ISLAMABAD: President General Pervez Musharraf said Friday that Pakistan stands for peaceful settlement of all issues with India including the core issue of Kashmir. He said Islamabad is ready to enter into a dialogue with New Delhi and desires sincerity in this commitment.
"We seek peaceful resolution of all disputes and differences especially the core dispute over Jammu and Kashmir. We desire sincerity in this commitment. We on our part will demonstrate all our seriousness," he stated at a banquet he hosted in honour of Prince Karim Aga Khan, the spiritual head of Ismaili community.
Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali also attended the banquet held at the Aiwan-e-Sadr. Chairman Senate, speaker National Assembly, federal ministers, chairman Joints Chiefs of Staff Committee, services chiefs, senior civil and military officers and notables of the Ismaili community attended the banquet.
President Musharraf said in his speech that Pakistan has made consistent overtures for a better climate of relations with India. Mistrust and confrontation is much to the detriment of progress and prosperity of more than one fifth of humanity that populates South Asia, he underlined.
"We desire tension-free and cooperative relations with India. We stand ready to enter into a dialogue anytime, anywhere." President Pervez Musharraf said Pakistan shall make all efforts to confront extremism.
The Government, he said, is confident about the measures that have been introduced to wipe out the scourge of terrorism and extremism. "We intend to fulfill the ideals of our founding fathers of building a forward-looking and progressive Pakistan. Islam enjoins peaceful coexistence and protection of the weak and needy. "We shall leave no stone unturned in confronting extremism and placing Pakistan on a dynamic course to meet the challenges of the 21st century."
In this endeavour, he said, Pakistan seeks peaceful coexistence and harmony with the entire world and particularly with its neighbours. Referring to Afghanistan, he said no country has more to gain from the return of normalcy in that country than Pakistan. "We seek a relationship of trust and confidence with Afghanistan. We have an interest in more than three million Afghan refugees on our soil returning to their homeland.
"We have much to gain and indeed to contribute as regards commercial links with Central Asia which can be facilitated by viable and secure land routes through Afghanistan." Pakistan welcomed the formation of broad-based, multi-ethnic Afghan interim government under President Hamid Karzai and is engaged with it.
"We hope that the international community's commitment for Afghanistan's reconstruction is for the long-term because Afghanistan, destroyed by war and civil strife, needs all the assistance it can get to rebuild and strengthen itself."
Despite its meagre resources, he said, Pakistan has been in the forefront of assisting Afghanistan with one hundred million dollars as outright grant. President Pervez Musharraf told Aga Khan that social development was top priority of the Government.
For too long we have ignored our basic needs in education, health and other important sectors much to our own peril, he said. The president said Pakistan has little chance for development if the basic needs of the people are neglected.
"We believe in wide consultation between all elements involved in the development process to arrive at the best possible strategy for the advancement of our people." He said the progress of the relatively less-developed areas of Pakistan is also receiving our due attention.
"We are cognizant of the special needs of the people living in these areas. The Northern Areas and Chitral are good examples where the Government, through additional allocation of funds is working towards the basic needs of the people and improvement in infrastructure.
"We have enhanced the local component of the Annual Development Programme for the Northern Areas and have earmarked additional amounts under poverty alleviation schemes. " The Aga Khan Development Network is a valuable partner and a catalytic participant in our development programmes, he noted.
Musharraf expressed the confidence that as the Government's economic reform programme reaches fruition, its results in the transformation of the national economy will become more and more visible. He said the government wants to usher in an investment-friendly environment in Pakistan and a vibrant export sector.
"We have laid considerable emphasis on poverty alleviation programmes and the agriculture sector. The measures initiated by us have yielded solid results. There is now greater confidence in Pakistan's future."
The president said he has fulfilled his commitment to return to democracy within the stipulated timeframe. Elections to the National and Provincial assemblies were held in keeping with our roadmap. The promise of introducing democracy at the grassroots has also been fulfilled and local representatives, with unprecedented participation of women and minorities are engaged in programmes for the common welfare of our people, he added.
Recalling the contribution of the Aga Khan family to the Pakistan Movement, the president said the spirit continues in Aga Khan's personal involvement in the social and economic betterment of the Pakistani people. Musharraf noted that Aga Khan Development Network is renowned for its commendable work in philanthropic ventures, economic development, health, education, culture, architecture, tourism promotion and many other spheres.
Prince Karim Aga Khan, in his speech, said Pakistan is his second home and assured of his commitment to stand by its leadership in the achievement of goals set by it. Referring to the recent difficult times for the Muslim countries, Aga Khan appreciated the Pakistani leadership for having "the strength to take decisions on intractable problems". He praised the courage, knowledge and competence of Pakistani leaders. He expressed his gratitude for the hospitality extended to him during the visit.