President, Asif Ali Zardari in meeting with the business community from South Punjab at PM House in Multan on Sunday, April 15, 2012.             —PPI Images

MULTAN: President Asif Ali Zardari said on Sunday that he would advise the federal government to set up a Seraiki bank and asked businessmen and entrepreneurs to submit a proposal within a week.

During a meeting with the business community of southern Punjab, the president said the proposed bank would address financial problems of businessmen of southern Punjab.

He said the banks had been manipulated for political purposes in the past but his government was determined to ensure a financial system without political interference.

Talking to a delegation of the Pakistan Cotton Ginners Association, President Zardari said the government was trying to overcome electricity and gas crises and expressed the hope that positive results would be achieved by June 30.

He assured the ginners that the government would remove all hurdles in cotton export and would take steps to increase foreign exchange earnings.

Addressing a press conference, the president categorically said the government had no intention of abolishing the death penalty because it was part of the Constitution.

He said the companies which had invested in the energy sector because of government efforts were forced to wind up their projects owing to false allegations of corruption.

Mr Zardari said allegations levelled by former president Farooq Leghari and Ehtesab Bureau chief Saifur Rehman against the Benazir government were now being levelled against the present government.

Without naming the PML-N leaders, the president said they were organising protests against electricity loadshedding in their strongholds.

He said Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was facing criticism because he had taken up the cause of Seraiki province.

He said powers were transferred to the provinces because the policies pursued by the centre did not yield results.

“The capacity of provinces will be increased through evolution and eventually they will be able to deliver,” he said.

He said he was the first president to surrender powers willingly and after that Nawaz Sharif called him to say that it was unbelievable that he had surrendered his powers.

Mr Zardari said he had spoken in favour of the Seraiki province because giving identity to the nationalities was in accordance with the Constitution and PPP manifesto.

Replying to a question about the water dispute with India, he said although his visit to India was a private one, first issue that he raised with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was that of water.

Talking to a delegation of intellectuals, President Zardari said that giving identity to nationalities was essential because denying it caused a sense of deprivation.

He said Bengalis were denied their rights and their identity and as a result they adopted a course which even the army could not reverse.“We are not doing politics on the issue of Seraiki province. It concerns stability and integrity of the country,” he said.

He said poverty and non-development in the area engendered terrorism and a delay in creating Seraiki province will strengthen extremism in the region.

He said the people of Seraiki belt had turned against Takht-i-Lahore and they want their own identity and province and the PPP would give them their rights.

He said the PPP had no agreement with the PML-Q that the new province would consist of only three divisions of southern Punjab. He said other Seraiki districts would also be included in the province according to people’s wishes.

APP adds: The president also met a delegation of ulema and mashaikhs and called upon them to work for religious harmony and assist the government in preventing the youths from falling into the trap of militants.

He called upon them to highlight the real message of Islam which preached peace, harmony and tolerance.

Mr Zardari said limited job opportunities and poverty in the area encouraged militants and extremists to mislead the youths and use their talent for their nefarious objectives.

The ulema and mashaikhs assured the president of full support to the government in the war against militancy and in its efforts to wean the youths away from extremism.

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