Parliament still under attack, says Zardari
ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari said on Sunday that some people might feel that parliament was still under assault from certain quarters, but these were teething troubles of a genuine democratic transition and “the dying kicks of the old order”.
Addressing the inaugural ceremony of a three-day conference of the Association of Saarc Speakers and Parliamentarians, he spoke about democratic transition in the region and said democracy was a prerequisite for economic development and political stability.
Strong parliaments played a crucial role in ushering in reforms and ensuring efficiency and transparency of the governing structure, he said.
He urged parliamentarians of Saarc countries to address common problems and future challenges and said: “Pakistan seeks support of Saarc countries against illegal drugs and in the fight against terrorism and militancy.
“The regional countries should join hands to fight the menace of extremism and terrorism. No country has suffered so much from it as Pakistan. We have lost more than 40,000 innocent lives in addition to Rs80 billion in economic terms.”
The president stressed the need for addressing the issue of drug trafficking which, he said, was serving as a source of finance for militancy. He said heroin had been developed by the international community as a war weapon against the rival ideology in the region. The weapon of war has still not been dismantled. “Together we must dismantle this war weapon.”
He said Saarc parliaments should plan and lead efforts for resolving complex issues by protecting political liberties, human freedoms and the rule of law to promote regional peace and security.
“Pakistan is committed to the Saarc Charter and believes that durable peace in the region is in the interest of all,” he said.
Emphasising the need for greater people-to-people contacts among countries in the region, he said dialogue among Saarc parliamentarians would have a long-lasting and positive impact on the situation and help achieve the ideals of peace and stability.
He said the parliaments had to come up with a strategy to ensure food security for the region.
“There are serious challenges in the way but there are also great opportunities and together we need to face the common challenges.”
President Zardari said the cultural affinity among the peoples of the region was a huge asset along with shared geography and history.
INDIAN SPEAKER: The event also provided an opportunity to Pakistan and India to improve their relations and Indian Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar called on the president later in the day and discussed several issues of common interest.
The president said Pakistan was committed to a constructive, sustained and result-oriented process of engagement with India and reiterated his call for the two countries to make determined efforts for friendly, cooperative and good neighbourly relations. He expressed satisfaction that the resumed dialogue between the two countries was progressing.
He said Pakistan was keen to promote greater interaction between parliamentarians of the two countries and noted that high-level visits had significantly improved the atmosphere.
“Finding amicable and just solutions to all outstanding issues is important for Pakistan and India to ensure lasting peace and stability in the region.”
According to the Indian High Commission, Ms Kumar reiterated her country’s desire to build a relationship of good neighbourliness and all-round cooperation with Pakistan and expressed satisfaction at the recent positive developments in bilateral relations.