Hard decisions needed to address challenges: President

Islamabad: President Asif Ali Zardari has said that there is need to take hard decisions without delay to address challenges facing the country and carry forward the fruits of democracy to the grassroots.

He stated this while addressing the joint session of Parliament to mark beginning of the first parliamentary year in Islamabad on Monday. The President said that there is also need to learn truth about past mistakes in order not to repeat them and this calls for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He said that we cannot afford confrontation and need reconciliation.

He expressed the confidence that as democracy takes roots‚ we will rise to the dream that our founding fathers had about Pakistan. The President congratulated once again the new elected Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif‚ the Speaker and the members of the National Assembly and hoped that they will rise to the expectations of the people.

He also congratulated people of Pakistan for their participation in the elections and said they demonstrated courage in defying threats by the enemies of democracy. The President said that there is no place for dictators in today’s Pakistan and he salutes the people for their courage. They have spoken through their vote and their voice has been heard. It has been demonstrated by the smooth transfer of power.

He commended all political parties and their leaders for accepting the poll results despite reservations. The President said together we have fulfilled our promise of smooth transition of power from one democracy to another democracy.

This democratic‚ peaceful transition marks the success of a prolonged struggle. He said that it is a matter of great satisfaction and pride that the Parliament purged the Constitution of undemocratic articles. He said the democratic forces should join hands to face daunting challenges.

There are economic hardships‚ power shortages‚ rising militancy and extremism and we have to find solutions to these problems. Work on Bhasha Dam and Thar Coal needs to be stepped up to produce more electricity.

The President said we are faced with a huge task but hopefully the new Government will overcome the challenges. He said peace and reconciliation in Balochistan must receive high priority; the issues of missing persons be addressed on priority and the cycle of poverty must be broken.

He said women and minorities are the most vulnerable groups and efforts to protect and empower them need to be kept up. There is also a need to further strengthen interfaith harmony and prevent misuse of blasphemy law for settling personal and political scores. The President called for a mechanism to ensure transparent accountability of all.

President Zardari said Pakistan seeks a conducive and stable regional environment. Relationship with China remains the cornerstone of our foreign policy and we are eager to further consolidate ties of Central Asian Republics and Turkey. He said Pakistan looks forward to peace and stability in Afghanistan.

He said Pakistan wants to improve relations with India‚ through a peaceful settlement of water issues‚ and seeks a peaceful resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir issue in accordance with the wishes of Kashmiri people. He said we believe in dialogue to resolve issues.

The President said drone attacks are a serious violation of our sovereignty and international law. They are also counterproductive and unacceptable. Later‚ the joint session of the parliament was prorogued.