The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Shaukat Aziz, has
played a very positive role in improving Pakistan's image abroad and
promoting country's economic interest during a week-long visit to
Belgium and Davos, Switzerland. He interacted with world leaders,
addressed press conferences, participated in panel discussions and met
chief executives of the multinational corporations.
The Minister focused on Pakistan's foreign policy
objectives with commitment to world peace efforts and economic
ambitions. On the situation in South Asia, the premier gave special
reference to Kashmir issue. According to reports, the Prime Minister
succeeded in projecting a new image of Pakistan as a modern and moderate
Islamic nation working for global peace and good relations with its
Shaukat Aziz left Pakistan for Brussels on Monday and
on a four-day visit he had heavy schedule of engagements. He began
Tuesday by giving interviews to Belgium leading French language
newspapers and a telephonic interview to Wall Street Journal. He then
began his meeting with various officials of the European Union (EU). He
first met Peter Mandelson, EU Commissioner for Trade. Later in the
afternoon, he held talks with EU Secretary General Javier Solana at the
European Council Secretariat.
His next engagement was a meeting with President of
European Parliament Josep Borrel Fontelles at the Parliament building.
Later in the evening, the Prime Minister addressed members of Pakistani
community at Hotel Conard. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Aziz attended a
breakfast meeting hosted by Wallon Export Agency with the collaboration
of Belgium business community. He then had a meeting with members of
European Parliament's All Parties Group on Kashmir which was followed by
meeting with Kashmiri delegation. This was followed by his meeting with
Belgian counterpart Guy Verhofstadt. Later, the Pakistani Prime Minister
held talks with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. His next
engagement was with Mayor of Brussels, Freedy Thiemans at the City Town
The highlights of Prime Minister's visit was his
address on the "Dynamics of Pakistan's Foreign Policy in the New
World Order" at the prestigious Royal Institute for International
The Prime Minister wrapped up his day's engagements
by attending a dinner hosted by Federation of Enterprises of Belgium.
The Pakistani premier left for the Swiss resort of Davos in the morning
of January 27 (Thursday).
At the end of intensive visit to Brussels, Shaukat
Aziz in an interview with local daily correspondent in Brussels said
that his contacts with key European Union, Belgian and Nato officials
were part of a drive to reposition Pakistan in Europe. "The more
exposure we get, the better it is. We repositioned Pakistan as a country
which is enlightened, moderate, working very hard to improve the lot of
its people and doing well but not short of challenges," Shaukat
The focus in discussions had been on a range of
issues, including Pakistan's role in the world of tomorrow as a major
Islamic country located at the crossroads of South Asia, China and the
Middle East. "That struck a cord with many," he underlined.
One sign of Pakistan's improved profile in Europe was that senior EU
officials had asked Pakistan to "help bridge any gaps which may
exits" in contacts on nuclear issues between the EU and Iran, he
"We have projected ourselves as an anchor for
peace and stability in the region. As a peaceful and moderate country
which wants to do better and can play a moderating role in our
region," Shaukat Aziz underlined. His hosts were inevitably
interested in Islamabad's relations with its neighbours, especially
India. "The composite dialogue is moving ahead," the premier
said, adding that while India's Baglihar dam project had created
"some complications, we are hoping that this will resolve itself
through dialogue. It is not the end of the world," "Luckily it
is governed by a treaty which provides for dispute resolution. We now
leave it to the experts to decide."
Relations with Afghanistan had figured on the agenda
with EU officials praising Pakistan's 'responsible' role in helping
organize 'seamless' presidential elections in the country, he said,
adding: "Our role and conduct in the presidential elections is very
The prime minister said he had also underscored
Pakistan's global commitment to fight terrorism and insisted that
"we do also urged EU governments to address the root causes of
extremism. "This is a complex issue solving Kashmir and the
Palestinian question will help." "There is a broader view of
this which is that we have to reduce the feeling of deprivation and
hopelessness and create a sense of hope in people," Shaukat said.
"The West has a major responsibility. They need to open their minds
too," he said, adding that stereotyped views of Muslims must be
replaced by a realistic look at Islam and Muslims countries.
Shaukat Aziz said his preliminary contacts with Nato
Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer had been useful in view of the
alliance military presence in Afghanistan.
His message to businessmen in Europe was that
"Pakistan is an open economy. You can come and sell your goods. You
can build factories there, you decide what makes sense for your
On Thursday, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz left for
Davos (Switzerland) to attend the annual meeting of World Economic Forum
(WEF). The WEF meeting this year has assumed special importance as it
has taken place at a time when the global economic and trade environment
is moving towards greater liberalization. This conference provided the
opportunity to a large number of political and corporate leaders to
exchange views on the possibilities of economic cooperation that might
be lying ahead.
In the past few years, WEF has become an important
occasion where the prospects of the world economy are discussed and the
corporate world usually takes this opportunity to assess when and where
it would be useful and profitable to make fresh investments. Seen in
this perspective, the forum has acquired special significance for
countries like Pakistan, which are focusing their attention on a
accelerating economic progress.
Following a busy schedule in Davos, the premier met
with various groups of participants on the sidelines of the forum, and
has rightly emphasized upon good governance, conflict resolution and
resource mobilization as some of the key factors for economic progress.
He observed that a sustained process of reform could bring about a
change for the betterment in Asia.
During his various meetings in Davos, the prime
minister said that Pakistan was entering a new phase of economic
development and growth. He said that it was expanding its ties with
neighbouring countries to ensure regional peace. Pakistan government is
committed to peace and progress. It is putting in place policies that
will enable the private sector to take investment initiatives. "The
government itself is concentrating on building infrastructure to
facilitate investment inflows. Trade diversification is equally
Speaking at a panel discussion on "Modernization
without Westernization", the Prime Minister urged the developed
countries to provide generous assistance to the developing countries to
overcome the problem of poverty and ignorance. Other panelists were
Prime Minister of Egypt Ahmad Mohamoud Nazif, Deputy Prime Minister of
Malaysia Nabib Abdul Razak and Vice President of Iran Ms Masoumeh
The Prime Minister regretted that there are
misperceptions about Islam. He pointed out that there are many societies
with a minority of people expressing their views violently. However, in
the wake of 9/11 events only Islam became a target of propaganda. He
said an extreme behavior is not restricted to one border or one region.
Shaukat Aziz urged the international community to look at the root
causes that lead people to extreme tendencies. He said apart from
addressing the issue of misperception created by media and the root
causes of extremism, there is also a need to focus on economic growth
and prosperity to contain such tendencies. The problem of terrorism is
not only ideological but also has economic dimensions, he added.
Addressing a gathering at a breakfast meeting hosted
in his honour by Ikramul Majeed Seghal of the Karachi-based Pathfinder
Group on the sidelines of World Economic Forum on Friday morning, the
Prime Minister said there was a greater responsibility on the West to
assist the poor Muslim countries in socioeconomic fields if it had to
tackle the issue of terrorism in a comprehensive manner.
He said although no society is exempted from extreme
behaviour, there is a need to focus on economic growth and prosperity to
counter such tendencies. Prime Minister said terrorism has also links
with the Middle East issue and unless the Palestine problem was settled
amicably, the region would continue to remain in the bloodbath.
"Pakistan is undergoing through a political
process and we need to have a strong leadership to oversee the economic
development and put the country back on the road of progress and
prosperity," he said.
The Prime Minister explained various measures taken
by Pakistan for peaceful relations with India and said the composite
dialogue will receive further impetus when he meets his Indian
counterpart Dr Manmohan Singh in Dhaka during the SAARC summit next
Domestically, Aziz said the government was
concentrating on three pillars on activities including restructuring of
national economy to make it more vibrant and buoyant, credible political
process and improving internal and external security environment.
"The journey is far from over but we are determined to stay on
course," he remarked, adding since last five years the country has
moved out of morass and looks ahead with full energy and vibrancy.
Addressing Asian editors on the sidelines of World
Economic Forum, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said that strong, stable and
vibrant Afghanistan is important for Pakistan and for ensuring peace in
the region. The editors belonged to Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Japan, India,
Philippines and Vietnam. The Prime Minister spoke about the role of
Pakistan in the reconstruction of Afghanistan and its support for the
restoration of peace and stability in the land-locked country.
On Iran, he said it was another important neighbour
of Pakistan and he is visiting that country next month for talks with
the Iranian leadership on bilateral issues including the proposed gas
pipeline project. He said Pakistan has offered "energy
corridor" to Iran and other neighbouring countries to help promote
peace and stability in the region.
Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said Pakistan's textile
sector is fully prepared to meet the challenges of the quota free world
and promised to pursue privatization and structural reforms. He said the
sector is set to benefit from the new arrangement. Pakistan's strategic
location makes it an ideal destination for investment and the government
makes no discrimination between local and foreign investors, he added.
Explaining in detail Pakistan's economic policies and
achievements, he said Pakistan is set to achieve the growth rate of
seven percent this year, its foreign exchange reserves are comfortable
and exports are going up. He said Pakistan wants to live in peace with
all its neighbours including India.
The Prime Minister declared that Pakistan wants to
settle all its disputes with India including Jammu and Kashmir through
peaceful means. He, however, cautioned that progress on the issue of
Jammu and Kashmir and other matters like trade and investment would have
to be in tandem.
The visit of the Prime Minister to Belgium, EU
headquarters in Brussels and the conference at Davos was both important
and significant. The results of these visits should be visible soon.