Posted by: Administrator | 4 January, 2005

President’s address at a public meeting in Okara

29 January 2005

President General Pervez Musharraf Saturday called upon moderate forces to unite in defeating the designs of extremist elements, who want to derail Pakistan from the path of progress.

Addressing a mammoth public meeting the President said the silent moderate majority of the people must stand up to quell the minority of extremists who want to push Pakistan backward. “The time demands that all moderate forces make concerted efforts to curb extremism, which is a major challenge confronting the nation, when the country is moving forward on the path of sustainable development and democracy,” he urged at the gathering where followers of PML and Pakistan Peoples Party waved flags to express their support for the President.

In his warmly applauded address, the President also vowed to make efforts to check price hike, reduce poverty and create more employment opportunities for the masses. Pakistan, he asserted, faces no external threat but internal challenges in the form of extremism. “Nobody will be able to retard Pakistan’s progress, we all shall collectively confront the forces, that will try to impede the country’s development,” he emphasized.

Senior Federal Minister for Defence Rao Sikandar Iqbal, Federal Minister for Interior Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, Minister for Kashmir and Northern Areas Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat, Governor Punjab Lt Gen (Retd) Khalid Maqbool, Chief Minister of Punjab Ch Pervaiz Elahi, Chief Minister Sindh Arbab Rahim, and prominent local leaders were present at the public meeting. President Musharraf asked the masses to be pro-active in lending their support to the Government in stamping out the menace of extremism.

“The people should join hands with the Government in the fight against extremism – the great religion of Islam stands for moderation we should oppose those elements who spread hatred and discord we should practice real values of Islam and foster love, unity and brotherhood.” He said an overwhelming majority of Pakistanis wants to pursue a moderate and enlightened path for development and prosperity and they are opposed to retrogressive approach and backwardness. Referring to the democratic system he said, “We have laid down firm foundations for sustainable democracy.” He said the governments will complete their terms.

The President referred to the local government system and said the Government has devolved financial and administrative powers to the people at grass roots level so that they may devise policies for their development. He said the provinces have also been empowered as Pakistan has achieved economic turnaround. Referring to various development projects launched in Punjab, he said, the provincial governments can now spend money on the well-being of their people. “Your development and prosperity is my priority and your prosperity is linked with the prosperity of the country – having achieved economic turnaround, the Government is now focused on reducing poverty in both rural and urban areas,” the President declared amid rousing cheers.

In the context of development projects, he said, the Government is focused on achieving robust growth in both agricultural and industrial sectors and has introduced a string of concrete steps to this end. Musharraf also referred to the Farmers Package, he announced last year, saying this landmark package will encourage rapid agricultural growth as small farmers are being extended healthy credit on soft terms.

Formerly, he recalled, only large landowners were extended loans but now small farmers have easy access to the facility. The agricultural loans, he observed, have registered a sharp increase as a result of important steps taken by the Government. The annual credit, he said, has gone up to Rs 80 billion, which is expected to touch Rs 130 billion mark in the next few years.

The President also mentioned the Rs 66 billion brick lining project, saying water courses across he country will save the precious natural resource, which will help spur greater output. On the building of large water reservoirs, he said they are imperative as they provide lifeline to the country’s all-round development. The nation, he said, will shortly have good news on the construction of large water reservoirs. Reiterating the Government’s resolve to continue economic policies, he said these are already yielding positive results.

Projects like brick lining of water courses, rising of Mangla Dam, unprecedented boom in the construction sector and fast expansion in the industrial sector have provided jobs to hundreds of thousands of people, he added. “All this will lead to better economic growth, poverty reduction and sustainable development – but at the same time, I am alive to the need to strive still harder for providing more economic opportunities to a broader section of the populace,” he said.

During his address, President Musharraf underlined that Pakistan exists in an inter-dependent world and the nation has to demonstrate with its actions and deeds that it stands for peace, progress, moderation and enlightenment and is firmly against the menace of extremism. Pakistan, he stated, has earned a new elevated stature in world affairs as a result of prudently pursued policies in the last five years.

Far from being an isolated country in the pre-1999 era, Pakistan enjoys wide international respect, he added. “The major powers seek and listen to our views now and Pakistan is a country capable of playing a lead role in the Islamic world.” He pointed out that the country has gained economic sovereignty and has broken the begging bowl forever. In this respect, he recalled, that Pakistan is the first country which has said goodbye to the International Monetary Fund and did not even take the last tranche of the Poverty Reduction Growth Facility Programme.

President Musharraf recounted his old association with Okara and said he has been genuinely pleased to be among its people. The President, who earlier, laid the foundation stone of a cadet college in Okara, also announced a number of development projects for the area including the construction of a railway underpass, a bridge over Ravi near Syedwallah, rehabilitation of LBDC and the establishment of a special industrial zone. He noted that the construction of Okara bypass and revival of LBDC at a cost of Rs six billion will boost industrial and agricultural development in the area. The crowd raised slogans, appreciating President’s response to their long-standing demands and expressed their wholehearted support for his policies.

The President praised the people-friendly approach and policies of seasoned politician and senior Federal Defence Minister Rao Sikandar Iqbal and said he has worked for the development of his people. President Musharraf also lauded the unprecedented development attained in the Punjab province under Chief Minister Ch Pervaiz Elahi.

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