ISLAMABAD - In an all-encompassing, first speech since the general elections, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called a spade a spade, admitting that the country’s institutions have failed on almost all fronts, including the war on terror.
He offered an olive branch to the militants and promised to explore all possibilities of talks but at the same time expressed his determination to eliminate the menace of terrorism from the society even through use of force if need be.
Addressing the nation, the PM touched on issues ranging from power crisis and corruption to Pakistan’s relations with India, drone attacks and the country’s security, and rekindled the hope that his government with the help of the people will resolve all these issues.
However, Nawaz said the power crisis could not be resolved immediately as new projects will require several years before they start generation. “I am confident the power crisis will be overcome in five years,” he said.
He thanked the Chinese government for its interest in resolving Pakistan’s power crisis. He also thanked the people for expressing their confidence in him. But he said, “We should face reality that the country faces severe challenges. During the last 14 years, mismanagement and corruption have ruined the foundations of Pakistan.” He said that PIA and Railways have been mismanaged. Hospitals, schools and other infrastructures could have been established and power crisis controlled, if money was not wasted on PIA and Railways, he opined.
The PM said every state institution was on the verge of destruction. Pakistan’s foreign debt, he said, had increased from Rs3,000 billion to Rs14,000 billion in 14 years. The government had to opt for more loans to pay the heavy instalments, he said, adding that Pakistan could have gone bankrupt over refusal to get loans.
The PM said billions of rupees were spent on the Nadipur Power Project but some individuals stopped it, ruining machinery worth of billions. “We now have to spend an additional Rs36 billion to reinitiate this project.” He further said that Neelum-Jhelum project was supposed to be completed in six years. But this project too was plagued by corruption and mismanagement, and its cost has now risen by Rs200 billion. “I have directed that this project should be completed by 2013,” he revealed.
He said he has spent two months evaluating and formulating a plan to deal with the power crisis, as the circular-debt issue was a deterrent for power houses to generate to power to their full capacity. He said 1,700MW have now been added to the national grid after the circular-debt issue is resolved. “I’ll be satisfied when Pakistan produces more electricity than the demand,” he said, adding electricity and gas theft is also a major reason for the loadshedding. He said his government has started a drive against the energy thieves.
About the war on terror, the PM said terrorism too is a menace which has plagued Pakistan due to bad policies. He said over 40,000 Pak Army soldiers, security agencies personnel, policemen and civilians have lost their lives. He invited the individuals for dialogue who have taken up militancy. He said, “Every Pakistani is like my child and I cannot stand by as they are being killed on a daily basis. We have to seriously evaluate what we have gained and lost from our foreign policy.”
“I want to put an end to this game of fire and blood as soon as possible,” he said. He said that terrorism would be eliminated through use of force or negotiations. “Our grounds are deprived of foreign tours,” he said.
The prime minister said situation in Balochistan is of concern for every Pakistani as innocent citizens are being targeted by the killers. He said this state of affair cannot be allowed to persist and the federal government would provide all support to the provincial government for restoration of peace and development of Balochistan.
PM Nawaz said it is his desire to see peace and prosperity in Karachi, which is nerve centre of the national economy. “I am sure Sindh government will be able to tackle the issue of violence in Karachi, as the city could not be left on the mercy of criminals.” He said he wants development of Karachi and a plan of underground metro service in the city is on the cards.
He said that he immediately intervened after attempts were made to dislodge the current government in Azad Kashmir. “I am not satisfied with the output and performance of administrative machinery. Pakistan can no more afford corruption and incompetence,” he said. “We are one nation; we are part of one family. Pakistan is facing through a difficult phase,” he said. “I assure that my government would refrain from doing politics on issues like terrorism and energy crisis.”
Nawaz Sharif said it is time for bold review of our foreign policy as without the scant national resources cannot be exploited for the good of the poor and progress and prosperity of the country. He said his dream to make Pakistan an Asian tiger is deeply linked to this.
Nawaz said Kashmir is a national issue and the nation is fully prepared to defend the motherland along with its valiant armed forces. Terming Kashmir as the jugular vein of Pakistan Premier Sharif reiterated his wish to have good neighbouring relations with India, saying that people supported his contention during recent elections. He said stability and prosperity of a nation is linked to good relations with its neighbours.
The PM said, “It is responsibly of Pakistani and Indian leadership to understand that wars of the past have ruined our relations.” He said both countries should realise that instead of wasting their energies and resources on wars‚ they should wage war against poverty‚ ignorance and disease.
The prime minister said that drone strikes were against both the international laws and the national sovereignty. He said he reiterated to US Secretary John Kerry that drone attacks are a violation of the country’s sovereignty and asked him to stop this violation. He said UN Secretary General has also expressed concern over killing of civilians in these attacks. The PM said, “We will have to pursue a policy on Afghanistan that highlights bright face of the country in the comity of nations.”
Nawaz invited investors to come forward to help restore economy and put Pakistan on the path of progress and prosperity. He said Pakistan and China have agreed to work together to undertake a number of projects for the development of the country. Under Kashghar-Gwadar economic corridor‚ highway would be constructed and in the second phase Railway line would be laid and the project would change destiny of the region. The PM said he has a vision to extend motorways and communication links not only to Kabul but also to Central Asia and South Asian region.
The prime minister said Pakistan is passing through a challenging phase and “we will have to take difficult and important decisions”. He invited youth to play their role in rebuilding of Pakistan and said his government would soon announce details of the programme prepared for welfare of the youth. The prime minister said his government was also alive to the problems faced by minorities and issues relating to empowerment of women.
The PM said it is his desire that there should be more than one bread earner in every family and employment opportunities reach to every home. Nawaz announced that the government has prepared a low-cost housing scheme for low-income families. He said under the scheme millions of shelterless people belonging to all the provinces would become owners of houses with modern facilities within the next five years. Details of the scheme would be announced in October this year.
He appealed to the nation to come forward and generously provide assistance to their flood affected brethren. He said the government is ready to offer every possible support to mitigate their sufferings. The PM said challenges are great but their determination is even greater to overcome them and lead Pakistan to the path of progress and prosperity.
Before the address of PM Nawaz Sharif to the nation, Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani called on him in Islamabad on Monday and they discussed current wave of terrorism and security issues. They also discussed proposed national security policy to be finalised soon to control terrorism. The army chief briefed the PM on important defence-related matters and the border situation. Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif was also present.