Islamabad: Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf on Tuesday cited "Indian adventures on the Line of Control" and a wave of terrorist attacks as examples of security challenges faced by Pakistan as it moves toward a general election, which is expected to be held in May.

"Recent Indian adventures on the Line of Control and a wave of terrorist attacks in the country amidst political flux ahead of national elections point towards the magnitude, scale and enormity of the challenges faced by the country," Ashraf said.

Addressing participants of a course on "national security and war" at the National Defence University, the Premier said Pakistan had "initiated a composite dialogue process with India to resolve all issues, including the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir."

He did not go into details of recent ceasefire violations along the LoC. Ashraf said his government is "fully aware of the criticality of the situation and is taking all possible measures to maintain stability, national cohesion and preserve national interests."

Several ceasefire violations were reported along the LoC this month. They were the worst violations of the ceasefire put in place in 2003. Two Indian soldiers were killed while Pakistan claimed three of its soldiers died in the incidents.

The Directors General of Military Operations of both sides recently discussed the issue. The Pakistan Premier said there was "national consensus on fighting and eliminating extremism and terrorism which threaten not only our national security but also our way of life."

"We will not allow terrorists and extremists to subdue our will or frighten us. Terrorism has changed our lifestyles. Though the people of Pakistan, its law enforcement agencies, particularly the armed forces, have rendered unprecedented the fight against terrorism, yet the international clamour to do more refuses to die," he added. Ashraf contended that Pakistan was at a "defining moment in our history" as his elected government was "completing its tenure despite challenges and the nation is poised for general elections."

He said his government had pursued a policy of "strategic patience, toleration and reconciliation to lay a foundation for a sustainable and stable political system."

Ashraf said, "The forces of doom and gloom thrive in an environment of chaos, uncertainty and instability. We need to guard against all such forces who are out to derail the system so assiduously put in place after a protracted struggle."

His remarks were an apparent reference to a protest launched last week by cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri, who had demanded the ouster of the government and sweeping electoral reforms.

Qadri ended his protest after signing a face-saving agreement with a group of government negotiators. The Premier said his government was committed to "free, fair and transparent elections which will be held on time and conducted under the supervision of an independent Election Commission."

Political parties had accused Qadri of acting at the behest of the military and the security establishment to delay the polls, which are expected to be held in May, and to prolong the term of an interim set-up that will be formed once Ashraf's government completes its term in March.

Ashraf said a "legitimate elected government which enjoys the mandate of the people is best suited to resolve the problems" facing Pakistan. The country's "peculiar challenges" can be tackled effectively by developing home-grown solutions, he said.

Pakistan also supports an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process for achieving intra-Afghan consensus, he said. A peaceful and economically developed Afghanistan is vital for Pakistan's own stability, he added.


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