Islamabad, Sept.20 : Launching what can be termed a public broadside against the Bush Administration, President Asif Ali Zardari on Saturday said that no country would be allowed to violate territorial integrity of Pakistan in the name of curbing terrorism.
Addressing his maiden Joint Parliamentary session here, Zardari touched on all issues of national importance as well as the challenges facing the country, including the war against terrorism, regional situation, economic downturn, foreign policy and the relations with the neighboring countries.
"My dream is to free this great country from the shackles of poverty, hunger, terrorism and disunity. At all times, we must keep our national interest in mind. This means understanding the limits of confrontation," he said. About the menace of terrorism and extremism, he said: "We must root out terrorism and extremism wherever and whenever they may rear their ugly heads."
"Reforming the tribal areas and bringing them into the mainstream of national life can no longer be delayed, he said and added they must be treated at par with the rest of their Pakistani brethren," he added.
The President also spoke of the government's three-pronged strategy to meet the challenge posed by the extremist and terrorist elements in the Tribal Areas and the adjoining regions.
He said the strategy comprises: firstly to make peace with those who are willing to keep the peace and renounce violence; secondly to invest in the development and social uplift of the local people.
The use force will only be a last resort against those who refuse to surrender their arms, take the law into their hands, challenge the writ of the Government and attack security forces, he added.
Zardari said a heavy national agenda challenges the government, and efforts were on to move quickly "to heal the wounds of the past and restore the trust in the federation."
He said successive blows have weakened the federation, which needs to be strengthened.
"For this, the bitterness of the past must give way to reconciliation and harmony. I believe that the 1973 Constitution is the only consensus document that can fashion such a social contract," he added.
Zardari urged the parliament to form an all parties committee to remove distortions in the Constitution and 'revisit' the 17th Amendment and Article 58(2) B.
"Never before in the history of this country has a President stood here and given away his powers," Zardari said.
He said it was the responsibility of the elected representatives to remove these distortions in the Constitution made by the successive dictators to prolong their rule.
The President asked the government to start consensus-building process on provincial autonomy and the allocation of resources through a new formula that meets the needs of a united federation.
Referring to the past excesses against Baloch people, Zardari said tendering an apology to the people of Balochistan was a long overdue step.
The release from captivity of former Chief Minister Balochistan is also a positive move, he said adding the resolution recently, of a longstanding dispute and payment of billions of rupees to Balochistan is a step in the right direction.
"But much more needs to be done", he stressed.
Similarly, the President said the people of the Northern Areas must also get their basic rights, representative rule and an independent judiciary.
"We believe in the independence of the judiciary and all matters concerning the judiciary shall be resolved in accordance with the constitution and law", he added.
President Zardari said his address to the joint session of the Parliament, in less than two weeks after his election as President indicated that the coalition holds the parliament in the highest esteem.
It also shows that the government accords the highest priority to the fulfillment of its obligations under the Constitution and law, he added.
"Under dictatorship, the Parliament was stripped of its powers, and not given due respect."
He regretted that despite the constitutional requirement the head of the state in the last eight years only once addressed the joint sitting of the parliament.
President Zardari assured the legislators that parliament would never be bypassed in matters of national importance.
"The days of constitutional deviation and bypassing the Parliament while taking decisions of national importance are over."
He made it clear that the President and the government must always seek guidance from the Parliament in carrying out their duties.
"We are committed to upholding the sanctity of the Constitution, supremacy of the Parliament, and, rule of law.
"The cardinal principle of our governance is respect for the mandate of the people as manifested in the February 18 elections."
The President said he would request the government to hold a national security briefing for an in-camera joint session of Parliament, so that all stakeholders have ownership of this policy.
"Let everyone have an opportunity to make an informed judgment about the risks to our beloved country and about how we should move forward with responsibility and clarity of vision."