Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, quickly fulfilling her promise to undo the excesses of her predecessor, announced a program Saturday to release hundreds of political prisoners.
Bhutto, in her first news conference since assuming office Friday, also said she wants veteran statesman Sahabzada Yaqub Khan to continue as foreign minister. Khan is a former ambassador to Washington who played a major role in the Soviet troop pullout from Afghanistan.On other issues, she pledged a crackdown on the widespread production of narcotics in Pakistan, a matter of U.S. concern. Pakistan is part of the so-called Golden Crescent, which supplies heroin to Europe and the United States.
The new National Assembly, elected on Nov. 16, later held its first full session where the delegates will vote for a speaker of the chamber.
Bhutto's remarks reflected her inauguration day promises to "heal the wounds and undo the damage" of the 11-year iron-fisted rule of Gen. Zia ul-Haq, who died in a plane crash in August.
"During the dictatorship there was a brutalization of society," she said Saturday. "So we intend to promote the ideas of peace, tolerance, brotherhood, harmony and dignity."
Under an eight-point program, several hundred political prisoners detained by Zia's military government will be freed, and all death sentences will be commuted to life imprisonment, Bhutto annouced.
The cases of prisoners convicted by military courts also will be reviewed, she said.
The prime minister said she hoped Foreign Minister Khan would continue in office, even though he is a member of the Islamic Democratic Alliance, which will sit in opposition.
Bhutto, 35, promised "continuity" in Islamabad's Afghan policy, which is based on support for Moslem rebels fighting Soviet troops and the Moscow-backed Kabul government, but pledged to seek better relations with Moscow.
She also said she will continue efforts to improve ties with archrival India and said she was looking forward to meeting Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi at a summit of South Asian nations in Islamabad later this month.
"I hope we can find a way to reduce tensions," Bhutto said. She termed "regrettable" an incident on Wednesday in which two Pakistani Embassy personnel in New Delhi were expelled for alleged espionage, but said she hoped "this episode will be put in the past."
Bhutto was sworn into office Friday by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan, who nominated her a day earlier to be the youngest prime minister of Pakistan, which has been under military rule for more than two-thirds of its 41-year history.