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December 7, 2018

US agreed with PTI’s stance on Afghanistan for first time: PM

Top Story

December 7, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday said he was happy that the United States had for the first time agreed with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) that there could not be a military solution to the Afghanistan issue.

Addressing the federal cabinet meeting, the prime minister also referred to his meeting with US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad. "Khalilzad was sent by the US President Donald Trump to discuss the Afghan peace process and I am happy that I met him," he maintained.

"I am also happy that for the first time the US has recognised what I and my party have been saying for the past 15 years that there cannot be a military solution to the Afghan war," he noted.

"The US wants our help to establish peace in Afghanistan and I always believed that instead of 'do more', we should play a role in the Afghan peace process. We will try our best to establish peace in Afghanistan through dialogue. We were treated as if we were being given funds to fight someone else’s war,” he contended.

About the ongoing war in Yemen, he said that he had spoken to Saudi Arabia and Iran’s foreign ministers on establishing peace in Yemen. “The Iranian foreign minister urged us to play a role to bring an end to the Yemen war,” he noted.

The prime minister said Pakistan was also in touch with the Saudi and Iranian leadership to bring peace to Yemen by bringing all the partiesconcerned to the negotiating table.

He said that during his recent visit to Saudi Arabia, he discussed the Yemen issue with the Saudi leadership and received very positive response. He said Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif also paid a visit to Islamabad and discussed modalities for the Yemen peace process. The prime minister said Pakistan will continue to play a mediatory role for peace in Yemen to ultimately bring lasting peace and stability to the region.

Regarding the recent much-discussed ground-breaking of the Kartarpur Corridor, Imran said, “Unfortunately, India portrayed it as we are seeking political advantage, which was not the case. During my swearing-in ceremony when Navjot Singh Sidhu visited, we had discussed this already."

Imran Khan said no one should indulge in politics on such purely religious and public interest issues for seeking any political mileage, regretting that the Indian government was trying to politicise the Kartarpur initiative, whereas the Sikh community all around the world had warmly welcomed Pakistan's move. He emphasised that he was happy that the government pressed for the opening of the corridor and added if someone's religious sites were in Pakistan, then we should facilitate them. “We are not doing anything new, these things were part of our manifesto," he pointed out.

Expressing happiness over the response from the Sikh community on this development, the prime minister said, "Kartarpur is for them what Medina is for us. We are hopeful that India will also respond positively."

“We have taken a landmark initiative to inaugurate the Kartarpur Corridor to facilitate the Sikh pilgrims to visit their sacred religious places in Pakistan. It is the PTI's manifesto to facilitate followers of all religions including Sikhism, Hinduism and Buddhism to visit their religious places in Pakistan,” he said.

Regarding the state of economy, he acknowledged the fact that the PTI government’s economic team performed in difficult circumstances and it won’t be changed. “I want to give special credit to the ministries of finance, commerce and planning,” he said. The premier said investment was coming in Pakistan but opponents wanted to portray as if the country was in crisis, questioning how investment could have come in the crisis situation.

"Suzuki, Pepsi, Coke and Exxon have decided to invest millions of dollars in the country. A school will be opened for the transfer of technology and training to our people and credit for all this goes to our economic team. Our economic team created an environment favourable for investment even in difficult times. Investments lead the country towards progress," he said.

The prime minister said that despite the difficulties and challenges, various multinational companies had pledged to invest in Pakistan.

"Let me name a few of the companies that are planning to invest here. Suzuki's chairman promised an investment worth $450 million, Coca-Cola Company will invest $500 million and PepsiCo will invest $400 million," he explained.

"Exxon, which is the largest gas drilling company in the world, has come back to Pakistan after 27 years. They are immediately investing $200 million in the country and they are saying that by next summer, they expect to know exactly how many offshore gas reserves we have," he noted.

He said Pakistan’s was now an emerging economy. “We are also inviting renowned international companies to explore minerals, particularly oil and gas in offshore areas,” he said.

Meanwhile, during a briefing on the cabinet meeting decisions, special assistant to PM on Media Iftikhar Durrani said the cabinet decided to refer back the proposed new status to Gilgit-Baltistan for more consultations, as previously, all the stakeholders were not duly consulted.

The forum, he noted, also approved export of 1.1 million metric tons of sugar while the provinces would decide on the issue of subsidy. The Economic Coordination Council (ECC) had already taken a decision on export of the commodity. He added the government wanted to make sure that the growers’ interests were protected. The adviser said the cabinet approved Rs25. 5 billion subsidy on gas tariff to export industries, based in Punjab, including leather, textile, sports and surgical items so that these industries could export their items. He said the decision was made in line with the government’s policy and commitment of industrialisation and boosting exports.

The decision of the ECC to give 40,000 metric tons wheat to Afghanistan was endorsed and could now be exported. The cabinet approved the Rights for Disabled Persons Act for Islamabad. Moreover, it also okayed rules for the appointment of the chairman of the Evacuee Trust, who previously had massive discretionary powers, which gave way to mismanagement and corruption and there was so much concern about the Trust. Now the chairman could be formally hired with limited discretionary powers to put a check on misuse of such powers, enabling him to effectively use his authority and perform better.

In the post-devolution period, the Economic Affairs Division had a number of functions, which had been referred to the concerned line divisions.

The cabinet also approved reconstitution of the board of trustees of the Karachi Port Trust and appointment of chairman Port Qasim Authority, besides according approval to appointment of the members of the Law and Justice Commission. Moreover, the cabinet approved an agreement between the anti-narcotics forces of Pakistan and Canada.

It was decided to issue Rs50 coin in connection with the International Anti-Corruption Day to be observed on December 09.

Durrani noted the cabinet had 15 meetings so far and had taken 188 decisions, of which 98 had been implemented while the remaining 90 were being implemented. On the contrary, the previous, government, he said, had held seven meetings of its cabinet during its first 100 days, and took 45 decisions and it was like a family limited party government.

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