ISLAMABAD – Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has said that army leadership is serious about solving the Balochistan problem and his government will do whatever possible to resolve the issue remaining in the constitutional limits.

Talking to media men here at Prime Minister’s House Friday evening, he hinted at creating around one hundred thousand job opportunities in the country and announced that his government would present tax-free next budget.

Gilani brushed aside the impression of threat to country’s solidarity, saying that Pakistan’s defence was in safe hands. He said that he had raised the Balochistan issue in his recent meetings with the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee as well as the ISI director general and he would talk about it to Army Chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani. Responding to a question, he acknowledged the sacrifices rendered by the Baloch people for the country and said that PPP leaders were consulting all the stakeholders on calling an All-Party Conference (APC) and if they agreed the government would call the moot of national leadership. Otherwise, the PPP by itself would take steps to satisfy the Baloch leadership, he added.

Premier Gilani said that he would soon be meeting with Balochistan governor and chief minister to have their input on the matter and to evolve a strategy to engage the stakeholders in the province in the dialogue process to help normalise the situation in the restive province. The Baloch, he said, sacrificed for Pakistan and they are loyal to the country as much as the people from other parts of the country.

Expressing his commitment on the issue, he said the government has already initiated Aghaz-i-Haqqoq-i-Balochistan programme which was a first step to giving the rights of the people of the province. “Though it is a small step, the government is committed to ensure the basic rights to the people of the province… It is our responsibility as the federal government and my responsibility as prime minister of the country to address the grievances of the people of Balochistan as they are very much committed to integrity, solidarity, progress and prosperity of the country.”

About the resolution in the United States House of Representatives on Balochistan, he said, it had already been clarified by the US government that it has nothing to do with the government policy.

Avoiding a question about the foreign elements’ role in the Balochistan unrest, Gilani said he had a detailed briefing from the security officials on the subject and once again expressed his government’s commitment to take concrete steps to address grievances of the Baloch.

To a question about the appeal he extended to Afghan warring groups for reconciliation, the prime minister said that Pakistan believed that a politically stable Afghanistan is in the interest of Pakistan and that was the reason he had appealed all the warring groups to join the intra-Afghan peace efforts.

Replying to a question about the joint session of the parliament to decide the fate of Nato supplies and redefine Pak-US relations, the PM said that they would be summoning the joint session after the March 2 Senate elections so that the new senators could be engaged in the process of consultation on this important issue. He however, added that Pakistan is having good bilateral ties with the United States but the final word on resumption of the Nato supplies via Pakistan would be taken by the parliament.

To a question about the ‘Defah-i- Pakistan Council’ which is opposing resuming of Nato supplies, Gilani said its leaders were not popular among the masses. He however said the decision on the Nato supply will be taken in the best national interest and not on the demand or under pressure from any group. He said they had also decided to cut the supply in national interest and they did not consulted DPC leaders at that time.

To another question, he said that it was the opposition which had violated the Charter of Democracy (CoD) by fielding their candidates on the seats which were previously held by the PPP MPs and cited the cases of seats vacated by Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Sardar Asseff Ahmad Ali.

He denied making any bargain for the passage of the 20th amendment and said that it was actually the outcome of the policy of reconciliation and consensus being pursued by the PPP led coalition government.

About granting of Most Favoured Nation (MNF) status to India, Prime Minister Gilani said trade with India was in favour of both the states and read an excerpt from the Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s speech supporting trade with India. He further said that ministry of trade was working out plan so that a favourable balance of trade with India could be created.

To a question about the possible fallout of the Contempt of Court hearing against him, Gilani said it was not a rocket science as he would either be a ‘Shaheed or Ghazi’.

Regarding the shortage of power and gas, the prime minister said the government has been taking a number of steps to overcome the shortages.

He said the present government has added 3,500MW electricity to the national grid and a large number of new connections have been given to the people. He said government was taking concrete steps to resolve the gas shortage and was committed to utilise all available options including early completion of Pak-Iran gas pipeline project and import of gas from Qatar.

He said when he announced to adopt 3D (Dialogue, Development, and Deterrence) policy the international community did not like it but now they have also adopted this policy.

On the issue of Seraiki province, PM said that he was committed to fulfil the demands of the people of southern Punjab as their grievances were grave.

He denied any under-hand deal by the PIA in purchase of the new aircraft, saying it was approved by its Board of Directors and PEPRA rules were not applicable at this stage.

Answering a question about Khuram Rasool, who is being investigated for corruption charges, the prime minister said these charges against Khuram relate to a time prior to his assuming the office of adviser to PM.