LAHORE - Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has said that present government is determined to root out the scourge of terrorism and a policy is being evolved with consensus at national level for coping with this challenge.

The CM expressed these views during a meeting with a delegation of European Union-led by Ms Ana Gomes, on Wednesday. Ambassador of European Union Lars Gunnar Wigemark, other members of the delegation, Provincial Ministers Khalil Tahir Sindhu, Raja Ashfaq Sarwar and concerned secretaries were present on the occasion.

Talking to the delegation, the chief minister said the country could not progress without ridding of extremism. He said Pakistan had written history by sacrificing 40,000 lives in the war against terrorism. He said all possible steps had been taken to ensure protection to the rights of minorities in Punjab and the quota of minorities in government jobs had been increased to five per cent.

“Pak army officers, jawans, police officials, citizens and politicians have sacrificed their lives in this war. Pakistan has no option except to defeat extremism and terrorism and the government is committed to overcome this problem. That is why, government is increasing the capacity building of intelligence and law enforcement agencies,” the CM added.

Shahbaz said friendly countries including European Union should fully assist Pakistan in this regard. He lamented that some forces supported extremists in the past and the Jehadis of the past had become terrorists today. He said government had gathered all stakeholders at one platform for resolving this serious issue and a national policy was being formulated with consensus so that the menace of terrorism could be rooted out forever.

Mentioning the programmes launched for women, minorities and youth in Punjab, Shahbaz informed the delegation that the youth were being empowered for providing soft term loans under self-employment scheme so that they could not only become self-reliant but also earn livelihood for their families.

“The government is pursuing a solid strategy for providing quality education to the less-privileged and talented male and female students in the province. All segments of the society will have to play their effective role for defeating terrorism and extremism,” he added.

The chief minister said due to the access to European markets and giving the status of GSP Plus to Pakistan, not only poverty would be reduced but new job opportunities would also be created and Pakistan would become prosperous. He said exports of Pakistan would increase considerably and expressed his believe that all these steps would be very effective for elimination of trends of extremism and European Union should march forward speedily in this regard.

Members of the delegation of European Union said that Punjab had made remarkable progress under the leadership of Shahbaz Sharif. They said the big difference between Punjab and other provinces was the personality of Shahbaz Sharif.

Separately, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has said that the entire nation has to be united on one platform for facing the challenges confronted by the motherland. He said that the center and four provinces would have to evolve a joint strategy to overcome terrorism, energy crisis and other problems. He said that concrete steps would have to be taken for eradication of menace of corruption, poverty and unemployment.

He was talking to a delegation of Sindh Assembly Members visiting Punjab on Wednesday. The delegation comprises members of various political parties including Pakistan People’s Party, Muttahida Quami Movement, Tehrik-e-Insaaf, Pakistan Muslim League (F) and minorities. Provincial Ministers Rana Sanaullah Khan, Raja Ashfaq Sarwar, Atta Manika, Deputy Speaker Punjab Assembly Sher Ali Gorchani and President PILDAT Ahmed Bilal Mehboob were also present on the occasion.

The chief minister said that although construction of Kala Bagh Dam is important yet Pakistan first. He said that without national consensus on Kala Bagh Dam, its construction will be against the national unity. He said that Punjab is not the elder brother but is one of four brothers, which has set a historic example of provincial harmony and brotherhood for giving Rs 11 billion of its share to other provinces for the unanimous approval of National Finance Commission which comes to Rs 55 billion in five years. Shahbaz Sharif said that Pakistan consists of four units and our joys and problems are common. Whatever resources we have, will have to be shared, he added.

 He said that Pakistan will be prosperous only if its four units, Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Kashmir will be prosperous. He said that the four provinces will have to fix priorities and take steps jointly for resolution of problems.

Welcoming the delegation to Punjab, Chief Minister Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif said that national solidarity and inter-provincial harmony will be promoted through the visits of assembly members to other provinces. It will also help in understanding the problems of each other and evolving a joint strategy for their solution, he added. He expressed the hope that the visit of the delegation of Sindh Assembly members will be very useful in this regard. The Chief Minister said that at present Pakistan is passing through a critical juncture of the history and is facing serious problems like terrorism and energy crisis. He said that new leadership has emerged at center and four provinces through democratic process and it is the need of the hour that joint efforts should be made for removing the weaknesses of democratic institutions and proper utilization of resources for resolving the problems being faced by the country. Shahbaz Sharif said that a unanimous strategy should be evolved for curbing terrorism and the process of consultation is certainly a best forum where the solution of problems can be found with discussion and mutual consultation. He said that difference of opinion is the beauty of democracy through which best and common approach emerges in democratic manner, formulates best proposals and these proposals reflects the thinking of collective minds. He said, no doubt, difference of opinion helps in evolving a national strategy for resolving problems. Replying to various questions of the delegation, the Chief Minister said that the world biggest reserve of coal exists in Thar and all energies and resources will have to be provided for benefiting from it. He said that Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif has assured all kind of assistance and cooperation to Sindh government in this regard. He said that the entire country is facing energy crisis but Punjab has been affected badly by this crisis. He stressed the need for fully benefiting the opportunities of generating energy through hydle power in Khyber PK wind in Sindh, solar energy in Punjab, energy potentials in coastal areas and Thar coal projects. Replying to a question regarding construction of Kala Bagh Dam, Shahbaz Sharif said that the stance of PML-N is clear in this regard. He said that construction of Kala Bagh Dam without national consensus will be against the national unity. He said that construction of Kala Bagh Dam is important but Pakistan first. He said that construction of Kala Bagh Dam without consensus of four provinces will be very harmful for national unity. The Chief Minister said that the maintenance of law & order is of great importance and without it, thinking about investment in the country will be wastage of time. He said that elimination of corruption is our collective and national responsibility. Talking about the metro bus service, Shahbaz Sharif said that Karachi is Pakistan’s economic and trade hub and modern transport system is the need of this gateway. He said that Punjab government is willing to provide the design of this project and technical expertise to Sindh government as a gift. He said that the living nations do not fear from difficult situations and there are a number of examples in the world that various nations faced the problems courageously and now these are considered among the developing countries of the world. The Chief Minister said that the solution of problems being faced by the country is not impossible. He said that if we work with commitment, honesty and trust, the country can be brought out of crisis and put on the road to progress. He said that Allah Almighty has bestowed us huge resources and the country can be strengthened economically by utilizing it. He said that the process of visits to various provinces by assembly members should continue in future and he himself promote this process by inviting Chief Ministers of other provinces to Punjab so that the positive message of national solidarity, interprovincial harmony and brotherhood should be conveyed inside the country as well as abroad. He said that we have to march forward by forgetting past and learning lesson from it and start new beginnings.