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Sharif Urges Pakistan, India to Join Hands Against Poverty, Illiteracy

  • Ayaz Gul

People watch Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif addressing the nation, at an electronic shop in Karachi, Aug. 19, 2013.

People watch Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif addressing the nation, at an electronic shop in Karachi, Aug. 19, 2013.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif says that instead of wasting resources on “useless” military confrontations, Pakistan and India should join hands to wage a war against poverty and illiteracy plaguing their region.

He made the conciliatory gesture in a nationally televised speech Monday night, amid heightened military tensions between the nuclear armed countries along their disputed Kashmir border.

Addressing the Pakistani nation for the first time since taking office in June, Prime Minister Sharif called for establishing “friendly relations” with India, saying he has made it a priority for achieving durable regional peace.

"Leadership on both sides should be well aware that past wars have put India and Pakistan behind for decades. "Both the countries should now realize they need to wage a meaningful war against poverty, ignorance and diseases rather than wasting their energies on fruitless military conflicts," said Sharif.

Tensions between India and Pakistan have been running high along their disputed border in Kashmir since early this month, when five Indian soldiers were ambushed and killed in a remote district. The incident outraged Indian authorities who blame Pakistani troops for carrying out the violence.

Pakistan denies any involvement and in turn accuses Indian troops of opening “unprovoked” fire across the Kashmir line of control. It has reported the deaths of two people, including a Pakistani soldier, and claims Indian fire also has wounded more than a dozen civilians.

The divided Himalayan region is blamed for two of the three wars India and Pakistan have fought since gaining independence from Britain in 1947. The territorial dispute brought them to the brink of a third conflict in 1999.

In his Monday night speech, Prime Minister Sharif also discussed his government’s plans to tackle Islamist militants waging a bloody insurgency in northwestern districts of Pakistan. He stated that his offer of mutual consultation and reconciliation to stabilize the country is not limited to political parties only.

"In order to end the violence, I would like to take a step further and invite those elements for dialogue who have unfortunately taken the path of extremism.” Sharif did not rule out the use of force in future.

Sharif said that like every Pakistani, he wants “an early end to this bloodshed, whether it is through the process of dialogue or heavy use of the state force.”

The Pakistani military has launched major offensives against suspected hideouts of local Taliban insurgents in the country’s militant dominated northwestern tribal region bordering Afghanistan. The militants have responded by carrying out suicide and other deadly terrorist attacks across the country, killing thousands of Pakistanis in recent years.
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