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Misuse of freedom of expression also extremism: PM

VIENTIANE  – Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf said on Monday that misuse of freedom of expression was also a kind of extremism, urging the world to discourage it.

Addressing the Asia Europe Meeting Summit (ASEM-9) here, the prime minister said that hate mongering should be shunned by all as he stressed the need for greater inter-religion harmony for a peaceful world.

The prime minister said that Pakistan has rendered great sacrifices in war against terrorism which must be acknowledged. The Afghanistan war has affected the entire region, which could not bear any further frictions and tensions, he added.

The PM said that ASEM provided a platform for interaction between Asia and Europe and added that Pakistan has always played a positive role in the ASEM. He said that Asia was rich of resources and both the continents could benefit from each others’ experiences. Talking to President of European Council, Van Rompuy, who met him on the sidelines of the summit, PM Raja said that Pakistan attaches great importance to its relations with European Union (EU).

The EC president briefed the prime minister about the efforts being made by the EU to grant trade concessions to Pakistan. Appreciating these efforts, the prime minister said these concessions would help strengthen the economy. Recalling the visit of Lady Austin to Pakistan in June, Rompuy said that the EU and Pakistan are like-minded and EU desires better relations with Pakistan.

PM Raja Pervaiz informed the EC president about efforts made by Pakistan for improvement of relations with India and Afghanistan. He said both Pakistan and India have taken initiatives to improve ties and resumed the composite dialogue process which entails negotiations on all outstanding issues with India. Talking about Afghanistan, the prime minister said, “We share long border with it and desire peace in Afghanistan.”

The PM said Pakistan is a frontline state in the war against terror and has suffered both in men and material. He expressed his resolve that Pakistan would continue its fight till this menace is rooted out. The EC president said that the European Union admires the sacrifices made by Pakistan in fighting terrorism and it would continue its strategic dialogue with Pakistan.

Highlighting efforts made by the government to improve human rights situation, the prime minister said that human rights constitutes an important part of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) manifesto. “We have taken several measures to improve human rights situation in the country including improvement of the women lot and protection of rights of minorities.”

Rompuy said, “We admire you and your party for the sacrifices made for democracy in the country. We share values which make our relations lasting.” The PM also briefed the EC president on the steps taken by the government to ensure free, fair and impartial elections in the country and expressed the hope that EU would send its observers to monitor the forthcoming general elections. Separately, in a meeting with Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf Pakistan attaches importance to its relations with Sweden. He said trade concessions granted by the EU have favourably impacted on the trade figures of Pakistan.

The prime minister emphasised that Pakistan is a frontline state in war against terrorism. “If the challenge of terrorism is big, our resolve is no less. We have no other option but to win the war,” said the prime minister. He expressed the confidence that Pakistan would succeed in rooting-out terrorism with the support of its people and cooperation of international community.

Foreign Minister Carl Bildt appreciated the role of Pakistan and the sacrifices rendered by it in the fight against terrorism. He said Sweden has an abiding interest in South Asian region and added Afghanistan would be recipient of the biggest financial assistance from Sweden even after the withdrawal of international troops from there.

The PM told the foreign minister that his government was committed to holding free, fair and impartial general elections and considers it a sacred duty for strengthening democracy and democratic institutions in Pakistan. The Swedish foreign minister hailed the completion of tenure by any elected government in Pakistan and termed it a landmark achievement.

Also on Monday, in meeting with Malaysian Prime Minister Dato Sri Mohammad Najib Bin Tun Abdul Razak, Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf said that Pakistan and Malaysia enjoy close brotherly and cordial relations which are rooted in faith, culture and traditions.

Raja said Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the two countries has resulted in increase of trade: however, there still existed more scope of improvement. He said Pakistan is in a position to meet the manpower requirement of Malaysia. He appreciated Malaysian support to Pakistan for Full Dialogue Partner Status with ASEAN.

Malaysian prime minister said he had fond memories of his visit to Pakistan as Minister for Defence and that he looks forward to visiting Pakistan. He appreciated the efforts made by government of Pakistan for promoting stability in the country.

PM Raja Pervaiz also met with Laos Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong and appreciated the arrangements made for Asia-Europe Meeting Summit (ASEM-9). He said the excellent arrangements made by Laos for the summit speaks volume of capability of people and government of Laos.

He said the volume of bilateral trade is low and it has a great potential for improvement. He expressed the hope that the negotiations on Preferential Trade Agreement between the two countries are progressing well which will boost trade and economic ties. He thanked the government of Laos for its support to Pakistan for Full Dialogue Partner Status in ASEAN and extended an invitation to Laos prime minister to visit Pakistan. The Laos PM expressed the hope investors from Pakistan would be encouraged to invest in Laos.

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