QUETTA, Sept 1: Defending his government’s initiative of holding talks with Israel at the level of foreign ministers, President General Pervaiz Musharraf said here on Thursday that Thursday’s meeting in Istanbul had the support of Palestinian President Mohammad Abbas and Saudi King Abdullh bin Abdulaziz. He said that in his opinion, significant progress was under way in efforts to resolve the Palestinian issue, adding that Pakistan would have to play a role in promoting an early settlement of this longstanding conflict that was the root-cause of terrorism in the Middle East and affected the entire world.

Addressing a gathering of tribal elders, politicians, lawyers and councillors at the Governor’s House, he said that Kashmir and Palestine were two main causes of extremism and terrorism in the world. “Kashmir issue is affecting Pakistan, while the entire world is being affected by the Palestine conflict,” he said.

The president said that Pakistan needed to review its policy keeping in view the global political environment and should contribute to efforts for an early solution of the Palestine issue.

He said the dismantling of two Jewish settlements by Israel was a good beginning, indicating progress towards a solution. He said his address to the World Jewish Congress on its invitation would be the first by a Muslim leader at that forum. Nobody should be annoyed by it, he said, adding that he would take up the Palestine issue at the Jewish Congress and would present the cause of the people of Palestine who had been suffering for 50 years.

President Musharraf said he had discussed with King Abdullah and President Mehmood Abbas the issue of talks with Israel and both the leaders expressed their support. They asked him to go ahead and said that Pakistan should play its role in resolving the Palestine conflict. He said they had also informed him about the progress made in this regard.

He said that Pakistan should take advantage of the situation and if it could play any role in this regard it should review its policy and make changes in it according to the changes taking place in the world. “Pakistan should take steps in the right direction along with the peace process under way for resolving the Palestine issue,” General Musharraf said. Otherwise, Pakistan would be left behind other countries. He also said that Pakistani delegations would be welcomed in Gaza, Al Quds and Masjid Al Aqsa.

However, the president said Pakistan would not recognize Israel without the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. After the establishment of the state, Pakistan will study the situation.

Referring to the Kashmir issue, he said that considerable headway had been made by Pakistan and India in resolving the dispute. He said that during his meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New York he would discuss the Kashmir issue.

He said he had a plan which he would put forth during the meeting. He expressed the hope that a solution acceptable to Pakistan, India and Kashmiri people would be found soon.

Settlement of Kashmir, he said, would usher in an era of peace in the region and help the cause of progress and development in both the countries and benefit trade, tourism and other sectors.

He said that extremism and terrorism were two major problems being faced by Pakistan and his government was making all possible efforts to eliminate the menace which was giving a bad name to Pakistan.

About Balochistan’s development, the president said that federal and provincial governments were taking steps to develop the province and bring it on a par with other developed provinces.

The president rejected apprehensions that with the development of the Gwadar port city, people from other parts of the country would occupy the place and would get all the benefits of the port.

No-one would be allowed to grab land in Gwadar, he said and added that people should not pay heed to misleading reports.

He said he wanted the Gwadar port to be better than Port Qasim because it would be an international port. He said that several countries, including Afghanistan, Central Asian states, Iran and China wanted the development of Gwadar as an international port.

He said that efforts were under way to link Gwadar with Turbat, Awaran, Ratto-Dero and then with the RCD highway and Indus highway. For this purpose, he said, he had set a target of construction of 900 kilometres of roads by June 2006.

The president also spoke about progress on other mega-projects in Balochistan, including Mirani Dam, Subkzai Dam and Kachhi canal and said that these projects would bring about an economic transformation in the province and improvement in the standard of living of its people.

Amanullah Kasi adds:

President Musharraf has said the government’s two-pronged policy of launching mega-projects and enhancing the ratio of representation of Balochistan youths in the armed forces would go a long way in ending the sense of deprivation in the province.

Speaking at the passing-out parade of the 40th batch of recruits of the Frontier Corps Balochistan, the president announced that the number of Baloch youths would be increased from eight to 20 per cent in the organization by inducting 10,000 more youths.

He also said that 423 Baloch officers and 10,000 jawans were at present serving in the Pakistan army and efforts would be made to increase their number in the armed forces.

President Musharraf pledged that development needs of Balochistan would be met and resources would be provided to end the sense of deprivation among the people of the province.

He said the government had taken effective measures to ensure maintenance of law and order to implement the ongoing development projects and called upon the people to support the government’s policy of curbing extremism and terrorism.

The president praised the role played by the Frontier Corps in protecting the western borders, ensuring safety of vital national assets, combating terrorism and maintaining law and order in the province.

He said the agency was also providing security to foreign experts working on development projects, besides promoting education and health facilities.

Provincial Governor Owais Ahmed Ghani, Punjab Governor Lt-Gen (retd) Khalid Maqbool, Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Muhammad Yousuf, federal minister Aftab Ahmed Sherpao and senior government and military officials attended the ceremony.

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