ISLAMABAD - Seeing no room for dictatorship in today’s Pakistan, President Asif Ali Zardari asked the new Parliament to devise an appropriate policy on punishment so that no one could dare subvert the Constitution in future. He assured his support for such policy.

Addressing the joint session of the Parliament for the record sixth consecutive time on Monday in ‘comfortable’ atmosphere, President Asif Ali Zardari hoped that the prime minister would live up to the expectation of the masses by delivering them better governance.

Congratulating newly elected Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, the president said that it was an honour for him to be the first elected civilian to oversee the transfer of power in a democratic manner.

He stressed the need to avoid confrontation and pursue “reconciliation” by setting up a ‘Truth and Reconciliation Commission’ for strengthening democracy.

“It is a cause for which Shaheed Benazir Bhutto dedicated her life ... It is a cause for which I spent 11 and a half years in prison ... It is a cause for which the prime minister suffered imprisonment and exile. Democracy has arrived. We will rise to the dream that our founding fathers had about Pakistan, if we keep aside our prejudices and egos.

“Let us renew our commitment to the principles of democracy and the rule of law. Let us vow to uphold the supremacy of the Constitution. Let no organ of the state trespass into the domain of others.”

He said that it was a matter of great satisfaction and pride that parliament purged the Constitution of undemocratic articles and the powers of the president.

He made it clear that the suspension and abrogation of the Constitution was an act of high treason. “Let no one think of subverting the Constitution. No court shall validate it.”

He said the outgoing parliament made a lasting contribution. “It made the Constitution truly democratic by restoring provincial rights and parliamentary sovereignty.”

The president said economic hardships had caused pain, power-shortage, rising militancy and extremism had compounded economic woes.

He said: “Bhasha Dam had already been launched. Work on it and other energy projects like the Thar Coal needed to be stepped up.”

President Zardari said peace and reconciliation in Balochistan must receive high priority and called for addressing the issue of missing persons. “A commission on missing persons had already been set up, which had also made some progress.”

Terming militancy, extremism and terrorism as the greatest threats to national security, the president said the nation was united against them.

He said: “There was a need to have a strong leadership to overcome the threat. We are ready to make peace with those willing to give up violence. We should also be ready to use force against those who challenge the writ of the state.”

President Zardari said the government would not allow the use of its soil for terrorist activities against any country.”We will also not allow anyone to violate our sovereignty. Our security forces and citizens have made great sacrifices in fighting militancy.”

He added: “We can fight militancy better, through dialogue and cooperation rather than doubting each other.”

He termed drone attacks a serious violation of sovereignty and international law. “They are also counterproductive and are not acceptable.”

Zardari said the partnerships with the US and Europe needed to be strengthened on the basis of mutual trust, benefit and respect for sovereignty.

The president said ‘Pakistan seeks a conducive and stable’ regional environment.

He said the relationship with China remained the cornerstone of the country’s foreign policy and was not affected by internal political changes. He also mentioned his trips to Central Asia and Turkey, which he said demonstrated the eagerness to strengthen ties with these countries.

On Afghanistan, President Zardari said Pakistan looked forward to peace and stability in Afghanistan and wished success to the Afghan-led reconciliation and reconstruction process.

He said Pakistan wanted to improve relations with its eastern neighbour and mentioned the steps been taken to liberalise trade with India.

He said Pakistan also wanted peaceful settlement of the water issue and peaceful resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir issue, in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people. “We do not want an arms race in the region. We believe in dialogue to resolve issues.”