National institutions to be strengthened says Prime Minister

Prime Minister Yusuf GilaniISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani on Tuesday said an accountability bill would be brought to the Parliament and national institutions would be strengthened to curb corruption in the society.

Speaking in an online television programme hosted jointly by PTV and AAJ TV, the Prime Minister said he had been hearing about corruption since he joined  politics and every government had faced corruption charges, but the allegations were denied. The governments of Muhammad Khan Junejo, Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto were removed on charges of corruption, he added.

It was very easy to raise the issue of corruption, he said adding, the judiciary is independent and if somebody had any proof of corruption, he could go to the courts and relevant quarters.He recalled that leaders who were in the frontline of Pakistan Movement had also faced corruption charges,but such allegations were not levelled against the dictators.The Prime Minister said politicians along with judiciary, military bureaucracy and civil bureaucracy were part of the society, which is confronted with the issue of corruption.

Those who are talking about bringing assets from abroad are playing to the gallery, he said adding no politician can contest elections without declaring his assets before the election officials.Supreme Judicial Council checks corruption in judiciary and army has its own mechanism to stop the practice.

National Accountability Bureau (NAB), judiciary and media look out for corruption and Prime Minister and federal ministers are answerable to both houses of parliament. Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly is headed by Leader of the Opposition, he added.Gilani said in democracy, it is right of parties to hold public meetings and rallies provided it is not inconvenient to the people.

But these processions cannot bring change as dynamics of elections are different, he observed.He said there should be code of ethics in politics and red lines should not be crossed and language should be such that it hurts nobody.The Prime Minister said it is right of the opposition to embarrass and criticize the government and its viewpoint should be respected.The Prime Minister said the Federal Cabinet has held in depth discussions on the energy sector and condition of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA).The Cabinet approved many recommendations of the energy committee headed by Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, which is holding frequent meetings. The committee is tasked with bringing improvement to the energy sector and Water and Power Ministry is being restructured, he added.

Gilani informed that Governor State Bank of Pakistan is assigned to formulate proposals for restructuring of Pakistan Railways and bring it to the Cabinet.He said nowhere in the world, railway earned profit by passenger trains rather  by goods trains. Double tracks are needed for the freight trains.He said Federation of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) wants to take over Pakistan Steel Mills to make it a profit making entity and he said he has talked to President Zardari on the issue.He said he raised the issue of restructuring of public sector entities during his interaction with businessmen in Australia.“I will soon announce a two year plan to change the whole economy and turn around the state owned entities,” he added.

He asked opposition to refrain from unnecessary criticism and said now provinces have the authority to undertake energy projects, which can reduce power outages.Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is taking steps for energy projects and the Punjab Government should do the same, he added.He assured that all resources will be utilized and short, medium and long term energy projects will be initiated.

Talks are underway for import of 500 to 1000 megawatt of electricity from India, he said.He said the Council of Common Interest (CCI) unanimously approved building of Diamer Bhasha Dam, which will produce 4000 megawatt of electricity and increase the life of Tarbela Dam by 35 years.In response to a question, the Prime Minister said successive governments took up the issue of Kalabagh Dam but hoodwinked the people and never allocated funds for the project in Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP).

Any mega project of national importance should only be carried out with consensus, he stressed.Gilani said no party is in a position to gain absolute majority or two-thirds majority in the next elections and he foresees a coalition government once again.To a question, he said Seraiki province is the wish of the people of Southern Punjab as they have a sense of deprivation and have been kept backward.

“It is their right and they should get their right.”PPP has formed a manifesto committee to look into the issue and he has invited President Zardari to meet political leadership, business community and people of South Punjab to know their point of view.Nawaz Sharif also stated in Dera Ghazi Khan that he would facilitate people on the creation of provinces, he said adding, it is to be seen whether Punjab Assembly supports demand for new provinces.

He said Pakistan Peoples Party is the only federal party with representation in all the four provinces, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan.PPP does not have simple majority in the Parliament, but it restored the Constitution and brought amendments in it and took steps which could not even be done by those who had two-thirds majority.Prime Minister Gilani replying to a question said since the present government is entering its fifth year of rule and was preparing to present its fifth budget in June 2012, so talking about early elections is a “joke.”“How you can afford to dislodge an elected government.

It would be inviting a third party,” he remarked and advised the opposition parties to follow Constitution and mobilize masses for the next elections, which would be held in 2013.Gilani said since the President has surrendered his powers of dissolving the assemblies in favour of the Prime Minister, why he would advise for dissolving the assemblies.

“There is a Constitutional process. If they (the opposition parties) do not like me they can bring a no-confidence motion against me in the assembly”, he remarked and added, similarly the Constitution also provides a process of impeachment of the President.To another question, the Prime Minister said due to dictatorial interferences there have not been frequent elections in Pakistan, adding, frequent elections are ‘a filter’ in politics, through which good people come to power and the bad people are rejected by the masses.In response to a question about PML-N’s intentions to hold rallies in front of the Parliament and the Presidency after Muharram, the Prime Minister said, when all of their options will exhaust, he would talk to them and tell them that “the only way forward is democracy”.

About Pak-US relations and contacts vis a vis Afghan solution, Prime Minister Gilani said despite the political opponents’ accusations of selling the country and strains in Pak-US relations, the present government took courageous stand on various issues including the Raymond Davis incident, Haqqani network and Pakistan’s sovereignty, and continued its contacts with the US through diplomatic channels with responsibility.He said Pakistan shared its concerns with the US, informed it about the resolution adopted by All Parties Conference and told it that Pakistan is not a part of the problem, but solution in Afghanistan.

The Prime Minister said Pakistan supports an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process in Afghanistan and was ready to support any effort for peace, “provided we are in the decision making and we should be part of it.”In response to another question, Gilani said, Pakistan desires good relations with all its neighbours and regional countries including Afghanistan, India, Iran, China and the Central Asian Republics, but these should be on the basis of equality and honour.

The Prime Minister recalled that after the Mumbai incident his meetings with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh led to the restoration of dialogue process between Pakistan and India. He said, “We want to discuss all issues with India including the core Kashmir dispute.”Prime Minister Gilani to a question about the country’s economic situation said global recession, war on terror, floods and energy crisis hit the economy and stalled the industrial growth.

He, however, added that despite these challenges, the country’s foreign exchange reserves were all time high at US 17.5 billion, exports stood at $ 25 billion, foreign remittances had increased and stock exchange reserves had also improved.The Prime Minister did not agree that the government’s financial managers were weak, adding, “economic indicators are better placed and we are moving in the right direction.”About energy crisis, the Prime Minister agreed that the problem can be addressed to an extent by ensuring the power generation in its full capacity, adding, circular debt which the present government has inherited was a major hurdle.

He, however, added that the government was striving to resolve the issue of circular debt and the Ministry of Finance has been directed to resolve the issue in an appropriate manner.The Prime Minister in response to a question said load shedding was done across the world. He regretted that some political forces exploited the issue and sponsored agitations.Gilani, however, added that he has directed the concerned institutions to ensure scheduled load management to ease the problems of masses.

In response to a question by a live caller, the Prime Minister said women and minorities were his constituency and the women were being empowered through various measures such as ensuring 10 per cent job quota and their financial assistance and empowerment through different tools of the Benazir Income Support Programme.Gilani also assured a caller from Hyderabad that either his one son or daughter will be given job, if he or she comes on merit.

He assured another caller that his case of job reinstatement in NADRA would be examined by his Principal Secretary.The Prime Minister told another caller that IT-educated youth would be provided with job opportunities as well as stipends, adding, he has created a special Ministry of Technical and Professional Training to facilitate the skilled youth. – APP