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President invites all political forces for national dialogue

ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari inviting all political parties for a national dialogue said that the political forces should stop challenging each other and a consensus should be built on resolving issues confronting the masses.

Addressing to the joint sitting of the parliament on Tuesday President Zardari said that time has come to keep our egos aside .

“Let political forces stop challenging each other, merely for political point scoring. It only weakens democracy in the long run. The task of the leadership is to unite; not divideWe believe in reconciliation, and not confrontation”, the President said Now we need to build consensus on resolving issues like, -Energy shortage, -Circular debt; -Taxation reforms; -Restructuring of public sector entities, and -Documenting the economy.

These are the problems which the future generations will inherit, if not addressed through collective wisdom now.

We need to build a national consensus on these issues. President condemned the de-sec-ration of the Holy Quran by a fanatic in Florida called upon the august House to adopt a RESOLUTION urging the UN to address this issue for the sake of harmony and peace in the world President paid tributes, to all martyrs who laid down their lives, in fighting militancy and extremism.He also congratulated each and every member of the Parliament, and all the political parties —those in the government and in the opposition— for the unanimous passage, of the 18th and 19th Constitutional amendments and said the restoration of the Constitution, given by Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, had been a dream of our people and that dream was made a reality. He said we fulfilled our promise by returning power from dictators to the people and now it is our great responsibility, to use the powers wisely.

He said that from the very first day we inherited multiple problems. He said the government has embarked upon a comprehensive plan, to address the economic challenges.The plan includes: -Reduction in non-development expenditure to cut expenses, -Reforms in power sector, -Restructuring of public sector enterprises, -Incenti-vizing remittances and -Special programs for poverty alleviation. Making tough decisions is the responsibility of leadership, no doubt.

We are not afraid to lead; and we know the way. The government reduced the cabinet size.The subsidy regime has been rationalized. Tax reforms have been introduced, to mobilize resources.The tax net is being expanded, through introduction of the Reformed General Sales Tax. For the first time a social safety net has been created, through the Benazir Income Support Program. Madam SpeakerThe 7th NFC award after a gap of 19 years has been a major achievement.

As a result, over 300 billion rupees of additional revenues have been transferred to the provinces.The provinces have been given the right, to collect GST on Services. Collection of direct and indirect taxes has increased, by eight percent and 12.5 percent, respectively. President said In 2007 foreign remittances were 6.4 billion dollars. These have increased and set to cross the 11 billion dollar mark this year— a record for now. Foreign Exchange reserves have reached 17.5 billion dollars- –also a record for now.

An allowance equal to 50% of basic pay has been given to every federal government employee. Medical allowance for employees and pensioners has been increased from 15 to 25 percent. The Pay and Judicial allowance of the superior Judiciary have also been considerably enhanced, to attract new talent Madam SpeakerIn the memory of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto the cause of women empowerment and poverty reduction is very dear to us.Over 74 billion rupees have been dis-bursed to the poor beneficiaries, through the BISP. President said A scheme of soft loans, of up to 300,000 rupees for setting up of small businesses, has been launched. BISP has provided relief to over 4 million poor families, including IDPs, flood victims and the victims of bomb blasts.

More than 90% of adult population, has been issued ID cards.It is a leap forward towards documentation.Fair and free elections lie at the root of genuine transfer of power, to the elected representatives of the people. He said a Bill to make ID cards mandatory for voters registration and polling has been introduced.This along with Electronic Voting Machines will bring transparency in electoral process.

He said The Prime Minister has launched, an emergency Anti- Polio plan, to eliminate this deadly disease by the end of 2012. He said 2011 has been declared as the ‘Year of Education’ through the 18th Constitutional Amendment, education and health have been devolved, to the provinces.

He said Pakistan’s economy has historically been hit by power shortages.A major reason for it is, the absence of continuity in policies.Energy sector has suffered, because policies were thoughtlessly reversed.More than 1,800 MW of power has been added to the national grid during the last two years.Alternate energy sources including wind power are being exploited..To exploit vast Thar reserves, work on a pilot project has started.

Work on 970 MW Neelam Jhelum Hydro project is in progress.Next month will take place, the ground breaking of the 4500 MW Basha hydel project.The up-gradation of Tarbela will be completed, by end of this year. Despite floods, agriculture has registered progress.From wheat importing, Pakistan has become wheat exporting country.Six lac tons of wheat has been exported thus far this year.We expect to achieve target of 15 million bales of cotton during 2010-11 Rural economy has greatly benefited. Our exports are expected to exceed 24 billion dollars this year- again a record for now.

President said the government has taken steps, to restore dignity and honor to labor.After restoring over 7,000 sacked employees, it decided to regularize contract employees.Minimum wages of un-skilled workers has been increased, from 4,600 to Rs. 7,000 per month. Now the workers have the right to seek legal remedies against dismissal.A worker can no longer be dismissed from service without cause, as was the practice in the past.

He said in the name of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, an Employees Stock Option Scheme has been introduced, transferring 12% shares to workers, in state run enterprises. It will benefit 500,000 families.

Workers will also be given representation, on the Board of Directors.They will have a say, in the management of their enterprises. President said We will avenge the martyrdom of heroes of democracy by defeating the mindset that preaches violence and hatred. We must be true to our principles, and we must be strong.Being strong means, denouncing what is wrong.And violence, hatred, extremism and intolerance are wrong. We are committed to protecting the rights of the minorities.

President said Pakistan’s foreign policy is aimed at, -Advancing our national security, -Promoting peace and economic agenda, while -Safeguarding national dignity, sovereignty and independence.

We seek trade, not aid.We have revived trans-regional energy projects.Cargo train service between Pakistan and Turkey —called Gul Train— is being upgraded.With the United States, we remain committed, to building a long-term partnership, based on mutual respect, mutual interest and sovereign equality.Our strategic cooperation with China continues to grow from strength to strength.Relations with Afghanistan have undergone a sea change.For the first time Pakistan has engaged with the European Union at the Summit level.Two Pakistan-EU Summits have been held so far. Long term cooperation with the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain has helped advance our economic agenda. Full spectrum dialogue process has been resumed with India.We seek a just settlement of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UN resolutions while respecting the aspirations of the people of Kashmir.Negotiations are underway for a Pakistan-GCC Free Trade Agreement.Pakistan’s relations with Iran too, have improved. We have upgraded our relations with Japan, to a comprehensive partnership, for peace and development.

We are profoundly saddened over the tragedy unleashed by natural disaster in Japan.I wish to express the great sympathy of the people of Pakistan, to Japan in their hour of grief.The tragedy has also brought into focus, environmental issues connected with nuclear energy. President said We will fight the militants to the finish. We will not back down. We will ensure a modern and moderate Pakistan, the Pakistan of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah



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