ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf on Tuesday extended dialogue offer to all political parties and said democracy took firm footing in the country during the last four years of the incumbent government, as it achieved significant targets in economic and social sectors.

“The government led by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) is following the reconciliatory policy envisioned by late Benazir Bhutto,” Raja asserted, adding that the government sought consultation on all issues, including the formation of caretaker government and it had invited all political stakeholders for the purpose. He hoped that all political parties and their leaders would support the government in pursuit of their national obligation.

Addressing the flag-hoisting ceremony at Jinnah Convention Centre held in connection with the Independence Day, the prime minister extended an offer of dialogue to all political parties for reconciliation.

He said the opposition had an important role in any democratic system. “We are taking the opposition into confidence (for the next general elections), and for this we have taken a start from the consensus appointment of chief election commissioner,” said Raja.

“We want impartial and transparent elections so the transfer of power takes place in a democratic way, which would be a big success for the continuity of democracy in the country.”

He expressed hope that all political parties would fully participate in the next general elections and play their role for the continuation of democracy.

The prime minister expressed the resolve to transform Pakistan into a truly welfare state and said the survival and resolution of the country’s problems lied in the continuation of the democratic setup.

He said Pakistan was carved out after a great democratic movement which moved on the entire world that democracy was in the blood of Muslims.

He asked India to ‘avoid delaying tactics’ while working for the resolution of the Kashmir issue. “We hope that India, while respecting the UN Resolutions, will avoid delaying tactics in giving the right to self-determination to Kashmiris,” Raja added.

The premier reiterated Pakistan’s stance that the Kashmir issue should be resolved in line with UN Resolutions and the aspirations of the Kashmiris.

“We will continue political, diplomatic and moral support to the people of Kashmir.”

At the same time, he said, Pakistan wanted good and cordial relations with India for the sake of peace and prosperity in the region.

“Pakistan desires to resolve all disputes, including the Kashmir issue, through understanding and dialogue.”

“In our view, talks are the best way of resolving issues. We have started trade relations with India so that both countries are benefited from each other’s comparative advantage,” he said.

Describing the normalisation of trade relations as an ‘important breakthrough’, the prime minister said this measure had cleared the way for durable friendship between the people of the two countries.

Raja dwelt at length on the country’s foreign policy, including relations with key powers like China and the US, with whom Pakistan is working to restore bilateral ties to an even keel following a string of crises like the unilateral military raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad last year.

“We want to maintain our ties with the US and the European Union states on the basis of mutual respect. Due to our sincere efforts, Pakistan’s relations with the US and EU states are heading in a positive direction,” he said.

“We have impressed upon the US that Pakistan will not compromise on its sovereignty and integrity and it considers drone attacks interference in its sovereignty. We prefer trade over aid,” Raja made it clear.

The people’s representatives had been included in shaping foreign policy for the first time so that the government’s actions reflected the aspirations of the people, the prime minister reminded the audience.

The decision to reopen supply lines to Afghanistan after a seven-month blockade due to a NATO air strike was made in accordance with Parliament’s recommendations, he pointed out.

The prime minister explained that his government did not want to cause uncertainty among NATO countries, which include Islamic countries, and that there was a fear of damage to the war against terrorism in Afghanistan due to the closure of the supply routes.

“Pakistan’s decision to reopen the supply routes will promote national interests, improve relations with the NATO and prove helpful in increasing resistance against terrorism,” he added.

The premier further said Pakistan now preferred signed agreements instead of verbal ones with the US and had recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the transit of NATO supplies through Pakistani soil.

On the issue of Afghanistan, Raja said: “We stand shoulder to shoulder with our Afghan brothers at every critical juncture and are playing the role of a flag-bearer in efforts to maintain peace in Afghanistan.”

Pakistan desired a durable solution to the Afghan issue that has the full backing of the Afghan people, he added.

“Pakistan’s peace and stability is linked with peace and stability in Afghanistan and it is in the common interest of both countries to resolve the Afghan issue as early as possible and in a peaceful way,” he said.

Ashraf described China as a close and trustful friend and said the relations between the two countries were an important pillar of Pakistan’s foreign policy.

Elaborating on his stance over terrorism, the prime minister noted it was a menace and the government was resolved to eradicate it from the country.

Balochistan issue, he observed, was a result of past governments’ mistakes, adding that the people of this province were patriot and the government would recompense their deprivations.

Raja said, “We want good relations with all the institutions including the judiciary.”

He expressed the confidence that all the state institutions will work within their constitutional domain.