ISLAMABAD  Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has expressed the hope that all issues with India, including that of withdrawal of troops from Siachen and Kashmir dispute, will be resolved through talks.

“I strongly believe that better sense will prevail on both sides and we will resolve these issues through dialogue.” Addressing a seminar organised by Muslim Hands International on ‘Role of International NGOs in the Development of Pakistan’ on Monday, Gilani said the era of wars over bilateral disputes was over and now all issues were to be settled through diplomacy.

Gilnai said when his government took over the charge, relations with India, Iran and Afghanistan were not up to the mark but they started talks with all the neighbours. The prime minister said his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh has extended hand of friendship towards Pakistan and “we too want to talk” on all outstanding issues. “The talks are ongoing to withdraw troops from Siachen. All the disputes including Kashmir, Sir Creek, water, terrorism can be resolved through talks.”

The PM said despite financial constraints his government has spent unprecedented 1.5 trillion rupees on the development projects. He pointed out that besides suffering huge economic losses in the natural disasters Pakistan is facing the scourge of extremism and terrorism, which he believed could be defeated through equitable development and distribution of resources. He said Pakistan suffered a loss of about 10 billion dollars in addition to the human loss in recent floods. He said that education and development are integral to each other and Islam believes in equality and discourages concentration of resources.

The premier praised the Muslim Hands International and recognised its efforts in the areas of development, poverty reduction, education and rehabilitation of the people affected by different natural and manmade disasters. Gilnai said he will provide his own land in Multan for the construction of School of Excellence by Muslim Hands, as he also enumerated the services of his elders and family members for the promotion of education and provision of health services in the Multan, Lahore and in Murree areas.

PM Gilani said his government has so for spent Rs22 billion in the country for infrastructure of the Information Technology Education and has installed broad band service for quick access to the internet facilities. He said for rooting out the terrorism menace his government’s policies were based on 3Ds – Dialogue, Development and Deterrence, which they were using as last option.

Muslim Hands Chairman Syed Lakhte Hussanain in his welcome address said his organisation is devoted to serving those in need to help them lead a life marked by dignity and free of poverty, exploitation and oppression. MNA Noorul Haque Qadri, who is a Muslim Hands trustee, thanked the prime minister for his public welfare works. A large number of diplomats and about thirty representatives of NGOs from all over the world also attended the conference.

Later, talking to media persons after attending a ceremony organised in connection with the National Book Day, Prime Minister Gilani rejected the impression of government-judiciary rift, claiming he was having good working relations with the judiciary. He also dispelled the notion that he was under the fear that judiciary could send him behind the bars.

Defending Ali Musa Gilani in drug quota case, the prime minister said his son was innocent and he would prove it before the apex court. “Till now, the court has not summoned my son; whenever summoned, he will appear before the court,” the prime minister vowed.

Gilani said he would not take any part in the case and his son himself would prove his innocence. “I will not arrange the bail for my son if the court convicts him,” he asserted. To a question he affirmed that Ali Musa had cut short his visit to South Africa on his direction.

Earlier, addressing at the function, the prime minister said Pakistan could keep pace with the world by equipping the people with knowledge and book reading was the best way for achieving this goal.

Gilani pointed out that despite computer and internet, the importance of book has not diminished and there was need to promote the culture of book reading.

The PM announced five million rupees for National Book Foundation gave award for reading maximum books to prominent writer and journalist Ghazi Salahuddin. He also administered oath to members of the civil society, students, teachers, intellectuals and writers to devote their leisure time to reading books.

Talking to a group of journalists at PM House on Monday evening, Gilani said they were close to evolving consensus on Seraiki province and besides their coalition partners, a number of PML-N parliamentarians, Fata members and independents were also supportive of the idea.

To a question about the demands for creation of other provinces like Hazara, Gilani said the PPP was not opposed to creation of any new province but there should be consensus as it was a requirement under the 18th amendment. For example, the work on Bhasha Dam started only after the provinces reached consensus in a meeting of Council of Common Interests (CCI), he added.

Gilani said those making hue and cry over the proposed capital of Seraiki province were not serious and were playing only as spoilers. “The people of Bahawalpur are with us. My elder son was elected unopposed as MPA from Bahawalpur and my maternal family also belongs to Rahim Yar Khan.”

About local bodies’ elections, the PM said it has become a provincial matter after the passage of 18th amendment, however, the PPP government was seriously considering holding LB polls in Islamabad soon and to have a Mayor for the federal capital.

“There should be Mayor of Islamabad like in New Delhi, Dhaka and various other capitals of the world.” He said he has already taken President Asif Ali Zardari into confidence over this matter and would soon consult other political parties. Upon the suggestion that bureaucracy can oppose this idea, he remarked, “bureaucracy is my darling.”

About the size of federal cabinet, the PM said as per the 18th amendment the size of cabinet should be 11 percent of the total members of National Assembly and Senate, but he quickly added it would be applicable after the next general elections.

He said he has directed finance ministry to give top priority to energy issue with focus on addressing the electricity shortage in the next budget, besides creating 100,000 jobs for youth and providing relief to the common man and farmers.