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PM Nawaz promises light at end of the tunnel

20 August, 2013

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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday stopped short of unveiling specific policies designed to tackle the nation's enormous budget deficit, solve a crippling energy crisis or clamp down on extremists and separatist rebels.

In his first televised address to the nation since assuming office, the prime minister said he did not want to keep people in dark about the fact that despite paying huge circular debt, tackling power pilferage and taking administrative measures, complete elimination of energy crisis was not possible any soon.

To achieve this goal, he said, resources of power production would have to be augmented. And getting new power production resources immediately is not possible, he added.

"Three to four years are needed for the establishment of coal-fired power producing units while hydro-power projects require eight to 10 years."

The prime minister – whose PML-N won the May 11 elections on the basis of its promise to end power cuts – said he hoped the menace of load shedding would be over during tenure of his government.

Highlighting the steps taken by the government to tackle energy crisis, he said that despite the country's poor fiscal situation, the government had paid a huge amount of Rs 480 billion in the circular debt, which led to the addition of around 1,700 megawatts of electricity to the national grid.

He said the government has also initiated an effective campaign against power and gas pilferers.

During his around an hour-long address, aired live on all radio and television channels, Nawaz touched upon all vital subjects, including terrorism, foreign affairs, situation in Balochistan, floods, health, education and the heavy burden of loans hampering the progress of the country.

Nawaz also called for dialogue with extremists to end bloodshed that has left thousands dead in the country in more than a decade of violence.

"Wisdom demands that we follow a path where we minimise the loss of innocent lives," he said.

He said he was expanding on his original offer after the elections of inviting all political parties to discuss together how best to resolve Pakistan's security and economic woes.

"This policy of reconciliation is not confined to political parties. I take a step forward and invite for dialogue all those elements who have unfortunately adopted the path of extremism."

But Nawaz said dialogue was not the only option.

"I want an end to terrorism whether it is through dialogue and reconciliation, or through full use of force," he added. He blamed the government, security services and the judiciary for failing to crack down on terrorism, but stopped short of naming names or of unveiling any new policies to check the violence.

"The time has come when we should admit that our administrative institutions, our agencies and our system of justice have failed to appear competent in dealing with the challenge of terrorism," said Nawaz.

"The nation is justified to know why concrete steps were not taken to stop the bloodshed and destruction."

In addition to militancy, he said the government would help Balochistan deal with a separatist insurgency waged by ethnic Baloch fighters.

Nawaz did not address recent tensions with India along the Line of Control, but said that both countries had to work together to overcome social ills.

"The wars they fought pushed them back to the past. The two countries should realise they have to wage a meaningful war against hunger and poverty instead of indulging in armed conflict."

End.

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