Army back in barracks, talks with militants: Pakistan’s new agenda

March 29th, 2008 - 4:05 pm ICT by admin  

By Muhammad Najeeb
Islamabad, March 29 (IANS) The army should return to barracks in a fortnight, militants should come forward for talks and the Kashmir issue should be resolved according to the wishes of the Kashmiris, Pakistan’s new premier Yousaf Raza Gillani said here Saturday after getting a “unanimous” vote of confidence from the National Assembly. In his 50-minute speech after winning the vote, the prime minister stressed that peace was the “only solution to all problems and a ladder to development”.

“I request and invite all those who have any sort of differences with the government to come to the negotiation table and let’s resolve all the issues through dialogue,” he said.

Gillani maintained that the army should restrict itself to the barracks. “Ruling is the right of people which they give to their elected representatives… I urge upon the armed forces to call back all army officers from civilian organisations within two weeks.”

He said his government wanted excellent relations with all neighbours. “We want to resolve all issues with our neighbours through talks and in a peaceful manner.”

Gillani said that he wants to resolve the Kashmir issue but in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people.

“I want to assure my sisters and brothers in Kashmir that their sacrifices will not be ignored and Pakistan will make every effort to resolve the issue in accordance with their wishes.

“I believe that confidence building measures is excellent step but it should be in the right direction,” the prime minister said.

Earlier, at the outset of the session called for passing a resolution for a trust vote for the prime minister, Gillani said: “I will request the opposition to support me and vote me in seeking the confidence of the house (National Assembly or lower house of parliament).”

The opposition announced that they would not oppose the resolution, and Speaker Fahmida Mirza declared that Gillani had won the unanimous support of the house in seeking a vote of trust, a first in the parliamentary history of the country.

“I am thankful to my party, the parties in the alliance and especially the opposition for posing confidence in me and giving me trust,” Gillani said in his speech after the motion.

He said his government would work to end unemployment in the country, and announced incentives for farmers and less privileged people.

The prime minister also lifted the ban on student unions imposed in 1981 by former military dictator General Ziaul Haq and never lifted by subsequent governments.

On the power shortage in Pakistan, Gillani said the government would import gas from Iran, build new dams and explore all possibilities to generate electricity according to demand. A new plan for energy conservation would be announced in a couple of days, he added.

He pointed out that water shortage had become a serious problem. “To save water … the government will work on a war footing to build new small and big dams and will also look into other opportunities.”

Gillani said he had decided to reduce the budget of the prime minister’s house and secretariat by 40 percent, as part of a national savings plan.

He added that no government official would use vehicles of over 1600 cc and all government officials, including ministers, would fly economy plus.

He also spoke about reforms in the education, heath and social sectors. Gillani said all efforts would be made to bring religious seminaries (madrassas) into the mainstream education system and that they would be encouraged to teach the modern syllabus.

Gillani, who was jailed for five years in 2001 on a charge of giving jobs to 300 people without merit, said that the accountability process would be under the judiciary.

He also announced the withdrawal of fees for issuing national identity cards, which currently costs $4.5.

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