WASHINGTON, Oct 3: Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali on Friday vowed to pursue a negotiated settlement of Pakistan’s disputes with India.
“We should not let our pride or ego prevent us from pursuing a dialogue with India,” the prime minister told a questioner following his address at a gathering of Pakistani community here. He was asked that many Pakistanis felt insulted when they saw India rebuffing Pakistan’s attempts to resume talks.
“I will appeal to you not to get emotional. Ego and pride should not be employed to conduct foreign policies. Our efforts for a dialogue will continue,” said Mr Jamali amid applause.
When someone from the audience suggested that frequent quarrelling in the National Assembly was giving politicians a bad name, Mr Jamali said parliament had done some legislation as well and added that over a dozen bills had been presented during the last 10 months.
“Democracy is strong. Issues of fundamental importance are being discussed. Parliament is going to stay. Maybe things are not moving as smoothly as they should have, but all is not lost either,” he assured the audience.
The opposition, he said, had a strong presence in the assembly and it was making its presence felt.
The prime minister praised President Gen Pervez Musharraf for handing over power to an elected government without any compulsion.
In the past, he said, governments tried to undo the policies of previous governments. “But we decided to stop this practice. These are not the policies of Jamali or Musharraf. These are Pakistan’s policies and what is in national interest must continue.”
Referring indirectly to former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, he said they should not issue statements that hurt Pakistan’s interests.
He also urged Pakistanis living abroad not to establish branches of Pakistani political parties in their host countries. “Pakistan’s politics should be done within the boundaries of Pakistan, not abroad,” he stressed.
Recalling his meeting with US President George W. Bush earlier this week, Mr Jamali said he had also raised the issue of Pakistani immigrants in the United States.
“President Bush said it’s a vibrant community. I said the (Pakistani) community has high expectations from you and he assured me that things will improve,” said Mr Jamali.
Responding to a suggestion from a student that the government was not doing enough to help Pakistani nationals in the United States, who had been living in fear since 9/11, the prime minister said the issue had been raised with the US officials at various levels.
“Yes, I was duty bound to discuss this issue with President Bush. But every country has its own internal policy and so does the United States.”
Mr Jamali praised Pakistani-Americans for the contribution they were making to Pakistan’s economy. “Before 9/11, Pakistanis living in the Middle East were sending more remittances than any other community. Now you are number one,” he said.
Referring to Pakistan’s relations with the US, he said: “There are two things you can expect from a friend: respect and time. During a short span of eight days, President Bush welcomed both the president and the prime minister of Pakistan despite his busy schedule. He also expressed great respect for the contribution Pakistan is making in war against terrorism.”
In reply to a question, he said Pakistan was doing what it could to help in the reconstruction of Afghanistan.
When a Sikh guest suggested that Pakistan should have a clear policy for helping those Sikhs who were facing Indian oppression, Mr Jamali politely avoided being dragged into an issue that would have started another controversy with India. “I have heard your views and I respect them, but I am not in a position to make any commitment,” he said.
The prime minister invited a Pakistani student, who said he had a plan for finding jobs for Pakistani professionals in America, to meet him separately.