No one allowed to violate territorial integrity of Pakistan: President Zardari
Addressing joint session of two houses of bicameral Parliament, Pakistan President on Saturday for the first time vowed that no one will be allowed to violate territorial integrity of Pakistan in the name of curbing terrorism. However, it seems that his avowal will meet the same fate as the earlier statements by the country's prime minister and military leadership have already met.
President Asif Ali Zardari has said that no country would be allowed to violate territorial integrity of Pakistan in the name of curbing terrorism.
Addressing his maiden Joint Parliamentary session here, the President said that he was grateful to Almighty Allah over his election as President of Pakistan. He said that Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto laid her life for the cause of democracy.
President Zardari urged the parliament to form an all parties committee to remove distortions in the constitution and ‘revisit’ the 17th Amendment and Article 58(2)B. “Never before in the history of this country has a President stood here and given away his powers”, Zardari said in his maiden address to the joint sitting of the parliament since taking oath as President on September 9.
He said it was the responsibility of the elected representatives to remove these distortions in the Constitution made by the successive dictators to prolong their rule.
The President in his address touched all issues of national importance as well as the challenges facing the country including the war against terrorism, regional situation, economic downturn, foreign policy and the relations with the neighboring countries.
“My dream is to free this great country from the shackles of poverty, hunger, terrorism and disunity.”
President Zardari said a heavy national agenda challenges the government, and “It is the agenda of moving quickly to heal the wounds of the past and restore the trust in the federation.”
He said successive blows have weakened the federation, which needs to be strengthened.
“For this, the bitterness of the past must give way to reconciliation and harmony. I believe that the 1973 constitution is the only consensus document that can fashion such a social contract”, he added.
The President asked the government to start consensus-building process on provincial autonomy and the allocation of resources through a new formula that meets the needs of a united federation.
Referring to the past excesses against Baloch people, the President said tendering an apology to the people of Balochistan was a long overdue step.
The release from captivity of former Chief Minister Balochistan is also a positive move, he said adding the resolution recently, of a longstanding dispute and payment of billions of rupees to Balochistan is a step in the right direction.
“But much more needs to be done”, he stressed.
Similarly, the President said the people of the Northern Areas must also get their basic rights, representative rule and an independent judiciary.
“We believe in the independence of the judiciary and all matters concerning the judiciary shall be resolved in accordance with the constitution and law”, he added.
President Zardari said his address to the joint session of the Parliament, in less than two weeks after his election as President shows that the coalition holds the parliament in the highest esteem.
It also shows that the government accords the highest priority to the fulfillment of its obligations under the Constitution and law, he added.
“Under dictatorship, the Parliament was stripped of its powers, and not given due respect.”
He regretted that despite the constitutional requirement the head of the state in the last eight years only once addressed the joint sitting of the parliament.
President Zardari assured the legislators that parliament would never be bypassed in matters of national importance.
“The days of constitutional deviation and bypassing the Parliament while taking decisions of national importance are over.”
He made it clear that the President and the government must always seek guidance from the Parliament in carrying out their duties.
“We are committed to upholding the sanctity of the Constitution, supremacy of the Parliament, and, rule of law.
“The cardinal principle of our governance is respect for the mandate of the people as manifested in the February 18 elections.”
About the menace of terrorism and extremism, the President said, “We must root out terrorism and extremism wherever and whenever they may rear their ugly heads.”
Reforming the tribal areas and bringing them into the mainstream of national life can no longer be delayed, he said and added they must be treated at par with the rest of their Pakistani brethren.
The President also spoke of the government’s three-pronged strategy to meet the challenge posed by the extremist and terrorist elements in the Tribal Areas and the adjoining regions.
He said the strategy comprises: firstly to make peace with those who are willing to keep the peace and renounce violence; secondly to invest in the development and social uplift of the local people.
The use force will only be a last resort against those who refuse to surrender their arms, take the law into their hands, challenge the writ of the Government and attack security forces, he added.
The President said he would request the government to hold a national security briefing for an in-camera joint session of Parliament, so that all stakeholders have ownership of this policy.
“Let everyone have an opportunity to make an informed judgment about the risks to our beloved country and about how we should move forward with responsibility and clarity of vision.”
He said the government should be firm in its resolve to not allow the use of its soil for carrying out terrorist activities against any foreign country.
The President however stated in categorical terms that Pakistan would not tolerate the violation of its sovereignty and territorial integrity by any power in the name of combating terrorism.
Zardari said, as the world has become a dangerous place for nations with conflict on their borders, Pakistan needs peace not only within but also in its neighborhood.
“At all times, we must keep our national interest in mind”, he said and added “this means understanding the limits of confrontation.”
Under this strategy, Zardari said, President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai was especially invited to his oath taking ceremony.
It was as a mark of Pakistan’s sincere desire and consistent efforts to promote close relations and strengthen cooperation with the brotherly country of Afghanistan, he added.
On relations with India, he said, the government believes that relations between the two countries can and should be creatively reinvented.
He recalled that Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto had said, “It is time for new ideas. It is time for bold commitment. And it is time for honesty, both among people and between people. There has been enough pain. It is time for reconciliation.”
The President said for these ideas and for seeking peaceful relations in the region, “we were once called, a “security risk” by our critics. “But ideas cannot be killed by repression.”
He said the Charter of Democracy binds the government to a framework of peace and justice for the people of Pakistan and peace and friendship with India.
Pakistan has decided to resume the composite-dialogue process with India, driving its relations through enhanced trade, he added.
He expressed complete commitment to the Kashmiri people in their just struggle for their fundamental rights.
“We will continue to seek the settlement of all outstanding disputes, including the dispute over Jammu and Kashmir so that the main hurdle in the way towards peace and full normalization of relations between Pakistan and India is removed.”
President Zardari said as a new initiative a cross-LoC trade as a pioneering CBM in Kashmir will be started.
He also proposed a more liberal visa regime to further expand people-to-people contacts and friendly exchanges, and establish new facilities for the visiting Sikh and Hindu pilgrims.
He urged the Parliament to form a bipartisan caucus for the purpose of resolving outstanding disputes relating to Kashmir and the Indus Water head works.
“All parties must be represented on this caucus so that the nation is united on this key issue and draws strength by speaking in one voice.”