ISLAMABAD - Directly linking the destiny and future of the country to democracy, Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf on Friday reiterated his government's commitment to hold free, fair and transparent elections and a smooth transfer of power to the next government.

Addressing a function at the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) Auditorium to distribute financial assistance among the deserving people, the prime minister made it clear that being the true democrats, they believed in the power of masses and coming into power through ballot instead of using backchannels.

"Holding fair, free and impartial elections is the main objective before the government, for which it has been taking all possible steps and the appointment of unanimously acceptable chief election commissioner (CEC) is a first step in this direction," Raja emphatically said.

He said the directly elected representatives by the people through a fair process of elections could strengthen the democratic process and the institutions of the country.

He noted the country was heading towards fresh general elections and referred to the unanimous appointment of CEC and some of the other measures being taken to ensure transparent elections so that the voice of the masses could truly reflected in the process.

Raja said the politicians should present themselves in the court of masses, who had the final authority to elect anyone who then would have the power to rule the country and there should be no confusion at any level in this regard. The prime minister expressed the resolve of the government to hold fair, free and impartial elections as the government had firm believed that decision to elect the future rulers should be done by the registered voters of the country and there should be no ambiguity over the issue. "We are not against anyone and will go to the court of the masses to seek fresh mandate," he vowed.

The prime minister said the BISP had been providing help and financial assistance to the deserving purely on merit and beyond any political affiliation.

"The welfare programme of BISP is above the politics and the deserving are being provided assistance on merit alone which has also be recognized at international level."

He said the initiative was now a role model for the rest of the world as a number of countries had approached to the BISP officials to start similar projects in their countries, recognising the success of the programme in Pakistan.

Appreciating the dedication, commitment and impartial dealing of the staff of BISP headed by Farzana Raja, the prime minister said it had become one of the most successful programme initiated by the present government, adding that the vision and philosophy behind the BISP was to help those living below poverty line and help them to stand on their feet with the starting of small projects of their own.

Raja further said many welfare programmes were initiated by the past governments but these could not continue due to various reasons, as he expressed the hope that the BISP would be able to sustain as it was based purely on merit. "I can say that the BISP is a fair and judicious programme serving the purpose to help the needy."

The prime minister, who came to the function after presiding over a meeting on Balochistan, said resolving the problem of the province was a top priority of the government.

“Balochistan is the future of Pakistan and finding a resolution to this province is the most important factor for the government,” he added.

The Prime Minister said more than 50 per cent population of Balochistan was getting benefit from the BISP, while over one million people were the beneficiaries in FATA, adding that the numbers would be increased after the completion of poverty survey in September this year.

The prime minister said the BISP should be projected properly through media as a soft image of the country because the merit-based polices of the programme had been recognized all over the world.

He said more than six million families are getting benefit from the BISP that included cash grant, insurance, waseela-e-sehhat, education and other basic needs of life.

Raja said a new programme of providing education to over three million students would be started by the BISP in collaboration with Britain and other countries which would help bring revolution in the country.

Later, the prime minister distributed certificate of Waseela-e-Rozgar, life insurance certificates and Benazir Debt Card among the selected groups of deserving people.

Democracy best way forward: Raja