ISLAMABAD/LAHORE - Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf has felicitated Barack H Obama on assumption of the office of US President.In his message to the US President, the prime minister said that Pakistan has always placed high premium on its relations with the United States. He said Pakistan and United States consider a strong and abiding relationship with each other beneficial for people in both countries. At the regional and global levels, they share the same strategic objectives of peace, prosperity and security, the prime minister added.Raja said he was looking forward to continue working with Obama and members of his administration in second term to add further substance and value to this very important and beneficial relationship.Speaking in Lahore, Prime Minister Raja Ashraf said that Youtube will be reopened in Pakistan soon as the government was in the process of installing a filtering mechanism to keep away the objectionable content. “We had requested the operators to remove the blasphemous contents, but they did not oblige us. Now we have decided to filter the objectionable contents”, he said while responding to a question after addressing a delegation at the Governor’s House where the Governor had hosted a dinner in their honour. The PM affirmed that it would not take too long to unblock this social website because the filtering mechanism was being installed. The icons of media representing SAARC countries are currently in Lahore for their annual conference. Addressing the participants, Raja said that conflicts among the SAARC nations should not come into the way of regional cooperation and that collective well-being of the people of South Asia could not be left at the mercy of any one country. “Conflict over disputes must give way to reconciliation, connectivity, openness and regional cooperation. We need to resolve all political and economic issues with an open mind and sincerity of purpose”, he remarked. He urged that political leadership of South Asia must show courage, flexibility and statesmanship to resolve inter-State conflicts and dismantle political barriers for laying the foundations of a regional economic take off.Pervaiz deplored that despite having relatively higher GDP growth, the region lacked in education, innovation, information and communication technologies. The increasing population also presented a daunting challenge besides putting a strain on the region’s resources, he added. “History will not forgive us if member countries continue to be bogged down by narrow considerations”, the PM observed, adding, that 1.2 billion people of South Asia expected of their leaders to exercise vision, statesmanship and think out of box to put SAARC in the league of other groupings. “Nothing can be achieved if we do not open our minds to each other and allow connectivity to flourish”, he stressed. The Prime Minister on this occasion also raised some questions about the effectiveness of the SAARC forum. “We need to ask some hard questions: One, have we evolved sustainable mechanisms to translate objectives of SAARC into reality? Two, can SAARC’s performance be compared to other similar regional bodies?” He said he was confident that the delegates would come up with answers to these and make recommendations to guide the decision makers. He maintained that Pakistan attached great importance to SAARC and was committed to the principles and objectives of the SAARC charter. Pakistan has played a proactive role to make SAARC a model of regional cooperation, based on the principles of sovereign equality, he said. The PM further stated that Pakistan supported liberalisation of intra-SAARC trade and looked forward to increasing bilateral and multilateral trade with member countries of the SAARC region.According to him, SAARC Visa Exemption Scheme which came into force as of 1st November, 2011 has been instrumental in promoting people to people contact including businessmen and media persons. “I urge you to work for creating a better understanding of issues that inhibit an enabling environment for peace and prosperity in the region”, he asserted. He said there was no denying that South Asia, despite immense natural and human resources still continued to lag behind. “It is a region where disease is still rampant and a majority of the people continue to be deprived of basic health and educational facilities. It is a region where poverty, unemployment and economic disparities stare us on our face”, he told media persons. He was of the view that it was in this context that diversity among the member countries need to be employed to accelerate the process of development through greater connectivity.He said that media has to play a key role in educating the people of South Asia on the socio-economic dividends that would accrue if their governments agree on a comprehensive roadmap for cooperation and development. “We need to promote cooperation in the information, communication and transport sectors that allow uninterrupted flow of information, people, goods, skills, capital and service across and beyond our region”, he asserted. He argued that there was a need for SAARC to develop a comprehensive and holistic regional strategy which should include sharing of best practices in poverty alleviation, climate related issues, agricultural sector, technology transfer and efficient irrigation system to effectively preempt any food crisis in future. “SAARC should step up its effort for regional energy security through sharing of indigenous sources and technology”, he suggested. He said that the rise of trade as a share of national output was inevitable in the era of globalisation, and attempting to resist this process by keeping the cross-border trade costly and congested will merely escalate poverty and strengthen inefficient rent-seeking informal economies to dominate in the border areas and the landlocked countries.“There is an urgent need to allow greater interaction among the policy-makers, Parliamentarians, businessmen, media practitioners, professionals and the leaders of civil society”, he remarked, adding, that in order to overcome information deficit about the countries of the region, it was essential that all restrictions on access to and free flow of information were removed and media persons and products were allowed free movement across frontiers.Raja believed there was an immense scope of collaboration in the spheres of culture, sports, tourism, education, research, human resource development, poverty alleviation and environment among the member countries.He said there should be no visa restrictions on journalists who were struggling to create friendly atmosphere among the SAARC countries.