Pakistan ready to talk to militants if they give up arms: Gilani

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Islamabad, Mar 29 (UNI) Unveiling the 100-day programme of the new government, Pakistan's new Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani today offered talks to militants if they laid down arms and stopped following the path of violence.

''We are willing to enter into dialogue with these people if they give up arms and stop following path of violence,'' he declared in a major departure to President Pervez Musharraf's policy aimed at curbing militancy through use of force.

Mr Gilani secured the unanimous approval of the National Assembly early today without a vote of confidence after the opposition said it supported him.

This was for the first time in Pakistan's history that even the opposition parties, including Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid) voted in favour of a resolution seeking confidence in Mr Gilani.

The opposition's vote in Gilani's favour came after the suave premier sought their support in the name of country's ''solidarity and integrity''.

In his address, Mr Gilani spelt out priorities of his government during the first 100 days, which focus on curbing militancy and terrorism, socio-economic upliftment, resolving the energy crisis, strengthening national institutions, eliminating VIP culture and pursuing a comprehensive foreign policy reflective of people's aspirations.

Describing terrorism and extremism as a major problem confronting Pakistan, Mr Gilani offered talks to all those following path of violence.

More than 300 people have been killed in a series of suicide attacks and bomb blasts all over Pakistan especially in the restive tribal region and the Northwestern Frontier Province since early this year.

Most of the attacks were targeted against the armed forces, which suffered a big loss when their surgeon Lieutenant General Mushtaq Baig was killed in a suicide attack in the garrison town of Rawalpindi just seven days after February 18 general elections.

The Prime Minister announced scrapping of the Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR), enforced in the tribal regions during British rule in 1901.

Majority of politicians in Pakistan believe that these laws are a major stumbling block in bringing the tribal people, into the national mainstream and giving them representation in the national and provincial assemblies. None of the Pakistani laws are currently applicable in the tribal regions and they are being governed under what most of the people call the draconian FCR.

Mr Gilani said in order to promote austerity in the country, VIP culture would be brought to an end. The ministers will not use cars beyond 1600cc and there will be no VIP counters at the national airports for Parliamentarians and members of the government.

He also announced slashing 40 per cent budget of the Prime Minister's house and said ministers from now onwards would travel by air only in economy class instead of business and first class.

He reiterated his government's resolve to restore judges deposed by Musharraf after they refused to take the fresh oath after imposition of emergency in the country on November 3.

''We will restore the judges,'' he said and recalled the government had already taken the first step.

Gilani had ordered release of detained judges on March 24 immediately after his election as leader of the house in line with the joint declaration signed by the Pakistan Peoples Party and Pakistan Muslim League(Nawaz) early this month when they agreed to form their coalition government.

Speaking about his government's foreign policy, he said it would focus on basic principle of ''live and let live''.

On the Kashmir issue, he said sacrifices rendered by our Kashmiri brothers and sisters will not go in vain.

''We will carry forward the dialogue process (with India). But the confidence building measures could be useful only when solution of the Kashmir issue becomes imminent in accordance with the wishes of Kashmiri people,'' he said.

He also vowed to further reinforce exemplary ties with China and to strengthen bonds of friendship with Afghanistan, saying that a strong and stable Afghanistan is in Pakistan's interests.


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