LAHORE - Emphasising the need for better relations between Pakistan and India, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Saturday said he believes that visa restrictions between the two neighbouring states should be removed.

“We want peace with India. Conflicts along the Line of Control are not beneficial for either country,” he said while addressing the forth International Literary and Cultural Conference here at Alhamra.

On the occasion, the PM said that efforts for and collective response to national issues like economy and terrorism should not fall a victim to petty politics. He said all institutions, media and civil society would have to follow a uniform policy, play their role and refrain from politicising national issues.

Nawaz Sharif said his government would surely achieve success in resolving economic issues and eliminating terrorism, though it would take time.

The prime minister said Pakistan was maintaining cordial relations with China, Iran and other neighbouring countries, while ties with Afghanistan were improving fast. He said Pakistan also wanted better relations with India by settling all issues, including the Kashmir dispute, through dialogue.

Nawaz regretted that Pakistan bashing was still going on in India during the election campaign, as he pointed out that his own party had never resorted to India bashing during its general election campaign. Recalling his 1999 meeting with the then Indian PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, he said Vajpayee had shown resolve to settle all issues in an amicable manner.

The PM said Islam also advocates better and friendly relations with neighbours. He added that people of Bangladeshis still live in the hearts of Pakistanis.

Nawaz said Islam was being blamed for promoting terrorism and extremism, which prompted the need to effectively highlight its true face. The conference, he said, would help remove misconceptions about Islam. Presenting the real face of Islam was a great service, he added.

PM Nawaz said Islamic teachings were not based on sectarianism and religious hatred rather Islam preached unity, peace, fraternity, love, tolerance and interfaith harmony. He said the Khilafat-e-Rashida as well as Muslim rulers of Persian and Ottoman empires had promoted true Islamic culture, which not only brought about a social revolution in the Arab world but also impacted Europe and Asia, besides China and Indonesia. He said Muslim scholars and scientists were not prejudiced and they spread knowledge throughout the world.

The PM was of the view that today’s amazing technological developments owed their origin to Muslim scientists, mathematicians and scholars. Now the West was using media and information technology to propagate its culture, he added.

Nawaz Sharif said “we were lucky that Dr Allama Muhammad Iqbal was born in this part of the world”. He said, “Allama Iqbal comprehended problems of the Muslim Ummah and awakened them by highlighting the Islamic ideology and culture through his poetry and writings.” He further said that the poets and literary personalities were assets of the country, who were doing a great service by reforming the people’s mindset and behaviours.

On the occasion, the prime minister announced Rs20 million grant for the construction of a modern club for poets and literary persons. Renowned story writer Keval Dheer presented his book to the prime minister. The PM and Lahore Arts Council Chairman Attaul Haq also exchanged shields.

Earlier, Attaul Haq Qasmi presented the welcome address while Justice (r) Javed Iqbal, Dr Ali Bayat from Iran, Ibrahim Muhammad Ibrahim Al-Misri from Egypt, Dr Abdul Wahid from Bangladesh, Prof Locasword from Germany, Editor Daily Times of India King Sukh Naz and Dr Naumanul Haq spoke on the topic ‘Bright Face of Muslim Culture: Its Past, Present and Future.’ A large number of poets, scholars, dramatists, artists, critics and literary personalities attended in the session.