27 September 2013 Pakistan now has a strong Parliament, independent judiciary, free media and a vibrant civil society, Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif told the General Assembly today, but added that his country will not become complacent, for democracy “needs constant vigilance, strong institutions and careful nurturing.”
“We cannot lower our guard. It is not promises, but good governance that sustains democracy,” the Prime Minister said, noting that he and his supporters stood firmly committed to democracy during his long years of exile. “My Government has put people at the centre. I am pursing an inclusive approach for the entire nation.”
The Government is starting an “economic revolution” so that Pakistan can play its role as an emerging market. “We have all the fundamentals and human and natural resources for such a transformation. In the immediate future, our challenge is to overcome a volatile security environment, correct structural imbalances in the economy and bring an end to energy shortage our economy has been denied the opportunity to grow fully,” he said.
One of the most urgent security challenges is terrorism, Mr. Sharif said, telling the Assembly that he has tried to forge national consensus on a cohesive policy to eliminate terrorism from the country. For that purpose, he convened an all Parties Conference, which delivered a unanimous repudiation of the scourge.
“We are resolved to oppose the forces of terrorism, by all means at our disposal. At the same time, we have offered dialogue to end violence, wean young extremists off extremism, and integrate all segments of our society into the national mainstream,” he said, adding that winning hearts and minds, particularly of the youth, is as important as using guns to deter terrorism. “But dialogue should not be seen as a sign of weakness or a tool of appeasement.”
He went on to express his Government’s deep sorrow at the recent terrorist attack on the members of a minority community in Peshawar. The “heinous attack” united the entire nation in support of members of all faiths. “This attack has further strengthened my Government's resolve to deal with terrorism and extremism in a resolute and comprehensive manner,” he declared.
Like all the leaders attending this session of the Assembly’s annual General Debate, Mr. Sharif touched on a range of issues of nation and global importance, including sustainable development, economic and social progress and regional integration.
He noted that Pakistan is prone to natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods. It has therefore launched a 10-year national disaster risk reduction policy. “Adopting a proactive and anticipatory approach, we lay special emphasis on risk assessment, prevention, mitigation and preparedness,” he said expressing the hope that in future, humanitarian assistance will supplement national efforts and resources to prevent natural disasters.
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