Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz was on a week-long tour
of South East Asian countries to further strengthen bilateral ties,
attract investment, muster support for ASEAN membership and for
consolidation of strategic Vision East Asia which envisages forging
multidimensional coordination and cooperation amongst the East Asian
The countries included in the Prime Minister's
whirlwind tour were including Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, Thailand and
The Prime Minister after accomplishing a meaningful
and result-oriented visit to Malaysia and Brunei, left for Thailand.
Before leaving Pakistan to four-nation tour, the PM
presided over an important pre-budget meeting and finalized the outlines
of the coming budget (2004-05), inaugurated the International Ulema
Conference on Population and Development, he addressed the 5th
Ministerial Conference for South Asian women in Islamabad, and addressed
two public meetings at Depalpur and Okara and had a meeting with ruling
party President Ch. Shujat Hussain and discussed the political situation
in the country. He also called on the President before leaving for
Malaysia and exchanged views about his visit to four Asian countries.
Pakistan and Malaysia have agreed on a number of measures to boost trade
and economic relations.
Following their comprehensive talks covering all
facets of bilateral relations, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and his
Malaysian counterpart, Abdullah Ahmad Badawai said in Kula Lumpur that
the two countries would hopefully sign the Free Trade Agreement by the
close of the year. Malaysia has also agreed to support Pakistan's bid to
seek full dialogue partnership with ASEAN.
Recent developments clearly show that Pakistan and
Malaysia are on course to realize the full potential of bilateral
cooperation especially in trade and economy. Exchange of high level
visits have played crucial role in bringing the two brother countries
still closer in different spheres of life. Visit of President Pervez
Musharraf to that country followed by visit to Pakistan by former Prime
Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohammad and Prime Minister Badawi paved the way
for closer economic interaction. And now the visit of Shaukat Aziz, who
is known for his enthusiastic economic diplomacy, would surely take the
bilateral relationship to new heights. The surging trade imbalance in
favor of Malaysia, however, was a matter of concern for Pakistan. Last
year, Pakistan faced a deficit of $519 million in its trade with
Malaysia, mainly because of lack of diversity in commercial relations.
This was acknowledged by the Malaysian Prime Minister as well but there
is no visible progress to address the situation. Hopefully, conclusion
of Early Harvest Program and the subsequent FTA would take into account
this issue and rationalize the trade relationship to the mutual
advantage. Similarly, Malaysia earned a lot of goodwill by announcing
lifting of the ban on import of Pakistani manpower.
Immediately after the talks of Shaukat Aziz with
Malaysian Prime Minister agreeing on enhancing economic cooperation,
Pakistan and Malaysia private sectors joined hands with signing two
agreements worth $220 million in hydropower and housing sectors. Under
these agreements, Malaysia companies would invest in Pakistan.
Ran hill Power Berhard, a Malaysia company,
contracted for $120 million with Laraib Energy Limited of Pakistan to
construct a 79 MW New Bong Escape Hydropower project, 120 km from
Islamabad, downstream of the Mangla Dam. The project will be developed
on "Build Operate, Own and Transfer (BOOT) basis, to transfer to
Pakistan government at the end of 25 year power purchase agreement.
Berjaya and Berhand from Kuala Lumpur and Canyon
Enterprises from Islamabad signed Expression of Interest worth $100
million in a housing project. They would construct houses worth $500
million (Rs30 billion and Malaysia 2 billion ringgit) pm 128 acres land
(1000 Kanals), about 18 minutes drive from the Convention Centre in
Islamabad along the Murree Expressway. Almost 5000 apartments and 700
houses would be constructed. This project, besides bringing in FDI,
would help provide impetus for development of 28 other construction
related industries in Pakistan.
Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and Sultan Hassanal
Bolkiah of Brunei held substantial talks on Saturday, paving the way for
a significant boost to bilateral ties in economic, trade and investment
fields. The Sultan of Brunei assured his country's full support for
Pakistan to become a full dialogue Partner of the Association of South
East Asian Nation (ASEAN).
During the talks Prime Minister Aziz briefed the host
leader on the Pakistan, India peace dialogue, pointing out that a
settlement of the Kashmir dispute was vital to bring peace and stability
to South Asia. Pakistan desires a resolution of the issue according to
the aspirations of the people of Kashmir, the Prime Minister said.
The Prime Minister, referring to President Pervez
Musharraf's recent visit to India, said Pakistan stands for peaceful
resolution of all issues through the dialogue process.
Prime Minister Aziz had an exclusive meeting with
Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah. The talks covered a host of issues including
re-invigorating the organization of the Islamic Conference, enhancing
closer ties with ASEAN, cooperation in defense and diplomatic
coordination, setting up of a joint investment company also figured
during the talks. Presiding over the high level pre-budget meeting, the
Prime Minister guided the budget makers that the budget for the year
2005-06 should be pro-poor and investment friendly. It should aim at the
welfare of the poor, creation of more jobs for the unemployed, cutting
down poverty level and containing inflation. Prime Minister's Advisor on
Finance Dr. Salman Shah, Governor State Bank of Pakistan, Dr. Isharat
Hussain, Minister of State for Finance Omar Ayub Khan, Deputy Chairman
Planning Commission, Chairman CBR and other senior officials of the
ministry also attended the meeting.
Addressing the inaugural session of a two-day
international Ulema Conference in Islamabad on Wednesday, Prime Minister
Shaukat Aziz rightly called upon the clergy to help project the true
image of Islam before the world, to enable the Muslim Ummah to
successfully tackle future challenges.
Organized by the Ministry of Population Welfare, the
conference on Population and Development was a laudable effort to seek
the guidance of Ulema (religious scholars) on the concept of population
planning vis-a-vis Islam. With Ulema from 29 Muslim countries in
attendance, the Imams of Ka'aba Sharif and Masjid-e-Nabvi prominent
among them, the conference was expected to come up with some useful
recommendations with regard to contemporary pressing issues related to
population planning, health and development. The Prime Minister in his
address also urged the learned participants to fight the misconceptions
that exist regarding light of guidance provided by the Holy Qur'aan and
Sunnah. Acknowledging the potential role of religious scholars in
creating mass awareness on this important issue, he called upon the
participants to rise to the occasion and provide new impetus and input
into the debate on this important subject.
Rising populating levels are a major problem in the
Muslim world, blocking the path to progress and prosperity and retarding
efforts at bringing about an economic improvement at the macro and micro
levels. The countries of the Islamic world can crown their development
objectives with success by cooperating to reduce their population growth
ratios. Mass awareness campaigns can shatter the myths that exist among
the masses with regard to Islamic view on family planning. People need
to be aware that rising populations lower living standards as resources
become scarce. This is where Islam comes in as a religion that
encourages the betterment of mankind, a message the contemporary Islamic
scholars need to bring home to the people. It is heartening that in two
days deliberation, the Ulemas came out with a decision that family
planning as being practiced presently is not against the Islamic tenets.
Speaking at the Fifth Ministerial Conference for
South Asian Women on Tuesday, the Prime Minister said Pakistan wished
for a peaceful, stable and socio-economically vibrant region and would
continue its endeavors for early settlement of bilateral disputes with
India through peaceful means. He said Pakistan is a peace-loving nation
and has neither any aggressive design against neighboring states nor
will it tolerate any foreign aggression.
He said Pakistan would accept only a solution to the
Kashmir conflict that comes in line with the aspirations of Kashmiri
people. He said Islamabad and New Delhi had initiated a process to sort
out their bilateral disputes through dialogue. "Things are moving
in the right direction. And I believe the day is not far away when the
Kashmir will not be a dispute anymore." He said he and the
President visited India and held constructive dialogue with Indian
leaders on Kashmir conflict.
Shauakt Aziz said Pakistan government has taken a
number of steps for the empowerment of women and provided equal
opportunities to them in remunerated employment, education, health and
in financial as well as corporate sector. Participants from SAARC
countries attended the three-day conference, which was held to celebrate
tenth anniversary of Beijing Conference. Rukhsana Shaukat Aziz, wife of
Prime Minister, especially attended the ceremony to highlight commitment
of the government for empowerment of women.
Talking to newsmen after his meeting with his party
chief Ch. Shujat Hussain, the Prime Minister ruled out possibility of
general elections before 2007. In the meeting they discussed the
political situation, party matters and legislative agenda for the
forthcoming session of National Assembly.
Shaukat Aziz said the government is trying to promote
the welfare of workers besides improving the working environment all
over the country. The government, he said, believes that a happy and
contented work force is the real asset, which can accelerate the pace of
our transition towards economic prosperity. He also referred to various
schemes and projects imitated by the government in this connection.
Addressing public meetings at Depalpur and Okara, the
premier said the landmark Khushal Pakistan program will be launched soon
to ensure radical changes in the rural areas of the country. He
addressed the rally after kicking off wheat harvesting at Kasur-Lahore
road near Mahaharabad. The premier ecalled that the relief package
already announced by the president had started producing positive and
healthy results in the agriculture sector. He said the ruling Pakistan
Muslim League (PML) government would deal with those elements with iron
hands, who are nurturing anti-Pakistan thoughts and vowed to protect
country's sovereignty at all cost.
"PML is the only party ushering the country into
economic social progress under the wise and dynamic leadership of
President General Musharraf and party President Ch. Shujat Hussain",
the Prime Minister added.
Also present on the occasion were Federal Defense
Minister Rao Sikander Iqbal, Minister of State for Youth and Culture
Muhammad Ali Durrani, Federal Minister for Agriculture Sikander Hayat
Bosan, Governor Punjab Lt. Gen. (Retd) Khalid Maqbool, and Chief
Minister Punjab Ch. Pervaiz Elahi, MNAs, MPAs and Nazims.