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Default ""face The Nation"chief Executive’s Talk

ENGLISH RENDERING OF THE
CHIEF EXECUTIVE’S TALK
IN THE PTV’S URDU PROGRAMME

"FACE THE NATION"


Foreword
Economy
Agriculture
Political Situation & Law and Order
Education
Ideology of Pakistan
Visit to India & Kashmir
Afghan Policy
Concluding Remarks



FOREWORD

Chief Executive General Pervez Musharraf participated in Pakistan Television’s live programme "Face the Nation" on 15 June 2001, for which he came to the T .V. studios. This was the first ever occasion in the history of Pakistan that a Head of the Government volunteered himself to answer the queries and reservations that the general public has in mind. He dwelt at length on topics of economy, politics, law and order, education, ideology of Pakistan, Afghan policy and his proposed visit to India while answering questions of the renowned commentators, newspaper editors and reporters present in the studios.

Laeeq Ahmed (Compere): It is our good fortune to have in our studios today General Pervez Musharraf, Chief Executive of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. With me on this panel are Ms Nasim Zehra, well-known columnist and commentator, and Mr Sajjad Mir, Resident Editor of the daily Nawa-e-Waqt, Karachi. Among the audience are prominent journalists of the country and a few diplomats. General Pervez Musharraf is here to participate in the programme "Face the Nation."

Ladies and gentlemen! This is the first time in the 54-year history of Pakistan that a head of government has volunteered to face the people like this. He has come to answer the questions, the reservations and the fears that constantly trouble our minds. I welcome you all to this programme. With the General’s permission I commence the discussion.

ECONOMY

Question (Laeeq Ahmed): The first question is on; an issue about which you have made many statements and addressed the press a number of times. You have said that the economic situation is being given a new direction. You have also said that the major part of the budget is spent on repayment of loans and connected expenses, and very little is left for development works. Obviously this state of affairs cannot improve as long as all the loans haven’t been paid off. What is the actual plan in your mind in this regard?

Answer (Chief Executive): In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. First of all I bid you Mr Laeeq Ahmed, Ms Nasim Zehra, Mr Sajjad Mir, and the other guests Assalam-o-alaikum. Yes, this is the most vital question and deserves to be dealt with first. I always say that our future is irretrievably connected with Pakistan’s economic rehabilitation. I also say that our national honour and prestige are a hostage to this economic plight. As you have quoted me, after paying for the debt there is hardly anything left for development works included in the budget. We must not take more loans, because we are already in a debt trap and more loans would only add to our financial responsibility. This is one side of the issue. The other side is that we are obliged to take loans for development schemes, because without them we cannot progress. This is our tragedy, and we have to get out of it somehow. If we want our self-respect to be restored we have to extricate ourselves from this net in which we are trapped.

The question is: what strategy should be adopted for this purpose? An important aspect of such a policy is what I stated some days ago, that our military strength is disproportionate to our economic strength. With our 140 million people we are a nuclear power, we are a military power, and in terms of defence potential we are a force to be reckoned with. But our economic power doe not match our military power. It is therefore imperative for us to bring about a balance between the two, by improving our economic position. We must rehabilitate our economy. We have drawn up plans to escape the debt trap, and you might see indications of this in the budget that is to come after a few days. We need from three to five years breathing space to complete the exercise and that breathing space can come through aid agencies like the IMF and the World Bank if they provide us the facility of PROF and loans for alleviation of poverty and critical development projects, and if the London Club and the Paris Club are ready to re-schedule our loans.

The question is: what are the chances of our getting this breathing space? The chances are very much there because during the last year and a half we have established our credibility in the eyes of the world. Previously we were known as a country that lives on installments of loans and we had lost international trust. Because of recent financial policies we have acquired credence with the IMF and World Bank and other aid-giving agencies. It is because of this that the World Bank has advanced us an interest-free loan of 350 million dollars on which we are only required to pay. 75 per cent as service charges. The period of repayment is 30 years, and it is almost like a gift. And now we are expecting the facility of PROF by the end of the year, hopefully at .5 per cent interest.

Q. (Laeeq Ahmed): So your strategy is to push up the level of our economic strength to that of our military strength, get old loans rescheduled strive to get loans for alleviation of poverty an urgently-needed development, and to somehow get out of the present state of affairs.

A. (Chief Executive): Let me make a small clarification. This is just one part, that we have obtained a breathing space. Now the question what advantage we draw from the breathing space and how we go about it. First and foremost we have to enhance the GDP during these five years, and to take our foreign exchange reserves to three billion dollars, if not four billion dollars. This we have to do, whatever happens. For this the number one priority is to increase our exports. Luckily there has been a slight increase in exports, and from 7.5 or 7.6 billion dollars during the last years they have gone up to 9.2 billion. This increment of 1.7 billion comes to 20 per cent, and there is cause for satisfaction on this count.

Then, we have to augment our revenues, and this too we have been able to do to some extent during the last two years. In the period from 1993-94 to 1999 they ranged between 200 billion to 300 billion, and now we are on the point of crossing the 400 billion mark. Which means we have been able to do in two years what was attained during the previous five or six years. Insha’Allah there will be further enhancement. Also, we are engaged in privatization from which we hope to earn some three billion dollars during the next three to five years. We must make up what we are losing in PIA, the Railway, KESC, WAPDA, etc. which comes to about one and a quarter billion rupees.

Then, we must utilize the new loans on development projects in such a fashion that what we make from these projects is more than the debt servicing liabilities. We have made some estimates, and we are confident that in the two fields of information technology and agriculture our economy will gain a boost that should help to pay for the debt servicing charges. We plan to widen the area of arable land in the country and find new sources of water. These new sources will come from our plans to build more water reserves and some new canals. These include construction of Gomal Zam and Mirani Dams, raising the level of Mangla Dam by 45 feet, digging a new canal in Sindh, the Greater ThaI Canal in Punjab, and the Kachhi Canal in Balochistan, and completion of the RBOD project from the right bank of the lndus in Sindh. We have calculated that the projects in Balochistan alone should be able to irrigate more than a million acres of agricultural land. I shall come to the details later. We are determined to accord the topmost priority to these projects during the coming five years, and complete them within this time. Work on all of them will start within the year 2001-2002. So this is the capital investment which will lnsha ‘Allah result in financial gain to an extent that it is able to look after the overhead expenses on debt servicing. And during these five years we hope to see our national product going up and our foreign exchange reserves rising to four billion dollars. I am confident that by pursuing this policy and giving effect to these decisions we shall ultimately get rid of the debt trap.

Q. (Nasim Zehra): Sir, I think no one will disagree with what you have said, and have been saying, in the context of the basic long-term administrative objectives before you. You have spelled out the problems and dilated on what you plan to do about solving them. There are two questions that come to mind. One, whatever efforts you are making are calculated to yield results after a long time, and will not provide immediate relief to anyone. There is something else that is equally important. What about the ever-rising price spiral, the increase in cost of articles like milk, petrol and electricity, and the decrease in the buying power of the common man and connected problems?

Answer: Dearness is a big problem and I am very worried on its account. I keep thinking of what we can do for the common man, for there is poverty here, there is unemployment in both the urban and rural areas. How should it be dealt with? Before I tackle this question, let me say that I am very much against putting the national interest to risk by providing welfare through subsidies. This should not have to be done. If the nation were very rich, if it had ten billion dollars lying in the bank, then subsidy could be thought of. We will not raise the price of petrol products, and thereby cause a loss to the exchequer of 15 billion rupees, but we want to pay subsidy on food products (that is, if we have the money) and reach a state of affairs in which the very existence of the country will be jeopardized. There is no sense in this. Each one of us in this country must realize that national interest comes first. I have no time for politically motivated welfare policies, like providing relief to the people through subsidies, floating things like the yellow cab scheme and causing loss to the country amounting to billions of rupees.

As for alleviation of poverty, many of the actions we are taking will ultimately lead to beneficial results. As we all understand top priority has to be given to rehabilitation of the economy. That will automatically reduce the incidence of poverty and joblessness. Therein lies hope for our future and our welfare. The projects that I have recounted just now, and work on which must commence this very year, should provide living to hundreds of thousands. I am sure of it. Apart from these we are reviving industry through the CIRC. So far we have been able to revive a hundred sick industrial units and taken over another hundred which will now be sold. Six such units have been disposed of and six more are likely to be sold by the end of the month, and thereafter six to eight will become serviceable and be put on sale. This has helped to provide 35,000 jobs. This is a positive step towards economic recovery and of direct benefit to the people.

As I have just said, information technology and agriculture are two spheres which can help in lessening the rigours of poverty .I believe that agriculture is the most important field that can help to reduce poverty in the rural areas. All the projects mentioned by me are agriculture-related, and, with just one canal we shall be able to provide irrigation water to 550,000 acres of useful land. Similarly extension in the irrigation system is bound to bring relief to the people of the concerned regions. By concentrating on agriculture we are keeping the poor of the villages in mind, while IT should be able to do the same to the deprived of the urban areas. Already many new jobs have become available in the IT sector. That is why it occupies an important place in our welfare-oriented schemes.

There are many other schemes too. For instance we have started the Khushhal Pakistan Programme for which the centre has recently given eight billion rupees, with the provinces to match this amount. This year we propose to spend some 15 billion rupees on this programme, the aim being to provide jobs to as many unemployed people as possible. If there are a large number of small schemes, many more areas get developed and job opportunities are also greater .

Apart from this we have drawn up a new policy for zakat which will come into operation in a month. I have already set apart some two billion rupees for it, while next year we shall give five billion more. Instead of the previous system of giving 500 each to needy persons and thus frittering away the entire allocation, we shall assess in which part of the country the requirement is more among the deserving and give each person fifty thousand rupees and enable him to stand on his feet. We already have our sights on some schemes, like giving a boat to a poor man on the Balochistan coast, or letting someone have twenty goats to set himself up, or enabling a man in Punjab to buy two buffaloes or open a shop of his own, or gifting a woman a sewing machine. Details of the new policy will be made public shortly.

Khushhali Bank is doing very well ever since it started. Through it we are giving loans up to thirty thousand rupees. I have met some of the people who have taken loans and they are satisfied with the arrangement. During the next five years its range will be extended to six lac persons. Mr. Ghalib Nishtar gave me a briefing which made me very happy. The way the bank has made a start the results have been better than those of bigger organisations like Grameen Bank. On an average there are seven individuals in a family multiply six lac by seven and you get more than four billion people. So the benefits of these loans go to four billion people.

Our Food Support Programme is already helping about 15 lac persons. Then, the Agriculture Development Bank has been furnished funds for advancing loans to medium-sized and small farmers. This is now compulsory, because previously the bank only helped the big zamindars, and gave away loans amounting to a 100 billion rupees of which nearly half are not likely to be returned. Then there is the Khushhali Bank which is providing loans to the common people with a 100 per cent surety of the money coming back. Moreover all the four provinces have been directed to make land grants to landless peasants.

There is another project about which I have asked the provincial governors to take stock so that we can start implementing it. This is going to be a huge project with wide implications and of direct benefit to the poor. The plan is that the people who are living on state land in the villages, but have no legal right to it, should be made owners. Also for those who are homeless they should be enabled to build houses of their own on Shamlat land if available. This may well turn out to be an enormous scheme in size and scope.

I have activated the National Accountability Bureau in regard to the cooperatives scandal and the bureau has managed to recover a lot of money. We shall soon Insha’ Allah start doling out amounts to the claimants. Coupled with what I have just recounted, and taking into consideration the rehabilitation of sick industrial units mentioned ,by me, I think there will be a substantial potential for providing jobs to the poor in the rural and urban areas. This is bound to relieve their present condition of poverty to a considerable extent.

Q. (Nasim Zehra): This is just a beginning on the part of the government. But you will agree that the private sector which normally has the biggest potential for consuming unemployed labour, is not receiving the fillip that it needs to get into stride, and which is the most effective means of reviving the economy. What are your views on this?

Answer: Your observation is correct. There has not been investment of the desired magnitude. But things are now looking up. Unfortunately the sources of investment had left the country. Recently there was a minister from China here and he said something very significant in this regard. He said investment is like a flock of birds which must be allowed to settle. If you make the slightest wrong move, like freezing foreign exchange accounts, the birds will fly away .They go away as a flock but come back only one by one. So we are throwing some feed at the flown birds and they are returning one by one. Investment has started. If there is continuity in our policies and they are seen as steady, consistent and dependable their effect must make itself apparent. It will not do to have new policies every year. For this there has to be a definite improvement in the state of law and order which impacts on the whole nation. Peaceful conditions are essential to attract foreign investors.

Q. (Sajjad Mir): All the planning that you are doing to put new life into the economy is commendable, but, as Nasim Zehra has observed, the benefits have not trickled down to the common man. You may be doing your best, but you have not been able to achieve the target of enhanced revenues, nor have exports gone up to the desired extent, and if the GDP has registered a rise so has the population, i.e. less than three per cent. You have nabbed money defaulters, you have caught smugglers, you have documented the economy, and done many more things. The people were told that these would affect their lives for the better, but that has not happened so far. Now you say that it will require another five years through the projects described by you.

Answer: No, I do not say that. Five years is the time that we shall take to get out of the debt burden. But matters have started improving. You have talked about exports; I tell you that exports have gone up by 20 per cent within the last two years. Why, don’t you approve of 20 per-cent increase? Then you say the revenue target has not been achieved. You see, we have to keep the target higher because that way there is pressure on the Minister for Commerce. There is also some pressure on the CBR and the Minister of Finance so that they should make that extra effort that is always needed. If revenues have climbed from 300 billion to 400 billion, it is something great. I tell you it has never before happened in our history .It took six years to raise them from 200 billion to 300 billion, and that too by increasing the taxes, while we have made this achievement without added taxation. And Insha’ Allah this is going to continue, both with revenues and exports.

As for the GDP mentioned by you, the increase has been less than three per cent because of drought conditions. Don’t forget that. If you take away agriculture which comprises 30 per cent of the national product, and ignore the effects of the drought, then the remaining 70 per cent has registered a rise of 4.8 per cent. We must take all these factors into consideration. We are quick to say that the GDP has risen by less than three per cent only and we forget the drought. What can we do about drought, except to pray to Allah to be merciful? But by His Grace things will go on improving, and slowly poverty too will go on lessening. I admit there has been excessive dearness, but it would not be correct to say that it has affected all spheres of life. Look at the lower income groups. If articles of daily use have generally become more expensive, then some of them also cost less flow. And there are many which have remained steady.

Q. (Nasim Zehra): Prices of floor and milk, all have gone up.

Answer: No,. no, by and large prices have been steady. And the price of ghee has come down. If you go into every small item then dearness has increased. I do not content for a moment that there has been no dearness, but we must understand the reasons. One of them is the rise in the cost of petrol all over the world, and the other is its attendant effect that our oil bill is now touching four billion dollars.

Q. My question is in the context of inflation. You are against payment of subsidies. However there are frequent announcements about discovery of new natural gas reserves, and yet the price of gas supplied to the people keeps rising. Is it that we import natural gas?

Answer: I’ll talk of gas first. Here again the misfortune recurs that we don’t go into details and become bewildered by apparent signs. Gas is domestically used by only three million persons, which is 3 per cent of the total population of 140 million. Who are these users? Not the very poor, I’m sure. What is the source of energy for the very poor in the villages? Firewood, which is more expensive than gas. This is our sense of justice at the national level that the really poor do not have gas which should be supplied to them being cheap, and they have to employ firewood. The number of people to whom gas is available is three million, of whom 60 per cent utilise less than 100 units. And we have not raised the price of gas for this category .Now, please keep count. Subtract these 60 per cent from the three million users and what is left? Forty per cent. I can’t exactly recall now but I think the majority are those whose consumption is not over 200 units. They have to pay 15 per cent more than before. Thus the real burden of paying a higher price for gas falls on the rest who consume 350 units or 400 units or even more.There is an explanation for this too. We are different from the rest of the world where gas prices are concerned. The world over people have to pay much less for commercial and industrial use of gas while domestic users are charged more. Ours is a strange system; gas is cheaper for household users and expensive for commercial and industrial users which means their products cost more. You know, we have almost exhausted our reserves of gas at Sui? We now intend to change this pricing system. It is so wrong that no one from outside is interested in exploiting our gas reserves because it is not profitable. Unless this is revised no one will come to us from abroad. And we are anxious to have foreign investment in this sector so that it flourishes and our industry benefits from it. This way those of our power stations which run on oil will be enabled to switch over to gas which can thus become a substitute for oil in the real sense.

We spend something like eight or nine million dollars on furnace oil, almost a billion. This expenditure will be reduced through the new steps we propose to take. A few days ago I inaugurated the Zamzama Gas Field which has been connected with the central gas grid, and is now supplying gas to some of the power producing units. By the Grace of God we hope to continue this new procedure so that within the next two years all power producers should be using gas as fuel. We want to do this for industry too. If you look at the recent rise in the prices of domestic gas in this context you will be better able to appreciate the position.

Q. (Saleh Zaafar, daily Jang): My question is, what is your view about the people’s financial difficulties?

Answer: Financial difficulties are very much there. I have never denied their existence. There is poverty. There are hardships. But the solutions devised by us will have long-term results, lasting results. That has been the aim of our planning. In government one is apt to take up minor things that bring in cheap popularity and political mileage, but, in the long run, they lead to deterioration of national life. What I want to do is to make the nation move upwards. About economic hardship I have told you how we are arranging more jobs so that through more employment the affected people should be able to earn their living. l need not go over it again. As I see it, that is the only way to reduce the problems of the people and alleviate the rigours of poverty.

Q. My name is Irshad Ahmed Haqqani. I shall not repeat what has already been discussed, and only say that since the question of the economy is multi-faceted it can be talked about from many angles. We certainly pray for the success of your long-term and medium-term measures, but wisdom dictates that, as they say in Persian, "Before the antidote comes from Iraq the snakebite victim will be dead." you have to ensure that during the long period preceding the efficacy of the welfare measures public despondency does not become a problem in itself. If you were to hold a poll and ask the people whether they are better off now as compared to a year and a half ago, few will answer in the affirmative. Commonsense demands that attention be paid to this interim period. I admit that problems have been inherited by you. No one will deny that you are doing your best to resolve them. But they are innumerable and the number of those living below the poverty line is going up. Right-sizing may be imperative, but it is adding to unemployment and to the sense of frustration.

Answer: Haqqani Sahib, your observations are interesting, but they require clarification on my part. Maybe I’ve not been able to convey my point. Of course there are problems; there is no doubt about it. And your estimate is quite correct. People will be right to say that circumstances are no better today. Let me repeat that whatever measures and actions I have described before you are basically for economic recovery .I have named the half a dozen projects we are taking up in August. Then there is Gwadar Port and the Coastal Highway, and a few more whose feasibility reports are ready for action. There are eight more whose feasibility reports will be ready in December. At the most work will have started on all these projects before 23rd March 2002. Once implementation starts they will be able to accommodate hundreds of thousands from among the unemployed. The cement industry which is almost dead today will be revived. The steel industry too will receive a fillip. In fact you will see signs of life in the overall economy this year. The point is that we should ultimately be able to throw away the burden of debt.

Among the eight or ten new projects on which work will commence from 14th August, you may also count Karachi’s Northern Bypass and the 100 MGD Water Project, the Quetta Water Project and Motorways III and IV . You may know that China is helping in the Gwadar Deep Sea Port Project but there are others too. Oman has already sent in seven million dollars for the purpose. I have also referred to a variety of dams but they are truly long-term projects and will not yield fruit quickly. The Khushhal Pakistan Programme too has taken off in which billions of rupees are being invested and which has already provided jobs to lacs of people all over the country .You may say what is a lac in a population of 14 crores? But this is how things take a start. We are subjecting the distribution of zakat to a new policy from July. There has been some delay but only because we wanted to make the whole process completely transparent, foolproof and reliable. Time has also been consumed in looking for honest people. We could have made a beginning from the new year but I didn’t want any money to be wasted. It was Dr Mahmud Ghazi’s suggestion that we should take our time over it so that proper persons can be selected. This time everything will be computerized. Gone are the days when the government gave someone 500 rupees from zakat and thought it had fulfilled its religious responsibility. Our grants will range from thirty thousand to fifty thousand, and we shall make sure that the recipients are really deserving. As I’ve told you, the ADBP has also been directed by me to give loans to medium-size and small farmers.

I have not yet talked about government servants. All of them, from Grade I to Grade 22 are grossly underpaid. They are certainly facing hard times to make both ends meet. You will come to know about the new salary structure from the budget speech. The number of civil employees, both federal and provincial, comes to three million. They will get a raise in salary .I hope it will ameliorate their lot to some extent. I have also mentioned the cooperatives scandal, the CIRC and the plan to give away land for housing to the very poor. The fruits of these measures are not among the long-term variety; they will be visible very soon and that too all the year round. The year and half that has passed has really been a testing time, because our credit was very low in the eyes of outsiders. Do you know the World Bank used to say; "you are taking, you are fudging accounts". This was our standing. Now no one dare say that. Whatever the state of our economy our credibility is not only beyond question but actually high. If I were to read out their letters to us you would be surprised how well our suggestions and requests are taken. Things are far far better now. We have been able to firm up our economy, and now we have to march forward on the road to constant improvement and then reap the harvest of our labours.

Q. My name is Tariq Warsi, My question is this. You have given us some very heartening information about your plans to provide employment to lacs of persons. On the other hand, reports continue to be published that down-sizing is being undertaken and that countless government servants will lose their jobs. How do you explain this contradiction?

Answer: Actually what you are referring to is right-sizing, and that is something that we want to do. There is constant criticism in the nation that expenditure on establishment is too much. That is correct. Where there should be 500 workers there are fifteen hundred. In the Railway there should only be 90,000, and the present count is a lac and twenty thousand. Thirty thousand are just sitting idle and getting salaries. Same is the case with Pakistan Steel Mill. There is a similar unit in Egypt whose capacity is double that of PSM while the figure of manpower employed there is half. How long can this go on, and how can we progress and develop in such a situation?

Please understand that we will do some right-sizing but that doesn’t mean that hundreds of thousands will be rendered jobless and thrown on the roadside. No, not at all. We have no intention of dismissing anyone, except those proven to be inefficient and corrupt. They will have to face the law on the subject. What we are planning is to reduce the ratio between officers and subordinates from 1 :4.5 to 1 :2.5, which is the accepted standard figure. The procedure will be to create a reserve pool. Those found surplus will go on that pool but continue to receive their emoluments. They will not be thrown out. Under a gradual process, and with the passage of time, anyone who wants to leave will be able to do so by partaking of a few benefits. We are still thinking about these benefits, under the scheme of golden shakehand or something similar. There is nothing immediate. This is to be done in two or three years. We have prepared a two-year plan. In the first year we’ll dispense with one officer along with 3.5 subordinates, and in the second year 2.5 subordinates will go with one officer. But no one will be sent home unceremoniously. We don’t want to do anything in a hurry .

Q. (Ayesha Haroon, daily The Nation): General Sahib You use the future tense quite a lot when you talk of economic revival and the time frame is three to five years. As you have already gone through one and a half year of your tenure, tell us if you have tabulated some percentage of debt reduction and economic revival that will be done within the tenure of your government. I am sure your economic managers have done something. My second question is that could you tell about major economic indicators that have registered an increase in your tenure.

Answer: You have raised some technical points. I always say that I should have read economics when I went on studying science. Anyway the fact is that reduction in loans does not lend itself easily to calculations, that we shall pay up so much this year and so much the next year. I do not have the exact figures, so I will request Mr Shaukat Aziz to answer your queries. The basic consideration before us is that we want to reduce the burden of debt. All countries take loans, but I am told that in progressing countries the total amount of loans is not more than 60 per cent of the country's GDP. We have touched almost 98 per cent. That is one aim, to bring about a sensible balance between loans and the GDP. So, over to Mr Shaukat Aziz.

Shaukat Aziz: Let me give you some economic facts and figures, although the budget speech too is coming. For the first time, exports will be over nine billion, as the Chief has just told you. There has been an increase in revenues, and, for the first time, they have gone up by 100 billion rupees. Also for the first time remittances from Pakistanis Overseas, which had gone down, have shown an increment of 17 per cent this year. Otherwise there has been some improvement in the overall deficit about which you will come to know from the budget. The improvement extends to both the current account deficit and the fiscal deficit. There are other indicators too which are a happy augury.

Your question about repayment of loans has surprised me a bit because six weeks ago we published a report on the subject which is a public document. In fact a number of seminars have been held on it. The report shows what the position will be year-wise, how much the repayment load will be lessened and what would be the policy in this behalf. Taking all the factors into account, there has been general appreciation of the situation and the expectation that perhaps it could be further improved. I’ll have a copy sent to you. I may tell you that the feedback from these seminars, which were also attended by politicians among others, has been useful and we are bringing about some amendments on its basis. Some other points I shall disclose in the budget speech. I may also tell you that, to start with, there will be a small rise in the total loan. What happens in such cases is that there is always an upward jump, then it flattens and then starts going down, as ours will do over the next five years. But it has to be measured in the light of the GDP percentage which too will decrease by a minor 1 per cent and then take an upward turn.

AGRICULTURE

Q. (Zia Shahid of daily Khabrain ): I have a short question on a different subject altogether, about agriculture. Despite the shortage of water we have had a bumper wheat crop. But it has been seen, and the newspapers are full of it, that once again the grower has not received what he deserved after his hard labour. PASSCO and other agencies as also the provincial agriculture departments, did not have sufficient funds at their disposal. Even otherwise the procedure to receive payment was made complicated. First the farmers had to make a money deposit and obtain bags. Then the reports are, and surely they must have reached you too, that whereas the price was fixed at Rs 300 the farmers were obliged to sell for Rs 240 or 250. Not only that, in the middle there were some mysterious people who secured the wheat at that low price and then went and sold it to the government for Rs 300.

You are aware that agriculture is the vocation of 60 to 70 per cent of the population. In last year’s budget speech Mr Shaukat Aziz made a very pertinent remark. He said all kinds of concessions are given to industry but when the turn of agriculture comes it is stated, "We’ll shortly do something." Let me tell you that unless you rectify the system of marketing and ensure just price of the crop to the grower, and unless you augment the production of edible oil through much greater sowing of canola and sunflower, matters will not improve. In fact you will have to continue to expend valuable foreign exchange on importing edible oil. These two crops are in urgent need of concessions and encouragement. They should then be purchased from the grower at a fair price and paid for promptly. I feel that your government is not paying due attention to agriculture and its numerous economic aspects.

Answer. You have rightly pointed at agriculture as our most vital field, in which 60 per cent of our people are engaged. But I do not agree with you that we are not giving it importance. In fact all our development projects centre around agriculture. We are determined to bring the maximum area under cultivation. But I think your question is mainly about the concessions available to growers and farmers. Let us take wheat first. Our policy in this respect is that whenever we interfere it must be for the welfare of the grower . We had fixed the price of wheat at Rs 300. If it falls below that we shall at once come to the assistance of those concerned. And we did when we saw the downward trend in the price. And helped to consolidate it. Your report about the price being paid at 240 or 250 rupees did happen in only a few districts. I am constantly asking for reports. In some districts the price paid was Rs 310. But on the average, during a bad time it was Rs 280. I personally looked into the whole issue and found the average to be Rs 280.

This was unfortunate. Maybe it was due to the vagaries of supply and demand. But you are right. If the system of marketing were better the situation might improve. In the present scheme of things the middle-man plays his role. He has the holding capacity. The farmer is handicapped by his need for money and the desire to dispose of his stock quickly. If he is poor he is exploited by the middle-man. Yes, we should do something to improve upon the system. I think something has been done in Punjab; to expect PASSCO to get to the points first and make the purchases is, I think, rather difficult. Do you know that we are still giving billions to pay the loss in the Rice and Cotton Export Corporations. The trouble is that, wherever we involve ourselves official agencies make a hash of it and cause loss of crores of rupees to the government. Actually this is not the correct way of involving ourselves. We must interfere, of course, but carefully, merely to keep prices under control.

Question: Is it possible to lend money to a grower solely for the purpose of increasing his holding capacity?

Answer: As I have told you, loans are available, from the Khushhali Bank and the ADBP. They are to enable him to make the most of his agricultural efforts, to purchase better fertilizer, to procure superior kind of seed. We are worried why his yield is not going up, why he is needlessly using more water than is necessary. He must be educated in how to use less water, how to do water course lining and laser leveling. The aim should be to employ less water and produce more from the same land. Actually our farmers are doing all they can to improve their output, and the provincial agriculture departments too are lending a helping hand. There is another aspect too that has to be kept in view; that the world prices of fertilizers are rising.

As for growing more canola and sunflower, it is not our strategy to use them to substitute edible oil. If we do that people will start reducing the area under wheat, cotton and rice. But we do want to increase their production for export purposes. Similarly we want to concentrate on tea plantation and olive growing because they can reduce our dependence on import of the two items. We cannot encourage canola and sunflower at the cost of our wheat crop.

POLITICAL SITUATION & LA W AND ORDER

Q. (Nasim Zehra): As you have observed, a good set-up is necessary to regulate and carry forward your economic planning. You have also repeatedly said that some new setup will have to be devised so that the national interest is always kept uppermost. You have implied, though not in so many words, that the President or the National Security Council should be powerful enough to ensure that national institutions operate properly and to prevent any adventurer, political or military, from de-stabilizing them. General Ayub Khan also talked of such a set-up, and so did General Ziaul Haq in his own way, and both wanted themselves to be all-powerful. Notwithstanding your personal assurance, our experience is that concentration of power in one hand has never done this country any good. So, do let us know in what way your government is different and what is the kind of set-up you visualize.

Answer: Let me take the political aspect first. You want to know how we have planned the future in the context of our reforms and other actions, and have mentioned the adverse effects of concentration of power. I have always been insisting that we must have a political system in which powers are transferred to the lower levels of popular administration. This of course we are doing by devolving power to the grassroots level and we are enabling those levels to exercise economic and administrative authority. What you are referring to is the future set-up at the highest level. My viewpoint has been that a high level institution is absolutely necessary .We have to decide what should be the balance of power among those who are sharing authority in the country. My strong belief is that we must do this. All the power should not be in the hands of one person, and there should be a system that can maintain judicious balance between the various authorities. The second thing is that continuity must be made certain of the administrative and political reforms and the decisions of the National Reconstruction Bureau.

There is also a third thing. Needless to say we all must give preference to the national interest over our personal interest, whereas, during the last ten years or so personal interests, political interests, party interests have invariably taken precedence over the national interest. We are actively examining options, conducting a number of studies, with the end in view that there should be an institution, a system, that can ensure the supremacy of the national interest. I have my views on the subject which I shall lay before you. But before I do that I should like to ask you, ladies and gentlemen, what you have to say about it.

Q. (Sajjad Mir): In keeping with the spirit of this discussion, may I speak, in all frankness, about your five-year programme? There was first of all the 18 months programme, then was made another for three years, which has a political meaning to it. Does this not indicate the desire of your government to stay for a long time? Is there any such thing under consideration? My second point is that the economy cannot be rehabilitated unless the state of law and order improves. In Karachi general strikes are taking place. First there was one, then another. There have also been sectarian killings. With all this we have your political and economic agenda. Conditions in the country and the plight of the poor is also before us. Then there is the three-year mandate.

Answer: Since you have touched upon law and order, I might as well give a reply in detail. It is correct that law and order is a grave problem, and is taking up a lot of our attention. We have taken some steps, others are under contemplation. First of all we must decide dispassionately what is the law and order problem and in which areas. Take the display of arms. Even a funeral is led by men carrying Kalashinkovs. If there is a meeting, six men will be found overseeing it with Kalashinkovs. All this was going on. There were threatening pronouncements that if so-and-so is not safe then the entire nation, the whole of Pakistan will not remain safe. There was no limit to irresponsible statements, and provoking one another to action. Sects against sects, with mosques being used to arouse emotions for nothing. Shias and Sunnis used to fight, now Deobandis and Barelvis have also announced a , kind of war. It is these activities that are spreading disunity and disorder, otherwise politically there is no big problem.

The latest expression of lawlessness is of course the so-called water agitation which was begun in Karachi and Sindh. I cannot think of anything more malicious. Everyone knows that the water problem came from nature as part of the general drought. The situation is much better now, especially in Sindh where the problem was more acute but was being exploited for selfish purposes. The people there need to know that Punjab has given Sindh sufficient water out of its own share. Actually they should be thankful for this. What I am unable to understand is: what has this problem to do with Karachi? In the rest of Sindh there were the demands of agriculture, but in Karachi on what basis did MQM and JSQM raise it into a people’s problem? We know there is a foreign hand in this which is exploiting the situation for its mischievous ends.

I would like to call upon the people to realize the need for peace and unity and cooperate with us against these law-breaking mischief mongers. Our solution began with the campaign against lethal weapons and heavy arms. The display of weapons has been completely banned. The drive to collect unlicensed arms has started. In the next stage weapons of prohibited bores will be collected, whoever may be the owner, even myself. Previously licenses for such weapons were being issued by governments. As announced, non-prohibited bore weapons are not being touched.

Additionally we are promulgating an ordinance about terrorism. It will come in a few days. It has been drafted, but some details are being looked into. This ordinance will cover every kind of terrorist activity, including sectarian terrorism, and attempts to provoke people to violence. Insha’ Allah, once it is part of the statute book we shall be able to take comprehensive and purposeful action against all groups and elements which are out to disturb the peace and create disorder .

We are also bringing about reforms in the police force in order to improve its performance and make it truly people-oriented. We have given two billion rupees for this purpose. This amount is insufficient, because the total demand ran to some twelve or fourteen billion, but it will at least help to improve the transport and communication system of the force. I have asked the Interior Minister to see if the total needed money can be raised from their own sources. The police own land at various places which would otherwise be profitable. Also it can restrict its needs of land to the barest minimum. I am confident that if all this surplus land is disposed of enough funds can be raised for the reforms as also for improving the state of police buildings like thanas.

I will avail myself of this opportunity to call upon the people of Pakistan to join hands with us and among themselves to nab those who are out to create disorder and break the peace. There is the social duty that all of us can perform by raising our voice against such elements. For instance when we go for prayers and find that people are being unnecessarily aroused into violence against someone, we must do our bit to prevent that. We cannot say that only the police or the army, or the Chief Executive should look after this. If there is an unjustified call for a shutter-down or general strike or wheel-jam the people should display courage and come forward to resist and foil such attempts. I tell you things would be far better if the people cooperated in this with the law-enforcing authorities and the government. We shall soon have an effective ordinance, and we shall also endeavour to improve the output of the forces responsible for keeping the peace, but mainly the effort has to come from the people. Those who yearn for a peaceful national life must also play their part.

Q. (Nasim Zehra): The fact is that the protests in Karachi arose out of wrong handling of the water agitation in Sindh where a couple of persons died. It is for the police to see how it deals with such demonstrations. The shutter-down in Karachi was purely based on this mishandling.

Answer: I know. It is our misfortune that such incidents take place at the lower level. But you can’t blame the police every time. Such untoward things are likely to happen when there are uncontrollable crowds of agitators and riot conditions all around. What we should look at is the basic reason for such an agitation. In this case I know what that is. There is more to it than meets the eye.

Q. (Saleh Zaafar): I am not asking a question. I only wish to draw your attention to a point. You have almost denied that there are problems, but the truth is that the people are faced with a grave financial crisis. The country too is confronted with a similar crisis. Is it possible to associate people’s representatives and persons from various groups and classes with the government? If someone’s fault is not grievous, can’t he be pardoned? This way the whole nation will be with you and serious national problems could be tackled with a combined effort. I feel that elections may be difficult, You have seen what has happened in Karachi when you tried to have elections there. So, before we come to the general election is it possible to take the people with you in this fashion?

Answer: You say there may be hurdles in the way of elections. I don’t see any difficulties, In fact we all are very happy. There have been satisfactory elections all over the country .In the first phase the turnout was a little less, say 46 per cent, but it went up to 56 per cent in the second and third phases which is very good from all angles. I consider it an affliction what is happening in Karachi. There is no justification for it. No excuse at all for MQM and JSQM to create confusion there. I want the people to understand that there is definitely a hidden hand in this conspiracy, a foreign hand, that is depriving them of their rights. The people should be pleased that they are going to be masters of their own destiny at that level, and that ethnic differences will be sorted out.

Have the people asked themselves why MQM is making all this noise? There has to be a good reason that the people can understand. I call upon the Urdu-speaking people of Karachi and all the other communities that live there, to think what good the burning of buses and the shutting down of shopping areas is going to do to them. Why don’t they resist what is patently bad for them? I know that most shopkeepers are not interested in closing down. They do it only out of fear. I have had close enquiries made. More than 75 per cent people are afraid to keep their shops open. Sooner or later they’ll have to decide what to do, whether , to face threats courageously or submit to them.. The only way to confront these elements is to be brave, so that their plans to deprive the people of their franchise are made to fail. In Hyderabad and Mirpur Khas and other places there was a good turnout for the elections despite the boycott by MQM. I am sure the people of Karachi too will respond in similar fashion for their rights without fear or favour. The government will do all that it can to help.

Q: Sir, maybe he was referring to all elections, including general elections, which may have to be postponed. But what he is actually suggesting is that you may take suitable individuals or the political parties along with you. Or just talk to them.

Answer: Yes, that stage will also come, when we arrive at the provincial and federal level elections. You will recall that we gave everyone the opportunity from 23 March to 14 August to discuss national issues openly and frankly. The NRB kept a close tab on what was discussed and talked about in public. I assure you that when we come to the point of momentous decisions at the highest level – just as I have mentioned the striking of a balance in the exercise of authority and powers at that level I would like to take the people into confidence. You too will be consulted so that you can make positive suggestions.

Q. (Irshad Ahmed Haqqani): There was an item in your original agenda about removing provincial disharmony and strengthening the federation. I at least have not seen anything during the last year and a half to indicate attention on your part to that item. I don’t think I can say with confidence that provincial differences have been lessened or that the federation finds itself stronger than before. I feel the desired attention has not been paid to this matter. Whereas foreign policy found no mention in that agenda, yet the performance there has been generally satisfactory . But I suspect that internal problems of mutual accommodation have somehow been ignored. In fact, in the context of politics and otherwise, the mistrust between various provinces appears to be assuming dangerous proportions. The point is if you are too worried on this account you should ponder on remedial measures.

Answer: It is easy to describe this problem as that of mutual mistrust among the provinces, but let us go into it in the light of facts. As I see it, there were two main reasons for this state of affairs. Funds and the distribution of resources. The smaller provinces complained against the bigger provinces that they took away everything and we don’t even come to know of it. Balochistan alleged that it had never received its due share. But now all this talk is over. Balochistan is now contented and satisfied. It is another matter that political elements there are trying to raise the issue on one excuse or another, but I assure you that economically Balochistan has never been stronger in our entire history .Did you ever hear of so many mega projects for that province – Gwadar Port, Coastal Highway, Kachhi Dam, Kachhi Canal and Quetta Water Scheme for instance? We have done this so that there should be no provincial animosity, no feeling of deprivation.

In Sindh there was the demand for the RBOD. It was in the context of deteriorated conditions at Manchhar Lake. They said that dirty drain water had all but destroyed the lake, that all fishermen had left the area, that 50,000 of them had been rendered homeless, and that no fish were left in the lake waters. So we decided to invest in the RBOD which will convey the drainage waters into the sea instead of dirtying the lake. The project will be inaugurated this very year, and we hope that it will revive the traditional life of the lake’s fishermen. I am sure the whole of Sindh will welcome this.

It was on matters like these that mistrust and lack of faith were built among the provinces. Look at the river waters dispute. There have been allegations of one province using up the share of another. Specifically Sindh complained against Punjab on this account. Quite apart from merit, Punjab decided to give more water to Sindh out of its own share, just for the sake of amity. The Governor of Sindh and his ministers acknowledged this and publicly thanked Punjab. We forget that anti-state elements are always busy provoking the people with lies. We have taken steps to ensure that such issues are quickly settled with mutual agreement so that there is no scope for provincial jealousies and heart-burning. There are numerous other examples where we have helped, and I can cite them to you separately. I am also trying to make sure that there should be no grouse from any province about their officers not being in coveted senior posts. It is a constant process of the centre taking the provinces along in everything.

Q. (Sohail Rana of Badban ): Sir, you have met Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan. Today he has said in a press conference that the Chief Executive has promised elections and that the ban on rallies has been lifted. Would you like to throw light on this?

Answer: I knew someone would ask this question so I am ready with the details. We met last night and it was a good meeting. I won’t say that I had invited him. There was a desire from both sides so we met. He suggested that there should be free permission to hold meetings and rallies and take out processions. No, sir, I did not say that the ban had been lifted, and if Nawabzada Sahib is listening he should remember that I said no such thing. He was of the view that there should be political activity. His anxiety is understandable. He is our elder and has been in politics since before Pakistan came into being, and he values democratic principles. We all respect him. I too have regard for him. He said there should be no prohibition of political activities. I said if by political activities you mean burning buses and shops and houses, and putting a halt to business, I’m sorry I don’t believe in all that. These are subversive acts.

On this he said (and this made me very happy), "We are against all this. It should never happen. " He then gave me a copy of the ARD manifesto, saying that this assurance was contained in it. My response was, "If you say that whenever you meet nothing of the sort will happen, and that daily life will not be disturbed or hindered, then my permission is there. You can meet and talk." I never said anything about parties being free to take out processions. I will repeat that if they and their companions and followers want to get together on the above terms they are welcome to do so. But there are also other people, not with them, who don’t agree with their politics and who want to destabilize the country from inside by creating riotous conditions and disorder, one has to beware of them. So, I said, if they can guarantee peace and order political activity will be allowed.

Q.(Ghayur Ahmed): I would like to say something about law and order. It has been said here that politicians hold rallies and take out processions and there are calls for wheel jam and public life is paralyzed. Where you are doing so much, isn’t it possible to lay down a code of ethics that if anyone wants to make a political protest he can do so within the prescribed limits so that national life is not affected? There are many countries where such a code of ethics exists and where people can make protests under that code. The point is that the protest should not make life painful for the people.

Answer: We are enacting a law which may be out by next week. It will provide for such contingencies. It will prescribe punishment for anything that disturbs the public peace, like provocative statements, irresponsible acts, etc. We have never thought on the lines of a code of ethics as suggested by you, but this law should be able to cater for all possible situations that can arise in the realm of law and order. I am looking forward to cooperation from the judiciary and the people in this behalf. We have looked at the relevant Italian model and also gone through India’s TADA. We do not want to make it Draconian, or ride roughshod over human rights, but we have to do something about the state of public peace which is getting dangerous by the day and calls for such a law.

Q. (Sardar Khan Niazi, daily Pakistan ): My question is about local government. Recently I organized a seminar to which nazims and naib nazims were also invited. The Governor also came. People had great doubts and reservations that moneyed people are coming up in the elections, that politicians who had looted the country once were being allowed to come in again. How to deal with this fear? Why test those who had already been tested and had failed. Why weren’t they being declared unfit by the courts? Would you like to comment on this?

Answer: You are referring to devolution. This is a national process. Let me say that the state of affairs is not so bleak. It is not as if no new people are coming forward and that the old and already tried are finding their way in. According to our analysis at least one third are these who have never been through an election before. This analysis is true about the whole of Pakistan. Many of those elected do belong to political families, but again our reading is that it is the better lot in those families who have participated in the polls. The situation is not as bad as you think it is. So far as your contention is concerned as to why they, taking part in the elections at all, that is for the electorate to decide. And as for the question why they are not being disqualified, that is a matter for the Election Commission to give its ruling under the law on the subject. If anyone has filed a petition against them, the returning officer has to examine it under the rules. In most cases there is not sufficient proof of misdeeds. In any case, it is difficult for black to become white overnight; I suppose black will become grey first and then turn white gradually.

Q. (Haroon Rashid): I wish to draw your attention to the fact that you came into power as the result of an accident, and yet you are changing the entire system of government as also the constitutional framework. You have not been given the authority to do that. So will you go to the people? Then you are changing the entire structure of the administration and instituting district governments that will leave, the provinces almost ineffective. Do you propose to go to the people to seek their mandate on this? Another thing, after you assumed office some two to three thousand kidney patients have died. Nobody is paying attention to this. Funds have been stopped. Just as if you have set up task forces for health and education is it not possible to have a task force for this big human problem? Only a little over two crores are required every month. The Shaukat Khanum Hospital manages to collect thirty crores of rupees. If an appeal and campaign are launched on radio and TV there is no reason why a suitable amount should not be collected.

Answer: Number one. Yes, there was an accident and the government of Pakistan was thrust on me. But this was from the Almighty. I accepted the challenge and while doing so I feel confident that I will take the country forward. Whatever some people say, that we should be removed, I am not bothered. They want early elections. Why? There is the order of the Supreme Court, and under that elections will be held in October 2002. The Supreme Court has also allowed us to make amendments in the constitution. We shall make only essential amendments which are in the national interest. Let there be no doubt about this. The trouble is there are too many conjectures. Have we said anything about making the provinces ineffective? We are still at the devolution of authority stage at the district level, and you are thinking that the provinces will be left powerless. Who has said this? Has anyone of us told you this? Have we announced that there will be no provinces?

Please don’t look at everything from a negative angle. If you look at devolution dispassionately you will have to agree that we are bringing about a political revolution which will give powers to the people at the basic level. What is going on in the country is that the people for whom actions are taken, projects are made, know nothing of what is happening. Those sitting at the top rule the roost. Funds are defalcated. The people have no control over funds. They don’t have administrative authority. All decisions are taken here in Islamabad and in the provincial capitals and precious money is frittered away. What we are bringing about will be the real democracy, and you are insisting that the provinces are being finished. After the devolution process is over we shall come to what powers and authority the centre and the provinces should exercise. We have started from the lowest level and are going upwards. We have seen what kind of powers are needed by the people at the lower levels. Then we will come to the provinces for having truly effective democracy. We shall decide what powers the provinces should have in order to run the new district system properly. Then the residual powers will vest in the federal government.

Actually the provinces will have an entirely new role to play. Of course they will keep an eye on the district governments in accordance with the legal arrangement. You should start criticising after we have made an official announcement. Why make conjectures that this or that is going to happen, and that the provinces will be wound up. No, the provinces will not be finished.

Your second point now. The government is doing whatever it possibly can for kidney patients. Funds are still being given. But there has been hanky panky and there are loopholes and the effort is to plug these loopholes. I admit that government participation has been somewhat reduced. You must realize that the government just does not have the resources to take upon itself the treatment of all kidney patients in the country .It's not possible. In any case, the process of aid has not been ended. You have drawn a very bleak picture, so I shall not go into further details without acquainting myself of the full facts.

A voice: Beg your pardon. There is no hanky panky. What hanky panky can a kidney patient do ?

Answer: It is the hospitals which are indulging in misconduct. Anyway, these are minor matters. Let us talk of really important issues here.

A voice: It is not a minor matter. People are dying and you call it a minor matter .

EDUCATION

Question: Sir, you have devised policies on various issues. But what is most important for the people is education, and yet in these eighteen months no policy has been framed or announced on the subject.

Answer: That is not correct. Of course we consider education as the most important need of the people. Actually I got involved in the problems connected with rehabilitating the economy as quickly as possible, so that the country can stand on its feet again. That does not mean that education is not on my mind. Only the day before yesterday we were discussing details of the policies for health and education. Our policies in this behalf are ready. But since both are provincial subjects, we have conveyed our considered views on them to the provinces. The policy on education has three distinct aspects. One is to increase the percentage of literacy. Second is to bring about changes in the education system that are consonant with the needs of the time and promote adult education. Third is to raise the standard of education substantially. For this new syllabi and curricula have been devised jointly by the provinces. New books have been printed on every subject, while a few are under print. They will be put to use by the provinces.

There is also the problem of better training of teachers. For this too the provinces are ready with their schemes. There is also the dire need for improving the examination system. We hope to do away with the present method of teaching by rote.

Then, in ninth and tenth class and in the technical institutes there will be greater stress on technical subjects. Within a prescribed period we want to open polytechnics in all the districts, followed by similar institutions at the tehsil level.

You will be pleased to know that we have constituted a task force for health and education. You must have heard of Dr Nasim Ashraf. He is one of the Pakistani doctors in America and a leader of their organization APNNA. He is busy activating overseas Pakistanis in the States, in Britain and in the Middle East. We are instituting a special fund of which Dr Nasim Ashraf will be project director. Numerous capable and enthusiastic Pakistanis are coming over. We shall provide them accommodation and offices but they’ll be travelling at their own expense. They have made me patron of this organization, this task force of which I am chairman, and Dr Nasim Ashraf is director. In the entire country their activities will be a combination of private enterprise and government effort. Within three months they hope to have drafted their plan of action. I appeal to all Pakistanis abroad to contribute to the account that will be opened. I have asked Shaukat Aziz to ensure transparency in the account so that anyone who wishes to contribute should feel safe to do so. There should be a web site and everything should be plain and open, with nothing kept back as confidential.

There is another thing about the field of education that I want to disclose to you today. A revolutionary experiment has been undertaken in Punjab which has shown radical success. No one knew about it before today. I have advised its projection on television. What has happened is this. As you know all schools lie vacant in the afternoon and evening. The Punjab has decided to give them over to private parties after one o’clock or two o‘clock for furtherance of education. If someone is running a primary school they can utilize the premises for the middle standard. And if they have a middle school they can start higher secondary classes there. They will charge less fees and will also be responsible for upkeep of the premises, apart from paying for their use. Thousands of people are ready to avail themselves of this facility because their problem is that while they want to start schools they do not have buildings. Thus new schools are being opened all over the province. This is bound to give an unprecedented fillip to education and educational standards. On the same lines, college buildings have been made available for installation of information technology classes up to F.Sc. There has been tremendous enthusiasm for this scheme and I have advised the other provinces to follow Punjab’s example. So education is not being ignored as you feel.

IDEOLOGY OF PAKISTAN

Q. (Zahid Malik, Editor-in-Chief, Pakistan Observer): We have been hearing you on different occasions, and, as some Western newspapers say, you are now a popular leader with an effective speaking ability. But it is rarely that I have heard you mention the ideology of Pakistan which is the very basis of this country .My question is rather different. The economy is no doubt a matter of life and death for the nation, but - you cannot remove yourself from the foundation - on which Pakistan is built. As you know, Pakistan is an ideological nation. I often say that if you divest it of its ideology then it no longer remains the Quaid-e-Azam’s Pakistan. As you have designated the current year as the Year of the Quaid, I feel that if you were to lay emphasis on promoting the ideology it would help in reducing the disharmony that prevail among the provinces and we may start thinking of ourselves in terms of a nation, the Pakistani nation. This is my proposal. I have no other question to ask.

Answer: Thank you. What you say is quite correct. It is our misfortune that our sectarian problems, our narrow-minded attitudes clash directly with the ideology of Pakistan. I assure you we want to bring about the Quaid’ s Pakistan and whatever we do shall, lnsha ‘Allah be with that thought in mind. I have understood your point. This should be done.

VISIT TO INDIA & KASHMIR

Question: In the context of your ,talks in India you have used the expression "keeping a flexible attitude." Would you clarify what is meant by this flexibility, and to what limits it would extend?

Answer: I don’t think a line can be drawn. This is a common expression. In fact I would say that the word "flexible" is leading to a misunderstanding. In fact what I should say is that I shall go there with an open mind and this would be in response to the open mind that I encounter there. I repeat therefore that I shall go with an open mind. Let us see what openness of mind they display. We shall move forward on that basis. That should be all so far as the use of a particular expression is concerned.

Question: We have bitter memories of previous talks with India — right from Liaquat Ali Khan to Muhammad Nawaz Sharif. In the light of those memories, like the Liaquat-Nehru Pact and others, and the fact that they (Indians) resile from everything, what are your expectations? After one previous meeting they even set up a Kashmir Working Group. When they get stuck somewhere they invite Pakistan to come and have talks with them. And when they have got the needed respite they back down again. So, what are you expecting this time?

Answer: About expectations from the visit I have said that I am going there with "cautious optimism." You are right. Looking at past history , we find that the Kashmir dispute has not been moving forward. I am hoping that this time it will not be so. And if it doesn’t then it will be most regrettable. That is why I say that I am going with an open mind. I hope the attitude of the Indian leadership will be the same, in which case we may be able to change history .I am going with the intention of changing history, and if the response is helpful from the other side, we may succeed in that, lnsha ‘Allah. This will then be a new beginning.

Q. (Tariq Warsi): You have met two politicians as a prelude to your visit to India, Do you intend to meet others too who may hold definite opinions?

Answer: That is an important question. I have already said that before going to India I should like to meet three kinds of people. First, politicians, since I want to have their views. Second, our Kashmiri brothers so that they remain alert and I can give them the guarantee that their rights will always be in my mind. Third, journalists. I have told my secretariat that I wish to meet these three groups between the 20th and 30th of June.

Q. (Nusrat Javed): I am an ordinary newspaper reporter. We people have an obsession for hard-core news. The whole world is looking forward anxiously for your visit to India. In this connection I have two small points to make. One, we are being told that Mr Vajpayee says he wants to go beyond what has been their stated position so far. What has been ascribed to you was the "flexible attitude," but now you say it should be "with an open mind." In any case we can say that you will not be going there with any rigid notions. What we would like to know is: what can be the minimum, the very minimum, that can be decided there. We appreciate that diplomacy is too sensitive to be conducted in the open. But there must be two or three possibilities at least which have encouraged you to feel that a visit to India will be worth a while. Mr Abdul Ghani Bhat, presently chairman of the Kashmir All-Parties Hurriyat Conference has said something very reasonable today. He says the Chief Executive of Pakistan and India’s Prime Minister should have their talks in Kashmir, "not necessarily with us." Not a bad idea, for it is a summer resort and the topic of discussion will also be Kashmir. Then it is said that our American friends want a bus service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad. Sir, would you like to come back to Muzaffarabad by bus?

Answer: I would have no objection. Only such a thing would take time, otherwise I would be most happy to travel by bus. So far as the visit is concerned and its possible outcome, I have been thinking constantly. What is our standpoint? What do we want from the talks? But I don’t think it is proper to dwell on that in this gathering. The point is that if the mind is kept open from both sides, some progress can be made. But one thing about which I have no doubts is that the fundamental question is that of Kashmir. If other issues are raised by them, like the gas pipeline from Iran, we are ready to talk. The pipeline is their problem, not ours. If they don’t want it they can go on purchasing CNG at 25 to 30 per cent extra cost. However we are ready to cooperate on the pipeline. To repeat, we are going with an open mind. Let us see what transpires there.

Q.(Sardar Khan Niazi, daily Pakistan and weekly Zindgi): You have our good wishes for the visit to India. May God crown it with success ! India is saying that there is an eight-point agenda. Is Kashmir just one of the points or has it greater importance than the rest?

Answer: Your question is about the agenda. My agenda is obvious. It is Kashmir. If they want to discuss other matters, we are ready. But it is inconceivable that there should be an eight-point agenda in which Kashmir does not feature. Since they have invited me, and my standpoint is quite apparent, it follows that Kashmir will be discussed.

Q. (Prof Khalid Mahmud): Would you agree with the suggestion that India’s invitation to you for talks on Kashmir is a tacit recognition by New Delhi that Kashmir is a dispute. This question assumes significance because in my view it is not easy to find a mutually agreed solution of the Kashmir issue and we should be under no illusion and therefore, we must set our minimum objective on the basis of what we say a positive move forward has been made and I don’t see any harm in being flexible because both sides have to be flexible because if you don’t proceed with a spirit of give and take no progress can be made. So far Indian position has been that Kashmir is an integral part. If this is the tacit recognition that Kashmir is a dispute then the negotiations can move forward.

Answer: I am glad you have raised this point. I had forgotten to mention that the letter that was received from Mr Vajpayee contains a reference to Kashmir. In all previous announcements and agreements Kashmir was mentioned in an apologetic manner. This is the first time that in the context of peace in the region and the establishment of satisfactory mutual relations the issue of Jammu & Kashmir has been included in a letter. I hope it means confirmation of its existence as a dispute. I take this opportunity to say that the Indian Foreign Minister’s statement about Kashmir being an integral part of India is regrettable. That is not the way to go forward. I hope it is confined to this statement only and when we begin the talks he will not mean it. Let me say that the chances of a settlement have never been brighter. I have noted your suggestion.

Q. (Brig. Rtd. A.R. Siddiqui): I had hoped that this session would be devoted to your visit to India. There has been some talk but not to the desired extent. I shall ask a fundamental question. It is often said in Pakistan that Kashmir is a part of the unfinished agenda of Partition. If we accept this it means that it is territorial in nature and not a human rights issue, although you have yourself said that you consider it a human rights problem more than a territorial problem. Secondly, we seem to have adopted the principle that Kashmir too will be divided like Punjab and Bengal on the basis of Hindu-Muslim majority. Do you have any such plan in view?

Answer: Siddiqui Sahib, between ourselves, we have not thrashed out such details yet. When we get there and the discussions start we shall give it our attention. But I agree that it is part of the unfinished agenda of Partition and must reach its logical conclusion. Solution of the Kashmir dispute is necessary for peace in the region, for the economic development of India and Pakistan and for the welfare of this entire South Asian region. I am going with the hope that the same thoughts will prevail on the other side too. Meantime I don’t want to go into the nuances of the strategy.

AFGHAN POLICY

Question: My question is about Pakistan’s Afghan policy: We are being blamed by the world that we are not putting pressure on the Taliban. Possibly this is a wrong perception. What I want to know is whether we are doing anything about the military training camps in Afghanistan against which the United States and China and Russia have complained and in which some Pakistanis are also participating.

Answer: What is the basis of our policy in regard to Afghanistan and its compulsions? It is our immediate neighbour, and not the neighbour of America or Europe. What happens there is of direct concern to us and not to anyone else. It is important for us that there should be peace on our western border so that the entire Central Asian region can develop and progress and trade gets an impetus. I think we have succeeded in convincing all concerned that our relationship is based on certain obligations. We have informed Afghanistan of our worry in regard to the sanctuaries of terrorists there and they have promised to cooperate with us. We sent teams from here, and we have the names of undesirable persons who are present there.

Our discussions are continuing. We even talked to them about the destruction of the Buddha’s statues. But if the world thinks that we can order the Afghans about it is not correct. Afghanistan is a fiercely independent country which even the British could not subdue. They have a sovereign government of their own. We can always engage them but we can’t command them. As it is, I am hopeful that in future there will be no reports about terrorist activities from there.

Q. (Hamid Mir): My question is, why are judges, generals and journalists outside the scope of your accountability? Let me draw your attention to two scandals. Ms Benazir Bhutto, as Prime Minister, appointed General Asad Durrani as ambassador to Germany. He had been involved in the ISI secret funds business. Similarly Mian Nawaz Sharif posted Hamid Asghar Kidwai, a character from the Mehran Bank scam, as ambassador to Kenya. Both have continued as Pakistan’s envoys in your regime. Shall we take it !that you do not intend to enquire into their role in the two scandals? If this is so, then how can you describe your process of accountability as transparent?

Answer: The first thing is that I have placed no restriction on NAB on any account. Many people ask me about this. I have given no directive to NAB to spare either judges or generals or journalists. Second, as you know reports fly about that so-and-so has built ten houses, that another has ranches in the United States. So what am I supposed to do on these reports when they are not backed up by any proof, any document? Everyone in Pakistan is voluble about these things. Look at so-and-so, where has his money come from? But no one comes forward with solid evidence. About the persons you have named, give me proofs. I won’t say anything further .

A voice: General Asad Duirani made a statement in court that he had made the payments. What more proof is required?

Answer: If you are in politics or understand it, what if the man says he was ordered by someone, say the Prime Minister, to make payments? What happens then.

A voice: A person who has done such an unethical thing, committed such an unlawful act, he should not be on an important post like ambassador. He should be relieved.

Answer: The truth is that political leaders were doing so many things in Pakistan. When the country’s leadership is behind undesirable actions, there will hardly be anyone who will stick to principles and stand up and refuse to obey and suffer for it. Hardly anyone.

CONCLUDING REMARKS

Laeeq Ahmed: Now that this session is over, would you like to give a short message to the nation?

Chief Executive: This has been the most interesting programme. I had made some notes about what might be taken up here. It’s a coincidence that all the points were discussed.

A voice: But the awam ( ordinary people ) were left out from this programme in which you were face to face with the people.

Answer: Everything in it concerned the people. Talk about alleviation of poverty and law and order, what were they about if not about the people? I am thankful to all of you for coming from far-off places to participate in it. And I am grateful to the panel – to Mr Laeeq Ahmed, Ms Nasim Zehra, Mr Sajjad Mir – for conducting the discussion intelligently and enabling me to express my thoughts before the nation. This is the first time that I have come live before the people. I have been saying to all Pakistanis that I am a transparent person with nothing hidden behind my back. I keep an open mind and try my best to talk honestly and frankly. From that point of view this dialogue has been very successful.

To repeat, we cannot go forward until and unless our economy is properly rehabilitated. Just as a poor man is helpless, a poor country is also helpless. We must not remain poor. We have the potential and the human resources. Please believe me we have everything. One thing that was not discussed here was natural resources. The coal discovered in the Thar is the world’s largest deposit of coal. It remained untapped, and now we are going to exploit it, and I am going to be, chairman of the agency. I drew some people’s l attention to it in Karachi. I talked to the Prime Minister of China about it. He is sending out a team which will be here next week. Saindak too, where God knows how many people are sitting idle, is to be looked after by the Chinese. Some fifty miles south of Saindak copper has been discovered and is said to be the biggest reserve in the world after Chile’s mines. So when it is exploited we shall be world number two ,in production of copper. There are iron ore mines south of Quetta which were being neglected because of a dispute between the centre and the province. Here the ore is almost on the ground and there is no need to dig for it. We are taking it up now on a commercial basis. So far 5,000 tons is being despatched to the steel mill in Karachi.

This’ is not all. Vast tracts of land are lying uncultivated. Water is available to irrigate it but is not being utilized. We have a long sea coast. We have the best fish but it is not being exported. We have a tremendous potential for tourism but there is no tourism. We are going to connect the Northern Areas with Chitral and Gilgit, and the Kaghan Valley with Gilgit and Chilas. Similarly Gilgit will be directly connected with Skardu over Astore, Chilam and Deosai, and the road will be complete in two years. Funds have been allocated . I am sure this will greatly promote tourism in the area.

My point is that Pakistan has all the resources and all the potential. Manpower is also there. What is needed is good intentions, the will to do things, and individual integrity and honesty. If we can harness these, and if we are able to bring about a balance in our economic power and military power, Pakistan will Insha’Allah go from strength to strength. I am confident that within five years we shall have taken meaningful steps towards real progress.

Thank you.

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