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PM to convene APC on Balochistan soon

By Bushra Makhdoom

ISLAMABAD – Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani Wednesday said the government would soon convene an All Parties Conference (APC) to discuss and address the issues of Balochistan, particularly the law and order situation, through collective wisdom.

"There is a law and order situation in Balochistan, which has to be addressed. We are also talking with the coalition partners in this respect," Gilani said in an interaction with senior newspaper editors here at the Prime Minister House. The Prime Minister also mentioned the present government's initiative of "Aghaz-e-Haqooq-Balochistan" to remove the sense of deprivation of the people of that province, adding, however, the law and order situation in Balochistan also overshadowed the initiative.

To a question, the Prime Minister termed the unanimous approval of the 20th Constitutional Amendment by the National Assembly as a historic milestone and said all political parties deserve the credit for it. He said the 20th Constitutional Amendment would ensure free, fair and transparent elections in the country. When asked as if the government would talk to the political parties outside the parliament on 20th Amendment, the Prime Minister said, "We are ready to talk to everyone."

To another question, the Prime Minister said the new budget for the fiscal year 2012-13, to be presented in May, would be pro- poor and record relief would be given to the common man. The decision to present budget in the month of May was taken during the last year's budget debate, so that the Parliament could get enough time to debate the budget proposals before its passage from the National Assembly and Senate, he added. To a question about the possibility of elections in 2012, Gilani said since article 58-2b was no more part of the Constitution, it is now the Prime Minister's prerogative to call the elections.

"One cannot rule out early elections, but I cannot commit", the Prime Minister said. He, however, added, the decision in this respect would be taken in consultation with the coalition partners. To a question about Pak-Iran gas pipeline, the Prime Minister said, the Pak-Iran gas pipeline project was very much on the cards. A high level meeting under the Chairmanship of Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani on Wednesday reviewed progress on hydel power projects in Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan with a view to accelerate their process of completion to meet energy requirements of the people.

During the meeting held at Prime Minister House, the Prime Minister directed that the action plan should be implemented by the relevant ministries, adding that the projects below the capacity of 50 MW should be completed on top priority.

The Prime Minister directed Secretary, Ministry of Water and Power to get Skardu and Gilgit connected with the national grid, which would smoothen the supply of electricity to a great deal.

Chairman WAPDA Shakil Durrani apprised the meeting that the connectivity of Skardu and Gilgit with the National Grid would be completed with an estimated foreign funding of $ 100 million from the French Agency for Development.

Chief Secretary Gilgit-Baltistan said that there were 108 projects in Gilgit with 137 MW generation capacity and their completion would be effected by 2016 with an estimated cost of Rs 137 billion.

The Secretary Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit Baltistan stated during his presentation that there were seven ongoing projects in AJK which would produce 11 MW of electricity and the projects would be completed by the end of this year.

He said that the Federal Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) included three projects of hydel power generation which would be completed with an estimated cost of Rs 9.9 billion by 2016 and would produce 55 MW of power.

The Secretary further pointed out that the private sector has taken up two power projects, at Bong "Mirpur" and Pathrand (Muzaffarabad) which would produce 231 MW of electricity.

He further pointed out that there was very encouraging response from the investors on seven projects and the government was proactively undertaking the projects at the earliest.

Earlier, in his opening statement, Mian Manzoor Ahmad Wattoo, Minister for Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit Baltistan congratulated the Prime Minister and his leadership on the unanimous passage of the 20th constitutional amendment yesterday which would have positive effects on the democratic dispensation of the country.

The unanimous enactment of the amendment had indeed raised the status of the politicians in the real sense, he said.

Advisor to Prime Minister on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Minister for Water & Power Syed Naveed Qamar, Minister for Kashmir Affairs & GB Mian Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo, Chief Minister GB Syed Mehdi Shah, Secretary M/o Water & Power, Secretary EAD, Secretary Kashmir Affairs & GB, Chief Secretary GB, Chairman WAPDA and other senior officials were also present in the meeting. NNI

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