ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said on Saturday that the air corridor for Nato supplies had never been closed, taking a plea that the cabinet had decided to suspend supplies for the US-led troops in Afghanistan through the land route only.
“The Defence Committee of the Cabinet had taken a decision to suspend supplies for Nato through land route and get the Shamsi airbase vacated. We are bound by that,” he told a group of reporters at the Prime Minister’s House.
Cameron Munter, the US Ambassador, had said recently that the Nato supplies continued to fly into Afghanistan despite closure of the border after the death of 24 soldiers in the air strike on Salala check-post on Nov 26. Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar had said subsequently the air route had been opened for food items on humanitarian grounds and that it was a temporary arrangement.
Questions were raised by legislators who wanted to know the authority who had passed such orders bypassing the parliament and the Parliamentary Committee on National Security.
The prime minister said the parliamentary committee had prepared recommendations on new terms of engagement with the United States, which would be put before a joint session of parliament after the Senate elections. He justified the delay in summoning of the joint session by saying that he wanted it through the new Senate.
In reply to a question, he said Pakistan wanted a mutually beneficial partnership with the US, but made it clear “at the same time we want to protect our national interest”.
The prime minister said the US government had dissociated itself from the resolution on Balochistan tabled in the US congress and said: “We do not want to give it importance.”
He said there was no threat to Pakistan’s territorial integrity. “We are a responsible and stable country and the nation was united to meet all challenges.”
He said the Baloch nationalist leaders were patriots and pro-Pakistan and their sacrifices should be acknowledged.
He did not give a direct reply to a question about the recent offer made by Interior Minister Rehman Malik to withdraw cases against the exiled Baloch leaders, but said their demands under the ambit of the Constitution would be met.
He said the Aghaz-i-Huqooq-i-Balochistan package was only a beginning and the government would make all efforts to resolve problems of the Baloch people and protect their rights.
Mr Gilani said he had discussed the issue of Balochistan with the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, the Inter-Services Intelligence director general, the Balochistan governor and the chief minister and would have a word with the army chief in the next couple of days.
He said the solution must be found out to the problem of missing persons and mutilated bodies found at desolated places in Balochistan. He said consultations for holding an all-party conference on Balochistan were under way.
Answering a question about his earlier statement on revealing some conspiracies, the prime minister said all conspiracies had started to expose now. He said talking about the memo issue was regarded by him as an insult to Pakistan.
NO NEW TAXES: When asked to give the government’s strategy to provide relief to the poor during its last year in power, Mr Gilani said he had directed the finance ministry not to impose any new taxes in the next budget.
He said the government was capable of resolving the major problems confronting the masses, including the energy crisis. He said 3,500MW of electricity had been added to the national grid. He said short-, medium- and long-term measures were being taken to bridge the gap between supply and demand of energy. He said the issue of circular debt had mostly been resolved and a shortfall of Rs51 billion would be met before the budget.
He said work on the Pak-Iran gas pipeline project was in progress and expressed his keen desire to materialise the memorandum of understanding signed with Qatar for the purchase of Liquefied Natural Gas.
The prime minister said the government wanted to end dependence on the International Monetary Fund.
He said the poor people would be provided relief under the Benazir Income Support Programme. He said he had directed the finance ministry to create 100,000 new jobs over the next one year.
Mr Gilani said he was ready to discuss the decisions, which were not implemented under the charter of democracy (CoD), with PML-N president Nawaz Sharif.
He said under the CoD it was decided that a party would not field its candidate on a seat vacated by a member of other party, but the PML-N contested elections on the seats vacated by Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Sardar Aseff Ahmed Ali and Azeem Daultana.
“It had also fielded a candidate against my brother. If they are doing this to look like a real opposition, let them do that,” he remarked.
Answering a question, he said he had asked the law ministry to bring new accountability law to parliament as soon as possible.
He said there were no strings attached to the passage of the 20th Amendment. He dispelled a perception that its amendment cost the exchequer Rs360 million and said the development funds had been released to ensure they did not lapse and the ongoing projects should continue.