As usual Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz remained
extremely busy during the last week. He started the week with chairing a
meeting of the cabinet committee on Privatization on Monday, which
approved the sale of 26 percent shares of Pakistan Telecommunication
Company Limited (PTCL) for $ 2.6 billion. He rounded off the week with
meeting with a delegation of Islamic Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
In between he addressed the ambassadors and
representatives of major donor countries and financial institutions
based in Islamabad, met a delegation of Thai investors, addressed the
representatives of the Indian Newspaper Society, had a meeting with the
Country Manager of Asian Development Bank and a delegation of Pakistan
Bar Council, besides meeting the President to review the budgetary
measures and law and order situation in the country, had a meeting with
the Chairman PIA to review the performance of the national airline and
presided over a meeting of ruling alliance to review the ongoing
development projects and coming local government elections. He also
chaired a high level meeting to review the measures taken to meet any
emergency in case of flood because of rising level of water in the
rivers in NWFP and Northern Areas.
Applauding the efforts of the Privatization
Commission for striking a good deal of 26 percent shares of the PTCL,
the Prime Minister, in the meeting of the cabinet committee on
Privatization, observed that the offered price reflected a true and
correct value of the company. The meeting formally approved the bid of
Emirate Telecommunication Corporation (ETISALAT), which offered 2.6
billion for 26 percent of PTCL shares at the rate of $ 1.6 per share,
which was even better than the combined offer of the remaining two
bidders. Singapore Telecommunications Corporation (Sing Tel) offered
just $ 0.88 per share (Rs. 52.54 share) and China Mobile submitted $
1.0633 per share (Rs 63.48) for the company, which earned Rs. 29.2
billion net profit in 2004. The reserve price of the company approved by
the CCOP was just Rs. 62 per share.
The prime minister also promised to use 10 percent of
the privatization proceeds on poverty alleviation and 90 percent on debt
retirement, as provided in the law. However, in reality all the amount
goes to the budget and is used as a major source to finance fiscal
deficits. The Privatization Commission has proposed the government to
track the proceeds under a separate budgetary head to ensure that the
provisions of poverty spending are honoured religiously.
Prime Minister Aziz termed the bid as a vote of
confidence by the world-class telecom operators in the government's
policies, improved macroeconomic environment and transparency of theses.
He observed that Pakistan enjoys very close and cordial ties with the
United Arab Emirates. He hoped that Etisalat's entry in the market would
open the doors for other potential investors to help bolster economic
and trade ties between the two countries. "It's a major and very
significant transaction, which is also very important for strategic
point of view."
Aziz said there are natural synergies between UAE and
Pakistan as well as the private sectors of the two countries. He also
mentioned close political ties with UAE, saying: "President General
Pervez Musharraf was there just a few days ago, and few weeks ago a UAE
delegation visited Pakistan."
Aziz also outlined an ambitious privatization
programme in the months to come, including the very attractive Pakistan
State Oil (PSO), Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL), Oil and Gas
Development Corporation (OGDC) and National Investment Trust (NIT),
besides some small state owned entities (SOEs)
Speaking to Islamabad-based ambassadors and
representatives of donor countries and financial institutions Prime
Minister outlined "special initiatives " in the social sector
to be launched in the current financial year and asked the donor
countries and agencies to be "partners in progress" and help
the government to achieve its development goals. He gave update on the
special initiatives the government plans to undertake to alleviate
poverty and improve the lot of the people. "We would require
assistance and attention of donors, " for these special
initiatives, he told them.
Listing major development programmes, Aziz said the
government was launching Rs. 5 billion Khushhal Pakistan Fund to improve
social sector and quality of life of a common man. The government
intends to add a certain amount every year with an ultimate objective of
raising the fund to one percent of the country's GDP. Priorities areas
for the fund have already been laid down in short and long term plans,
he added. "One village one product" programme was being
initiated to help the people in rural areas, which have more incidents
of poverty. The government will provide funds to improve the quality of
the products that can also be exported, he said, adding that Japan and
some European countries were sending their senior people to provide
necessary expertise for the project.
Talking to a delegation of Islamic Chambers of
Commerce and Industry (ICCI) led by its President Sheikh Saleh Bin
Abdullah Kamel, Prime Minister invited investors from Islamic countries
to explore investment opportunities in Pakistan. He told the delegation
that the government, through structural reforms, has created an enabling
environment for local and foreign investors. He referred to the
consistency and continuity of policies and said liberalization and
privatization were important pillars of Pakistan's economic programme.
Prime Minster said foreign direct investment into the country has
increased, particularly from Far Eastern and Middle Eastern countries.
Prime Minister identified information technology,
telecom, real estate, tourism, agro-based industry and financial sectors
as some of the potential areas for investment. The ICCI president on the
occasion praised economic policies of the government; Shaikh Saleh Bin
Abdullah Kamel presented a five point agenda to the Prime Minister for
generating more resources in the Islamic countries to effectively deal
with issues like poverty, hunger and unemployment.
The agenda included setting up of trade zones in all
major Islamic countries with all modern facilities such as display
centers, information centers, warehouses to promote trade and
investment; utilization of Zakat among all Muslim countries for
generation of employment and community based development programmes and
schemes; result-oriented discussions and meetings for promotion of trade
and industrialization; sharing of resources among Muslim countries to
help them have better understanding about each other.
The ICCI chief is actively engaged in utilization of
Zakat for generation of jobs for jobless people in Saudi Arabia. He told
the Prime Minister that ICCI would like to take benefit from Pakistan's
experience and potential to push forward its agenda. Shaikh Salah Bin
Abdullah Kamel urged the investors that they should prefer Islamic
countries to explore investment opportunities.
A Thai delegation led by Thai Deputy Commerce
Minister Surlya Lapvisutisin called on Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and
discussed with him the bilateral investment between two countries.
Talking to the delegation, the Prime Minister said that the people of
Thailand, its government, and economy were a role model for developing
world. The Prime Minster said that Pakistan had achieved a remarkable
growth rate and was experiencing the same economic goals that Thailand
was going through when its economy started expanding. He further
observed that Pakistan had old and historic ties with Thailand and his
recent visit to Thailand had proved a landmark and turning point in
The Prime Minister said that dialogues were being
held between two countries to materialize the "Early Harvest
Program" and Free Trade Agreement (FTA) that would result in
strengthening the economic ties. Minister for Privatization &
Investment Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Minister of State for Commerce and
Trade Hamid Yar Hiraj and Chairman Board of Investment Waseem Haqqi were
also present on the occasion.
Talking to the delegation of Indian Newspaper
Society, Prime Minister declared that sustainable peace in South Asia
and good relations between Pakistan and India are linked to resolution
of Kashmir dispute. He made it clear that Pakistan wants peace and
progress in talks but that progress is dependent on discussions on the
core issue. He admitted that the problem is complex but added that there
must be enough progress so that people of Pakistan feel comfortable
about the whole process of dialogue.
Mr. Shaukat Aziz said Pakistan is very sincere in its
desire to resolve all issues but progress on all others including trade
is linked to progress on Kashmir dispute. He said we must find a
credible solution to the Kashmir issue. The three stakeholders Pakistan,
India and Kashmiris can come up with options, which lead to solution of
the problem. He said the history would show that the recent visit of
Hurriyat leaders was a positive step.
The Prime Minister told Indian editors and newspaper
owners that the two countries will have to follow a multi faceted
approach to improve their relations. He said they should be open with
each other and express views freely and every facet of their
relationship should move forward in harmony.
"We are building a broad gauge railway line to
link south of Pakistan with Indian Rajesthan," he said, adding that
we are also looking at opening more trade items to land route. Referring
to Pakistan's offer of energy corridor to India, Shaukat Aziz said, gas
pipeline from Iran, Turkmenistan or Qatar to Pakistan and then to India
would create inter dependencies.
Lauding the support of Asian Development Bank (ADB)
to Pakistan, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz observed that the ADB has been
a major development partner of Pakistan and its contribution towards the
country's socio-economic progress will be long remembered since it has
always stood by Pakistan.
While talking to Marshuk Ali Shah, Country Manager,
Asian Development Bank, the Prime Minister appreciated the support
extended by ADB to the reform agenda pursued by the Pakistan government
and their expertise and financial support for programmes like access to
justice, micro credit, agricultural loan through Zari Taraqlati Bank and
capital market reforms programme. These have helped Pakistan make major
strides in the economy and achieve high growth, he added.
The Prime Minister said that the ADB is presently
lending 1.2 billion dollars and has thus become one of Pakistan's major
donors. He said that ADB has a tremendous future and specially
appreciated the institution's role in Tsunami and hoped that it will
help in establishing an early warming system in Asia.
Talking about the progress made by Pakistan, the
Prime Minster said a lot of progress can be seen in our social
indicators and this year we have allocated more than 16 percent than the
previous year for sectors like health, education, gender programming and
population welfare to raise the standard of living.
Addressing a group of lawyers in the PM House on the
occasion of distribution of financial grants to the bar associations of
the country, Shaukat Aziz said the government has been taking adequate
measures for improving infrastructure in the courts and providing
necessary training facilities to judges and lawyers to improve the
judicial system to ensure quick and cheap justice to the common man.
Improvement of the judicial system is on the top of the agenda of the
government. Representatives of bar associations from across the country
were present on the occasion.
The prime minister said necessary amendments had been
finalized by the government to improve the working of the courts to
provide speedy justice to the people and added that these amendments are
with the standing committee of the national assembly. Laws are also
being amended so that no one could register wrong FIR and added that
after the approval of amendments, those who would register FIRs would be
held responsible. He expressed the hope that these amendments would be
passed by the National Assembly very soon to make the judicial system
more effective. He said it is the basic right of every citizen that he
should be provided speedy and cheaper justice.
The prime minister said the access to justice
programme has been initiated with the cooperation of Asian Development
Bank to construct new court buildings, equip the court rooms with
computers, books and other infrastructure.
He said with the induction of computers in the courts
there would be openness and system would improve.
In his meeting with the President, the Prime Minister
reviewed geopolitical environment, law and order and budgetary measures
for the next financial year. They expressed satisfaction over the fact
that foreign direct investment (FDI) in the country had crossed $ 1
billion mark during the 11 months of the current fiscal year.
The President and the Prime Minister also reviewed
the geopolitical environment in the region with particular reference to
Afghanistan and Pak-India relations. They expressed satisfaction over
the outcome of 'historic' recent visit by the leaders of All Parties
Hurriyat Conference (APHC).
Speaking at the ceremony of Boeing 777-200LR, the
prime minister directed PIA Chairman, Tariq Kirmani, to reposition the
airline to global standards in the face of increasingly competitive
international business environment.
The longest-range commercial airplane in the world is
being delivered to PIA in December this year. The Prime Minister noted
that performance of PIA had improved over the past years but it is time
to transform the airline from national to international carrier. He said
a diasporas of Pakistanis living overseas provide the core of PIA's
traffic but we have to attract more business travelers and tourists to
Presiding over the meeting of the ruling alliance to
review the ongoing development projects and local government elections,
Prime Minister said the PML government would take along all the
coalition partners in Sindh for early completion of the development
projects and adopt a joint strategy in the forthcoming local government
The meeting was attended by PML and MQM leaders
including President Pakistan Muslim League Ch. Shujaat Hussain, Sindh
Chief Minister Ghulam Arbab Rahim, PML Secretary General Mushahid
Hussain Sayed, Farooq Sattar, Babar Ghauri, Ghous Buksh Mehr, Adil
Siddiqui and Kanwar Naveed.
The Prime Minister later told reporters that the
meeting discussed Sindh situation in detail and decided to adopt a joint
line of action to expedite work on development projects. He
congratulated the Sindh government for preparing a positive and
development oriented budget.
The Prime Minster said besides development projects,
the forthcoming local government polls were also discussed in the
meeting and its was decided that all the coalition partners would follow
a joint strategy in these elections. Coordination and mutual
consultation between the coalition partners in the Sindh government
would help all the partners and it would improve the pace of
development, he added.
The Prime Minster assured the coalition partners to
continue the consultation process in future on all the issues so that
comprehensive policies were adopted to complete the development projects
for the betterment of the masses.