In his first address to the nation after taking over as Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif on Monday took on the power crisis and the challenges of terrorism and said he was for good ties with India. Instead of indulging in fruitless wars, the two countries should fight against poverty, ignorance and disease, he said.
Mr. Sharif, in a televised address which lasted for nearly an hour, said Kashmir was the “jugular vein” of Pakistan. He said India and Pakistan should sit together and tackle this issue. He reiterated that he wanted good relations with all his neighbouring countries including India.
Speaking about the problems in his country, Mr. Sharif admitted that the situation is far worse than he thought it was. The country was facing a serious threat of terrorism putting its very survival at stake. He dwelt on the twin challenges of the power crisis and terrorism for the most part of his speech apart from rampant corruption. He said institutions like the PIA or the railways or other public sector undertakings were all on the verge of collapse and had sustained losses of 500 billion Pakistani rupees . There was corruption of over 2500 billion Pakistani rupees in the last five years which could have helped built better infrastructure in the country. The national debt rose from 3000 billion rupees to 14,500 billion rupees in 14 years and the country would need to borrow more money to pay back debts failing which it faced bankruptcy.
He gave details on the corruption in the power sector, the cost overruns in projects and poor planning. He said the government had injected 480 billion rupees to clear circular debt and infuse dynamism into the sector thereby adding 1700 Mw. He also took a tough stand on power thefts and said the focus was now on increasing production of electricity with new projects.
Terrorism had claimed over 40,000 victims, he said, pointing out that that the country fell short in stopping terror strikes or identifying and punishing the culprits. Pakistan cannot sustain this situation which he said smacked of incompetence and insensitivity. “Its time we called a space a spade,” Mr Sharif said, adding that the system had shown its inability and incompetence to tackle it.
He also wondered why no concrete steps were taken to stop this bloodshed and the death of innocents. “All Pakistanis are like my children and I want to end the game of bloodshed,” he proclaimed. Those who arrest the culprits are often intimidated. “I cannot bury my children with my own hands everyday,” he said.
He said he wanted an early end to terrorism and was willing to consider more than one option whether negotiation or use of state authority.
He called for a bold review of the foreign policy and also examine what the country had lost or gained. He also called for a review of policy towards Afghanistan. The country needed to give up the mindset that the entire world was its enemy. He also said the situation in Balochistan cannot be ignored anymore.