Karachi: President of Pakistan Mamnoon Hussain has said that welfare of our people and progress and prosperity of our country crucially depends, first and foremost, on stability and vitality of our democratic institutions.
Addressing at Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) here Tuesday, he said the historic democratic transformation after the May 2013 elections is a milestone in our history. The transfer of power from one democratically elected leadership to another has revitalized our faith in the constitution. It has strengthened democracy and heralded a new era of institutional harmony and stability. This is an essential pre-requisite for progress in all other spheres of our national life.
Our other priorities include the goals of economic development and raising the standard of life of our people. This requires addressing effectively the challenges of energy shortages and bringing about macroeconomic stability. We have to put the economy on a high growth trajectory while keeping inflation under control, he said.
The President noted that the bulk of our population is in the younger age brackets. Millions of our young boys and girls are entering the job market every year. This huge reservoir of manpower is our greatest resource, affording us an edge over other countries. However, if we do not manage to create opportunities of quality education and gainful employment, we run the risk of allowing this resource turning into a liability. Therefore, the development of the long neglected social sectors and human resources is at the heart of everything that we need to do to achieve sustainable growth in a balanced and organic way.
He said we are proud of our lofty traditions as a peaceful people and as a peace loving nation. However, we have had to face external and internal challenges over the past several decades, not always of our own making, which have impacted deeply our national fabric. “As you know, the phenomena of terrorism and extremism have hurt us hard. The price that we have paid in our efforts to curb terrorism and extremism is immense. Nevertheless, the extraordinary resilience and courage of our people in meeting these challenges gives us the confidence that the days are not far, when peace and tranquillity will prevail throughout the country.”
He saluted the courage of our brave soldiers, police, and security personnel in rendering their heroic sacrifices.
He said, the present elected government is addressing all the challenges that I touched on with firm resolve and strong determination. Many projects are in the pipeline which would eventually help us overcome the energy shortages. There are already credible signs of economic recovery. These include a buoyant stock markets and the encouraging response to the recent launch of Euro Bonds. For the first time in many years Rupee has gained an appreciable increase in its value visa-a-vis the hard currencies, amid steadily growing reserves. The GDP growth rate is picking up after a long spell while inflation remains within single digit. The multibillion self-employment schemes launched recently by the government would be beneficial in more than one ways in terms of their impact on job creation and human resource development. These schemes will also serve as catalysts in stimulating growth and enhancing social stability.
He said the government has also taken important steps to control terrorism and extremism and address effectively the issues of internal security and law and order. These multipronged efforts made through a healthy process of national and institutional consensus are already showing encouraging results. “Our dream of a stable and prosperous Pakistan cannot be realized without peace and stability in our neighbourhood. Therefore, the key objective of our foreign policy is to forge close cooperative relations with our neighbours and to transform our foreign relations as a whole into cooperative partnerships based on mutual respect and mutual interest.”
President Mamnoon Hussain said the present government’s effort is to realize the full potential of Pakistan’s strategic location in establishing mutually beneficial linkages at the bilateral and regional levels, and serve as an intra-regional and inter-regional commercial and economic hub. The first major step in this direction has been taken through the multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. This project will serve as a trail blazer in ushering in a new era of peace, stability, cooperation and development in the entire region. This ambitious project envisages building an advanced infrastructure and putting in place energy and communication networks linking western regions of China with Pakistan. This would revolutionize regional economic cooperation in the years to come.
The thrust of our foreign policy priorities is on transforming our relations with our closest neighbours, Afghanistan and India. As you are aware, both countries are currently going through electoral processes. We are looking forward to engaging the new leadership of the two countries to pursue with them our agenda of peace and development.
Pakistan shares multiple ethnic, religious and cultural commonalities with Afghanistan. The security and future prosperity of the two countries are inter-linked. Afghanistan, as you know, has entered a defining moment in its history with the holding of Presidential and Provincial Council elections while drawdown of foreign forces is in progress. The outcome of the transition in Afghanistan would have far-reaching implications for Afghanistan itself, its neighbours and the entire region.
He said Pakistan is strongly desirous of establishing friendly and cooperative relations with India. “You would recall that the first foreign envoy that the Prime Minister received after the victory in the May 2013 elections and before assuming charge was the Special Envoy of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India. The two Prime Ministers have since interacted several times. Considerable progress has been made in bringing the relations between the two countries back on track, despite challenges like the eruption of hostilities along the Line of Control (LoC). “
In a major departure from the past pattern, the two countries are now working together to fast track cooperation in the economic and commercial fields, beginning with working out mutually beneficial mechanisms to allow Non-Discriminatory Market Access (NDMA) to both sides, said the President.
He said as a neighbouring democracy, we share the enthusiasm of the people of India and wish them well as they go through the ongoing electoral process. We are looking forward to engaging the Indian leadership after the elections, to address effectively all outstanding issues, including Kashmir, and realize the potential of mutually beneficial cooperation.
He said a lot has been written and said about our relations with the United States of America. While it is true that Pakistan-US relations have moved up and down over the years, it is also true that the two sides have always managed to steer these relations safely through those difficult patches. That difficult phase is now behind us. The broad parameters of our relations with the US are the adherence of the principles of mutual interest and mutual respect. The two democracies share common values. They share vital interests bilaterally, as well as at the regional and international levels. The resumption of Strategic Dialogue process reflects the strong desire of the two sides to give a real impetus to cooperation in the key areas of trade, investment, energy, agriculture, education and science and technology.
He said, Pakistan and the EU enjoy friendly and cooperative relations. The traditional ties between the two sides have been reinforced with the historic democratic transition in Pakistan after the May 2013 elections. Pakistan and NATO forces cooperated closely in Afghanistan. Pakistan and the EU are working closely to help bring about an orderly transition in Afghanistan. The EU is our largest trading partner. EU is also a major investor in Pakistan. We appreciate deeply the recent decision by the EU to grant GSP+ status to Pakistan. This major trade concession is a tribute to the democratic transition and reflects the strong desire from both sides to engage in an enduring partnership for common benefit.
The President noted our relations with the Russian Federation are growing steadily. The two countries are cooperating closely at the UN and Shanghai Cooperation Organization. We share common interests in promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan and Central Asia. Pakistan appreciates Russia’s cooperation in building energy corridors, economic linkages and road and rail network linking Central Asia with Pakistan. We are keen to realize the huge potential of mutually beneficial cooperation in the commercial and economic fields, both bilaterally as well as at the regional level.
Pakistan attaches great importance to solidifying its existing economic and commercial ties with Japan, ASEAN, and the entire ANZUS region. Similarly, we are intensifying our efforts to strengthen our relations with our friends and partners in Africa and Latin America, he said.
He said the crux of the lessons that we have learnt from our own experience and world history is that cooperation with immediate neighbours and at the broader regional level is essential for sustainable development. We must do everything within our means to realize the vast potential of our geographical location as an asset rather than allowing it to remain a liability.
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