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Nawaz Sharif addresses nation in first speech as PM

Pakistan leader invites extremists to negotiating table

Gulf News

Islamabad: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, in his first address to the nation on Monday after assuming office two-and-a-half months ago, pledged to work day and night to usher in a “bright era” in Pakistan.

He expressed the resolve of the government to eliminate the menace of terrorism‚ improve the battered economy‚ overcome energy crisis and pursue good neighbourly relations with all neighbours including India for regional peace and prosperity.

The Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) leader said misrule, flawed policies, rampant corruption and incompetence during the past 14 years had shaken the very foundation of the country.

He said institutions like PIA‚ Pakistan Steel‚ Railway and Water and Power Development Authority were pushed to the verge of virtual collapse.

These institutions were inflicting huge losses of hundreds of billions of rupees annually to the national exchequer.

He said national debt, which stood at just three thousand billion Pakistan rupees in 1999 (Dh106 billion), when his government was toppled has now soared to Rs14,500 billion.

He recounted the measures taken by the present government to overcome the electricity crisis. Despite financial constraints‚ the government arranged retirement of circular debt worth Rs480 billion as a result of which electricity generation has increased by 1,700MW, he said.

He said the government has launched an aggressive campaign to eliminate massive theft of electricity and gas worth between Rs150-Rs250 billion annually.

Sharif said a consensus national energy policy has been approved with input from the provinces, which is an important milestone in efforts to overcome the electricity crisis.

He said long-term measures are also being initiated to mitigate the electricity shortage and soon coal-based power plants with aggregate capacity of 6,600MW would be inaugurated.

He expressed the confidence that the menace of load-shedding or daily power cuts would be completely overcome during the five-year constitutional tenure of the PML-N government.

Referring to terrorism‚ the prime minister said the government was determined to tackle the problem either through dialogue or with full might of the state and all state institutions are on the same page on the issue.

He asked those treading the path of terrorism to come to the path of dialogue to end the vicious cycle of bloodshed.

The prime minister said Kashmir is a national issue and jugular vein of Pakistan and resolution of the problem is as dear to him as to other Pakistanis.

He however said that “we will have to keep in the mind that we cannot achieve any target without strengthening the economy of the country.”

Pakistan and India will have to work together so that they can address common issues like poverty, hunger and disease, he emphasised.

He said history bears testimony to the fact that progress and development of a nation is deeply linked to cordial relations with its neighbours. It is because of this that we want good relations with all neighbours including India, the prime minister said.

He said he has always wanted good relations with India and people supported his contention during recent elections. He said both countries should realise that instead of wasting their energies and resources on wars‚ they should wage war against poverty‚ ignorance and disease.

Sharif vowed that the nation is fully prepared to defend the motherland along with its valiant armed forces against any threat to their homeland.

He said the government has a clear-cut position on drone attacks which are violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and this was directly communicated to US Secretary of State John Kerry urging him to stop these attacks. He said the UN Secretary-General has also expressed concern over killing of peaceful civilians in these attacks.