President stresses for collective efforts to strengthen democratic process

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ISLAMABAD, June 1 (APP): President Mamnoon Hussain on Wednesday stressed for making collective efforts to give more strength to the democratic process for achieving socio-economic development of the country.

Addressing joint session of the Parliament here on fourth consecutive year, the President said during the past three years the country’s democratic march has been progressing despite ups and down.

“It is now responsibility of each individual, class and institutions to earnestly contribute towards reinforcing a positive trend,” Mamnoon Hussain maintained.

Since, he added, the country has already witnessed unpleasant experiences many times in its parliamentary democratic and political history which could not be repeated.

Thus the President said obstinacy and personal differences should not override national interest and reminded the Quaid’s advice that neither the opposition and nor any group has the right to unlawfully impose its will on the elected government.

The President while congratulating the Parliamentarians on the successful completion of the third and beginning of the fourth parliamentary year, said the political progression during the last three years is testimony that the political system has gained the potential to face crises successfully.

He said it signifies that the nation is now convinced that the objective of sustainable development and stability is not possible without democracy.

“This is a great leap forward towards political maturity for which the parliament, political parties and Pakistani nation deserve commendation,” he added.

During the last three years, he said, “our democratic march has been progressing successfully despite ups and downs and it is now the responsibility of each individual, class and institution to earnestly contribute towards reinforcing this positive trend.”

The President said it is through sustaining and nurturing democracy that we can serve the nation, raise its standard of living and further strengthen the system.

The governments that ensure rule of law, economic development and provision of basic needs to the people easily overcome challenges, succeed in stabilizing democracy and reinforce the relationship between an individual and state, he said.

The President said he was glad to note that both the government and the opposition are cognizant of this and are formulating policies in the light of this philosophy thereby strengthening democracy.

He said the government, be it of any political party, should formulate policies in accordance with this tested principle so that democracy can take roots and the people may live a happy and prosperous life.

He said the progress and prosperity of a nation is measured by its economic performance and as a veteran political worker and a student of economics, he has always kept an eye on these matters.

Highlighting government’s prudent economic policies, the President said, economic indicators had improved manifold and its blessings have started passing on to gross-roots level.

He said the country has been facing many problems as a result of instability in the region, decades long conflicts, terrorism and failure of the past regime in maintaining financial discipline that alarmingly affected national income and production.

But, he added since the government took charge the current financial situation appeared encouraging. According to reports, the country’s tax system and tax collection has improved, foreign exchange reserves increased, GDP has steadily expanded and this year its growth has been 4.7 percent.

The Present said these positives will encourage foreign investors and accelerate our economic progress which will further boosted by China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project.

He said such a welcome progress on the economic front is possible only through consistent and realistic policies. Thus, he added there is a need to ensure continuity in policies in line with ground realities to further stabilize the economy and more steps should be taken to pass on the benefits of improved economic situation to the common man.

Referring to the welfare projects, the president said several steps have been taken which include business opportunities and technical training for the youth, comprehensive programme for people living below the poverty line, special package for farmers and educational facilities and stipends for children belonging to the under developed areas.

About the CPEC, the President said that this project is vital for revival of our national economy and that our neighbours particularly, the Central Asians Countries have already started preparing themselves to benefit from this corridor.

He said there is no weight in reservations expressed by certain quarters regarding the CPEC, adding that development work on this most important project is going on according to the schedule.

He said concerted efforts had been made to reach a national consensus on this matter which has helped removing doubts.However, he said, if there are still any apprehension in mind of few this should also be removed through dialogue so that there is no room for mischief by ill-wishers.

The President said it is utmost necessity to convert the economic corridor dream into reality through hard work.In this respect a special security division has been created for safety and security of Chinese experts and workers and the construction of roads is going in full swing.

He hoped that the major work on the western and other routes has been completed by the end of current year.

President Mamnoon Hussain said governments and rulers come and go but the state lasts and this reality is the foundation of the whole system. Despite having political differences, we should not allow the economy to be adversely affected as only a strong economy can ensure a strong Pakistan, he added.

He suggested that the nation should unite on the agenda of economic stability for continuity in economic policies in all situations. “I am confident that our political parties and other stakeholders will soon agree upon this national agenda,” he added.

He said economic stability and self-reliance should be the goal of every government, adding that bold economic decisions and construction of economic corridor are the first steps towards this objective, which when completed will not only enhance regional connectivity but will also help in developing infrastructure.

“The objective of economic stability will remain a pipe dream until we are self-sufficient in energy production. That is why electricity generation projects have been incorporated in the Economic Corridor, which are now producing positive results,” the President said.

He said electricity generation has increased and improvement in distribution system has provided relief to the people. He hoped that by 2018 we will be able to overcome the energy crisis after completion of all electricity projects.

The depletion of natural gas reserves is one of the main reasons behind the energy crisis, he said, adding the LNG import from Qatar has helped to overcome the declining industrial production, which has saved public and private investment from sinking besides providing employment to a large number of people.

However, he said we should continue to find alternative sources of energy including hydel, solar, wind and coal etc to fulfill our energy needs. In this respect, he proposed to focus on producing electricity from the water channels in Gilgit Baltistan, Azad Kashmir and other Upper areas because these sources can provide us cheap and abundant electricity.

The President emphasised that along with construction of Diamir Basha and Dasu dams, government should also pay attention to smaller hydel projects. In this process, mid-level investors may be induced to participate in such cheap electricity projects and Gilgit Baltistan should be linked to the national grid, he added.

In addition to increase in electricity production, he said, there is also a need for investment and improvement in the distribution system.He said If investors are allowed to distribute electricity in their investment area, it will not only attract further investment but will also lead to substantial improvement in the production and distribution of electricity.

The dream of national development will materialise only when there is peace and conducive business environment in the country so that investors are able to invest without any fear, he added.

The President expressed confidence that efforts for restoring law and order in different areas of the country, particularly in Waziristan, Balochistan and Karachi, have produced satisfactory results and rate of economic development has improved.

“I am confident that we will be able to achieve the objectives of Zarb-e-Azb by the end of this year and attain internal peace and security. It is important for us to concentrate on consolidating the gains made in these operations and the civil administration should take upon the responsibilities in these areas to re-establish its writ,” he added.

While avoiding repeating bitter mistakes of the past, the President said that special plans should be chalked out for the entire country, particularly for the affected areas. The affected traders and investors should be adequately compensated to enable them to recover their losses and start their businesses afresh in order to restore normalcy in these areas, he added.

President Mamnoon in his address said that Pakistan’s foreign policy was based on the principle of peace for development and peaceful neighbourhood. Our foreign policy entails constructive diplomacy, Non-interference, trade promotion and economic cooperation, he added.

Pakistan aspires for world peace and harmony and is desirous of friendly relations and peaceful coexistence with the world, particularly its neighbours, he said.

“We believe that the main cause of tension in the region is the Kashmir issue, which is an unfinished agenda of the partition of sub-continent. As long as this issue is not resolved in accordance with wishes of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and the UN resolutions, the problems of this region will remain unresolved,” he said.

The President said despite Pakistan’s continued stress on dialogue, condemnation of the Pathankot incident and offer of joint investigation, India put foreign secretary level negotiations in abeyance, which is a matter of serious concern.

He said the situation could only be improved by reciprocating Pakistan’s sincere overtures in the same spirit.

The President said that Pakistan was of the view that peace and stability in Afghanistan was imperative for peace in the region, adding that this objective could be achieved through reconciliation amongst the stakeholders and there was no military solution to this problem.

About Afghan issue, the President said after formation of the new government in Afghanistan, Pakistan made sincere efforts with the new leadership to remove past misgivings and pave the way for durable peace.

In this regard, he said at the initiative of Pakistan, the Four-nation Quadrilateral Coordination Group was facilitating talks between the Afghan government and Taliban of which a number of meetings have already been held.

Although he added that some recent incidents in Afghanistan have hindered this process, and hoped that these efforts would succeed. The 14-Country Heart of Asia Conference is also a part of these efforts in which Pakistan is also playing an important role, he added.

Friendly relations with the Islamic fraternity are the foundation of Pakistan’s foreign policy and we enjoy very close and fraternal relations with all the Muslim countries, he said.

Pakistan has played a positive role for ending tension in the Middle East in which Turkey has also assisted us and our
efforts have produced positive results, he said. In this backdrop, visit by Iranian President Dr. Hassan Rouhani was very important which has given fresh impetus to building warm relations between the two brotherly countries, he added.

He said after lifting of sanctions on Iran, a new era of bilateral relations between the two countries has begun and the volume of bilateral trade was proposed to be $5 billion under the Five-Year Strategic Plan.

He said additional entry points have also been agreed upon to expand trade and economic relations and Pak-Iran Gas Pipeline would help meet our energy requirements.

Trade with neighbouring countries can only flourish when our joint borders are safe, a record of cross border movement is maintained and any illegal activity at the borders is made impossible, he said. A system of effective high-tech surveillance is therefore essential for this purpose, he added.

A new era of warm and close relations with Central Asian and other neighbouring states has begun, which will encompass not only political, economic, social but also cultural aspects in the coming years, the President said.

He said that Pakistan’s relations with these brotherly countries would usher in a new glorious era of development and cooperation, adding that with the help of these sincere friends, Pakistan was able to be admitted to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) that has provided a new dimension to our relations with the Russian Federation.

He said a Defence Cooperation Agreement has been recently concluded between Pakistan and Russia and under another cooperation agreement Russia was likely to invest $2 billion for laying Karachi to Lahore Gas Pipeline which was reflective of growing relations between the two countries.

During the past few years, he said our relations with the European Union and its member countries have grown further in scope.

Pakistan has longstanding and historic relations with USA, which are being further deepened through strategic dialogue, the President said, adding that the economic, energy, education, security and science & technology sectors have also been included in the agenda for negotiations.

Talks between the two countries are continuing to end misgivings and explore possibilities of further expanding bilateral cooperation, the President added.

He said that Pakistan strongly believed in nuclear security and was making serious efforts to convince the international community in this matter.

Pakistan has made state of the art arrangements for safety of its nuclear installations and there is no risk of any untoward incident, he said and added that the high standard of these arrangements was also acknowledged in the recently held Nuclear Summit in Washington, which is a matter of great pride for us.

President Mamnoon said that Pakistan has played a proactive and dynamic role for peace and progress in the world and promoting regional cooperation. In this respect, Pakistan is playing an active role in Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC), D-8 Organization and the Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD).

This clearly reflects that Pakistan is always ready to partake in the efforts aimed at progress and prosperity of the people of the region.

The President said the foundation of a successful foreign policy was laid on national unity, solidarity, way of life, grooming and upbringing of the future generations.

“Our prestige will rise in the comity of nations if we could improve upon certain affairs by taking cognizance of these important aspects of life,” the President said.

He said it was historic reality that no nation could make any positive impression on the international community unless each and every individual believed in the rule of law.

“History tells us that when a nation lacks respect for law, it loses self-respect and sense of ownership of the country, while the nations that inculcate respect for law and discipline in their lives excel in the world,” he added.

The President advised countrymen not to be despondent and fulfill their responsibilities for the country’s development with new passion and vigor.

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