President Asif Ali Zardari Monday used his parliamentary speech to call for an end to political confrontation to effective deal with the daunting challenges.
“We cannot afford confrontation and need reconciliation,” President Zardari said in his address to the joint session of the parliament.
The President’s address marks beginning of the first parliamentary year following the May 11 election and formation of the new government.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also attended the session and all members quietly listened to the president’s address as uproar had been seen in the past on the occasions of presidential address.
“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,” President Zardari said.
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.
“There is no place for dictators in today’s Pakistan and I salute 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.
He said it is a matter of great satisfaction and pride that the Parliament purged the Constitution of undemocratic articles
He 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 grass-roots.
The President said 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 opposed the U.S. drone strikes in the country’s tribal regions and said these attacks are unacceptable.
“US drone strikes are violation of the international laws and our sovereignty and must be stopped,” he added. He said the US strikes are not useful to in the war on terror as the attacks are counterproductive.
He said Pakistan will work to improve relations with all countries in the region, including India, by seeking the peaceful resolution of issues like Kashmir while ensuring that its soil is not used for terrorism against any other nation.
“We are seeking to improve relations with all countries in the region. The Prime Minister has already given the guideline. The goal of prosperity and development will not succeed without regional peace,” Zardari said
Zardari, who became the first President to address a joint session of parliament for a sixth time, said Pakistan wants to improve relations with India.
“Steps have been taken to liberalize trade with India. We want a peaceful settlement of the water issue,” he said.
“We seek a peaceful resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir issue, in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people. We do not want an arms race in the region,” he told members of the Senate and the National Assembly, including newly elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Asserting that Pakistan will not allow its soil to be used for terrorism directed against any other country, Zardari called for a two-pronged approach combining dialogue and the use of force to tackle militancy and terrorism.
“The government will not allow the use of our soil for terrorist activities against any other country. We will also not allow anyone to violate our sovereignty. The sovereignty of Pakistan must be protected at all costs,” he said as lawmakers, including Sharif, thumped their desks.
Describing militancy, extremism and terrorism as the “greatest threat” to Pakistan’s national security, he said: “The nation is united against militancy. We need strong leadership to overcome the threat.
“We are ready to make peace with those willing to give up violence. But we should also be ready to use force against those who challenge the writ of the state,” he said. The government will also undertake the economic development of militancy-hit areas.
Pakistan is “determined to root out militancy” but the menace is “not an issue of any single country”, Zardari said. “Militancy threatens all countries in the region and indeed the whole world. It calls for sincere and collective efforts of all. We can fight militancy better through dialogue and cooperation rather than doubting each other,” he said.