Economic stability, continuity of policies vital for progress: President

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ISLAMABAD, June 1 (APP): President Mamnoon Hussain Wednesday said economic stability and continuity of policies were vital for the progress and development of the country and urged the nation to stand united to confront the challenges ahead.

The President, in a wide-ranging address to the joint sitting of the Parliament, said the completion of three years of the government reflected that democracy in the country had strengthened and political system reinforced to withstand any crisis. He congratulated the political parties and the nation on that success.

The address, aired live on radio and television and heard by
jam-packed visitors’ galleries, focussed on the achievements of the government, the challenges and the vision ahead.

The President’s address to the joint parliamentary session at
the advent of a new parliamentary year and completion of third year of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was mandatory under Clause 56 of the Constitution.

It was President Mamnoon’s third address to the joint sitting
of the Parliament. Ambassadors, chief ministers and the Services Chiefs were in attendance.

President Mamnoon Hussain focussed on economic stability in the country, the need for continuity to sustain the pace of
development and the endorsement in this regard by the international monetary institutions.

He mentioned the historic high foreign exchange reserves, the 4.7 per cent GDP (gross domestic product) growth rate, controlled inflation and a stable Rupee owing to the government’s economic policies.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) got a frequent
mention in the President’s speech, which, he said, would help generate employment, end poverty and expand connectivity with the Central Asian Republics and the region at large.

He called for a national consensus and unanimity, and
addressing concerns, if any, through talks. He said several regional leaders had informed him of the importance of the project that would boost trade and bring prosperity to the region.

The President mentioned formation of a Special Security
Division for the protection of Chinese workers engaged in various infrastructure projects.

He said the governments might change, but work on the CPEC would continue, as it was a national project. He urged the nation to stand united to foil any attempts aimed at sabotaging the project.
Speaking on the importance of taxation, he said it was vital
for the country’s progress that the government should focus on expanding tax base and take realistic measures to increase collection.

He said the nation needed to support all measures for bringing economic stability to the country as only through bold and difficult decisions the goal of increased connectivity and infrastructure development could be achieved.

President Mamnoon mentioned the issue of power shortage and expressed optimism that it would be resolved by the year 2018. He said import of Liquified Natural Gas would help the country generate employment and run its industries.

He said the government was working on a mix of hydel, solar, nuclear and wind eneries to meet the country’s needs and called for more cheap and abundant power generation. Apart from work on Diamir-Bhasha and Dasu dams, medium level private investors should invest in power generation in Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu Kashmir water courses and connecting the same to the national grid through transmission lines, he added.

President Mamnoon said Pakistan strongly believed in nuclear
security and was making serious efforts in that regard. The country had made arrangements for the safety of its nuclear installations and there was no risk of any untoward incident, he added.

He said law and order situation in Waziristan, Balochistan and
Karachi had improved and objectives of the Operation Zarb-e-Azb achieved. He called for early repatriation of the displaced persons and said the control of the areas be handed over to the civilian authorities. The local businessmen, farmers and others be assisted
to restart their lives, he added.

The President paid tribute to the people of tribal areas,
who had undergone a major disruption in their lives owing to the military operation against extremists and terrorists.
Urging a healthy environment for the youth, he called for more sports facilities so as to lure them away from extremism and help the country regain its lost glory in the international sporting arena.

He asked impartial religious scholars to study the causes
leading to extremist thoughts and suggest remedial measures.

The President spoke high of the sacrifices of the officers and
men of the armed forces and called for building a national monument to honour those who had lost their lives in defence of their country.

Names of all martyred personnel of civil and military security
forces, he said, be inscribed on it, so that the nation paid homage to them. All proud nations honoured their martyrs, who had done the country proud, he added.

“No force on earth can defeat a nation having soldiers imbued with the spirit of sacrifice and valour.”

The President also paid rich tribute to the fearless polio
workers, who were performing their national duty with courage and zeal, as the members thumped their desks.
Speaking about the country’s foreign policy, President Mamnoon said Pakistan desired “world peace and harmony” and “friendly relations and peaceful coexistence” with the world, particularly its neighbours.

Describing Kashmir as the main cause of tension in the region, he termed it “an unfinished agenda of the partition of the Sub-continent.”

“As long as this issue is not resolved in accordance with
the wishes of people of Jammu and Kashmir and the UN resolutions, the problems of this region will remain unresolved.”

He mentioned that the issue was being raised by Pakistan at the UN General Assembly as it desired an uninterrupted, sustained and meaningful dialogue with neighbours. He, however, regretted that “our warm and sincere offer has not been reciprocated in the same spirit.”

The President said some unpleasant incidents took place in the recent past leading to further straining of relations.
“Despite Pakistan’s continued stress on dialogue, condemnation of the Pathankot incident and offer of joint investigation, the Foreign Secretary level negotiations are held in abeyance, which is a matter of serious concern for us.”

He said the situation could only be improved by reciprocating
Pakistan’s sincere overtures in the same spirit.
The President also touched upon Pakistan’s ties with
Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Belarus, Russia, the European Union, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

Mentioning Pakistan’s ties with Afghanistan, he said peace and stability was imperative for peace in the region and could be achieved through reconciliation. At the initiative of Pakistan, the Quadrilateral Coordination Group was facilitating talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Some recent incidents in Afghanistan, however, had hindered that process. “We are still confident that these efforts will succeed,” he added.

Highlighting the importance of visit of Iranian President Dr.
Hassan Rouhani, he said it had given fresh impetus to the
bilateral ties between the two countries as bilateral trade was proposed to be $5 billion under the Five-Year Strategic Plan.

Pakistan-Iran Gas Pipeline would help meet the country’s energy requirements, he added.

About Pakistan’s joining the 35-Country Military Coalition
under the Saudi leadership, he said it “reflects our determination to end terrorism and extremism.”

He spoke about Pakistan’s engagement with the Shanghai
Cooperation Organisation (SCO), the Organisation of Islamic
Cooperation (OIC), Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO), Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD), D-8 and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). He said the Islamabad SAARC summit in November this year would help strengthen ties among the regional countries.

The President called for adding in priorities an “effective high-tech surveillance” to check illegal activity at the borders.

The President in his speech mentioned what he said were the
recent “disturbing incidents” related to women.

“This unpleasant situation should be arrested forthwith and
needs to be treated as a moral issue rather than political,” he
stressed.

“We have to deal with it in the context of values irrespective
of any political consideration,” he said amidst thumping of desks.

“Women are an invaluable part of society,” he said and called
for making them part of the workforce to accelerate the pace of development.

The President concluded his address on an optimist note saying he could “see the dawn of progress, peace and stability on the horizon” in Pakistan.

He advised the countrymen not to be despondent and fulfill
their responsibilities with new passion and vigour.

“Do not allow any divisions in your ranks and files and work
hard with unison. We will soon regain our rightful status in the comity of nations. God Willing,” he added.