BRADFORD - Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf stated on Sunday the democratic coalition dispensation was fully committed to holding free, fair and timely elections, ensuring continuity of the democratic order in the country.
In his address to a huge gathering of Pakistani diaspora here, Ashraf said he belonged to the middle class and his elevation to the slot of prime minister was reflective of PPP’s affection and love for the common man.
Others who spoke on the occasion included UK’s Minister Baroness Saeeda Warsi, Pakistan’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom Wajid Shamsul Hasan, Raja Tariq Kiani and Brig (retired) M Hasan and Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar.
The prime minister, who is on his first official visit to the United Kingdom, said the vision, articulated by slain PPP chairperson and the former premier Benazir Bhutto to address the challenges facing the country by developing national consensus and reconciliation, was being pursued by his government in true spirit.
President Asif Ali Zardari, Ashraf said, transferred his powers to Parliament through amending the Constitution and made the elected prime minister more powerful contrary to past practice where the president of Pakistan used to enjoy absolute powers. “This is for the first time in history of the country that the present democratic government was completing its constitutional term, paving the way for democracy to get further strengthened and underpinned,” said the prime minister.
Referring to the bilateral relations between Pakistan and the United Kingdom, Ashraf said the either side enjoyed good and stable ties that would get further enhanced in the future. “This is my first official visit to UK after the assumption of the office as prime minister,” Ashraf said while adding the first event of his visit was an address to Pakistani diaspora residing in Bradford.
Lauding the role of British Prime Minister David Cameron, the Pakistani premier said Pakistan’s access to European markets owed to him because played a historic role in this regard. The role of the British premier was not only positive but also pro-active with regards to Afghan issue, noted Ashraf as he referred to the trilateral meeting, recently held in the UK that was attended by President Asif Ali Zardari.
“Pakistan is getting largest financial support from UK for education in the country. There are one million overseas Pakistanis in UK,” he stated.
Unveiling the salient features of his official visit to UK, the prime minister said he would meet his British counterpart David Cameron on Tuesday and discuss bilateral and other issues during the rendezvous.
Recalling the history of diverse systems of the government introduced and experimented on this planet, he expressed after experiences of decades, it was realized that democracy coined by Abraham Lincoln was the most suitable system of government. He termed the British Parliament mother of all parliaments and mother of democracy.
“Pakistan is no doubt exposed to some difficulties and challenges but hype in this record portrayed by media is out of proportion,” he said.
The PPP government, he said, took along allied parties in three provinces but it did not get involved in horse trading in the Punjab province. The PML-N had left us at the federal level but we did not leave them in province and it was in spirit of addressing the problems, faced by the country, the prime minister added.
All institutions, he expressed the hope would strengthen parliament but top of that, people of Pakistan will lend strength to Parliament. The prime minister said that when PPP government came into power, Pakistan was importing 28 lakh tones of wheat, expending millions of dollars in this regard. Pakistan was now exporting wheat with the wise agricultural policies carved out by PPP coalition government. In Pakistan, terrorism has been controlled and with the help all stakeholders including Ulema, the menace would be addressed effectively.
He also greeted allied parties including MQM, ANP, PML-Q, Fata parliamentary group, Israr ul Haq Zehri party and others which stood with PPP despite assorted challenges. The unity with the allied parties will continue since we have to move forward with consensus to solve problems of the country, he said. Under the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP), seven million families were being given financial assistance for the last five years which continues to be delivered unabatedly.
The federal government, he said, increased its expenditure by 7 per cent due to raise in salaries and pension, while provinces increased expenditures by 21 per cent.
Baroness Saeeda Warsi welcoming Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf on behalf of the British Premier and government of United Kingdom said, Bradford is little Pakistan but the hearts of Diaspora residing here are very large.
She said David Cameron signed a strategic document during his visit to Pakistan with Islamabad which unveiled new chapter of bilateral ties between the two countries.
She said by 2015, United Kingdom will provide education to four million children in Pakistan adding, Pakistan is the biggest bilateral recipient of UK financial assistance.