs715 million or 17 per cent over the previous year.
The budget was presented by federal minister for Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan Barjees Muhammad Tahir.
Member Kashmir Council Yunus Mir appreciated the PM’s decision to raise the council’s budget and assured that the funds would be used for the welfare of the people of Azad Kashmir.
Yunus Mir also said that this was the first time in the history of the Kashmir Council that any prime minister (of Pakistan) gave more than five hours to discuss issues confronting the people of Azad Kashmir.
Prime Minister Sharif also inspected the bus targeted by the Indian army on November 23 along the Line of Control (LoC) in the Neelum Valley in which 11 people were killed.
Speaker of the Azad Kashmir’s Legislative Assembly Shah Ghulam Qadir, elected to the assembly from Neelum, briefed the PM on the incident.
The speaker later introduced the bus driver to PM Sharif.
Meanwhile, two newly-elected members of the Kashmir Council were sworn in by Prime Minister Sharif.
Both members, Abdul Khaliq Wasi and Muhammad Sadiq Chaudhry, belong to the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and were elected on December 2 this year.
Before joining the PML-N, Abdul Khaliq Wasi was among the personal staff of a former prime minister of Azad Kashmir, Sardar Sikandar Hayat Khan, while Muhammad Sadiq was a member of Sardar Attique Ahmed Khan’s cabinet during the Musharraf regime.
The council is composed of 12 members, six of whom are elected by the Azad Kashmir Legislative Assembly, while the other six are nominated by the prime minister of Pakistan.
Prime Minister Sharif was accompanied, among others, by AJK Prime Minister Farooq Haider, President Sardar Masood Khan, Speaker Shah Ghulam Qadir, federal Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Minister for Industries and Commerce Khurram Dastagir Khan, Senator Pervez Rashid and Political Secretary to PM Sharif Dr Asif Kirmani.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 30th, 2016.