PM TRACKER
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SHAUKAT AZIZ MEETING PRESIDENT BUSH ON JULY 29

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By AMANULLAH BASHAR
July 11 - 17, 2005
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Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz will be traveling to the United States later this month for talks with US President George W. Bush on cementing relations and increasing economic cooperation between the two countries.

PM Aziz will also be meeting with members of the US Congress and other senior officials during his visit scheduled for July 28-30.

Focus of Pakistan premier will be on economic cooperation, bilateral relations and regional and global issues.

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, according to reports received here, says that Bush will welcome Aziz to the White House on July 29. " The President looks forward to working with the Prime Minister to build on our shared long-term vision for US-Pakistan relations," he said.

DINNER WITH CHINESE, KAZAKHSTAN AND MONGOLIA PRESIDENTS

Prime Minister Aziz attended a dinner hosted by Kazakhstan President Nazarbayov in honour of the leaders attending the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) last week.

Presidents of China, Kazakhstan and Mongolia attended an over one hour working dinner during which the SCO leaders welcomed Pakistan's joining the six-nation grouping .

They said Pakistan has an important role to play in the SCO. The Prime Minister apprised the SCO leaders of the recent economic achievements in Pakistan and the situation in the region.

PAKISTAN-CHINA FTA EFFECTIVE FROM NEXT YEAR

In a sideline meeting, PM Aziz and Chinese President Hu Jintao reaffirmed their pledge to widen and deepen their multifaceted cooperation as the two nations prepare to enter into a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) from next year. The two leaders discussed a host of issues ranging from fostering bilateral trade and economic ties to UN reforms and the composite dialogue process between Pakistan and India.

Chinese President noted that the two countries had already concluded an Early Harvest Program and said that the FTA would go into effect next year.

Pakistan and China had signed the early Harvest Program during recent visit of the Chinese Premier to Pakistan, adding a new flavor to trade and economic ties between the two countries. 

Speaking on the occasion, PM Aziz expressed the confidence that the Early Harvest Program and the FTA would give a major boost to the two-way trade that currently stands at $3billion.

The two leaders also discussed the proposed UN reforms and both sides agreed that the world body needed reforms to improve its effectiveness. They noted that the two countries had shared perception and identical views on the expansion of the UN Security Council.

The quadruple transport arrangements among China, Pakistan, Kyrgystan and Kazakstan to increase trade through land route were also a talking point in the meeting. Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz pointed out that Pakistan-China trade through the Karakorum Highway was already on the rise and the quadruple arrangements would lead to increasing ties between Pakistan and the Central Asian states.

Hu Jintao appreciated Pakistan's support to China's territorial integrity and said that two countries' friendship was a model and their strategic cooperation was a major force behind promotion of peace in the region. The Chinese leader particularly appreciated Pakistan's strides in the economic field and hoped the country would continue to move forward on the road to progress. He offered 100 scholarships for Pakistani students to study in China as part of efforts to promote closer contacts and interaction between the youths of the two countries. Shaukat Aziz thanked Hu Jintao for his country's support to Pakistan in joining the SCO, which Islamabad had been wanting for a long time.

 

 

Pakistan was also happy over the inclusion of India and Iran as observer members on the six nations grouping, PM observed, adding that this formed natural linkage between Central Asia, Russia and China with Pakistan, India and Iran. This will open a new chapter in our relationship in this part of the world, the Prime Minister said.

Pakistan and China will be celebrating 55 years of diplomatic relations some time next year in a befitting manner so that the already strong relations get a further boost. The two leaders expressed satisfaction that ties between the two countries in all areas including defense, security, economy, and science and technology were moving well and going in the right direction. The Chinese President said they want to set up a Pakistan-China friendship center in Pakistan to help increase interaction between civil societies of the two countries.

Shaukat Aziz told the Chinese President that Pakistan desired to have good relations with all its neighbors, including India. The dialogue process between Pakistan and India was progressing well, he said and added that the current environment could be used to find a lasting solution to the decades-old Kashmir dispute in line with the interests of all stakeholders--Pakistan, India and the Kashmir people.

The resolution of the dispute would unleash lot of economic potential that existed between the two countries, he said.

While flying back home Prime Minister Aziz described Pakistan's joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as an historic event that will benefit the country politically, diplomatically and economically through interaction with member states.

In SCO, Pakistan has now got a platform where it could interact with others and make them understand its point of view and remove misperceptions, if any, about the country, the Prime Minister said.

"We want to tell the world that Pakistan is a peace-loving and developing country and desires to play an important role in the world and the region for peace and security, the Prime Minister added.

Pakistan was pleased that India and Iran have also jointed the six nations grouping established in 2001 to promote goals of peace, security and diplomatic and political cooperation in the region.

The SCO has now become a very strategic part of the world, including Russia, China, Central Asia, South Asia and Iran. This constitutes almost half of the world population and the countries in this region had tremendous potential, the PM observed.

"We believe this is the time to change our thinking in terms of new paradigm-a new paradigm which will encourage cooperation between Central Asia, South Asia, Russia and China and these regions.

During his stay in Astana (Kazakhstan), Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz had formal and informal discussions with Presidents of China, Tajiskistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Mongolia and Russia.

SHAUKAT-NATWAR

Earlier, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said in Kazakhstan that both Pakistan and India were committed to the composite dialogue process to resolve all the outstanding issues, including the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir peacefully.

"We want the pace process to move forward. We want various issues between the two countries to be resolved", the PM told reporters after meeting Indian External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh who called on him on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit.

The PM described the discussion as good, which was held in a very 'open' and " informal' atmosphere.

"We discussed the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir to see how we can resolve it, the PM observed.

The two sides also exchanged views on water issues including the Baglihar dam and the gas pipeline project. Prime Minister Aziz said that Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project would create win-win situation for all the stakeholders. He noted that both countries were engaged in formal talks at various levels. Both countries are committed to the peace process and to resolve the dispute peacefully. It was a continuous process and the discussion would keep going on, the PM said and remarked: " we are looking ahead to develop and to grow and share what is happening all over the world.

PM RELIEF PACKAGE

Taking note of the price hike of essential commodities, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, came out with a relief package aimed at addressing the mounting inflationary pressures last week.

PM's relief package envisaged import of duty free flour and wheat even without withholding tax in an unlimited quantity.

This remedial measure has been initiated for the first time in Pakistan allowing unlimited import of basic food stuff i.e. wheat and flour free from all taxes. Earlier, wheat was allowed to be imported duty free but with withholding tax. Resultantly, 'atta' will be made available at a price of Rs11.50 per kg across the country through utility stores.

The economic coordination committee (ECC) met under the chairmanship of PM was informed that around 400 Utility Stores, currently operating in the country will be selling five million bags of 10 kg atta every month that is expected to benefit up to 20 million people.

Under the scheme, the Utility Stores Corporation will hire 59 vehicles which will carry out 24 trips each, per month, to make atta available in every nook and corner of the country at cheaper rates. Currently, the utility stores have a capacity of selling 50,000 tons atta per month.

All cities, remote areas of Balochistan, FATA, Northern Areas and AJK and rural areas with limited cultivated land have been identified as priority areas to be covered under the package". The bags containing atta will have a special logo to prevent its misuse and will only be available at the utility stores.

Meanwhile on the directives of the Prime Minister, the ECC has granted permission for setting up a dry port at Sukkur. This will be the first dry port in Sindh. The decision will help increase exports of quality dates from the province of Sindh.

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz had a detailed meeting with President Musharraf last week to have a consensus approach towards various significant decisions including holding of Local Government elections and the launch of "Khushal Pakistan Program" sometime during the current financial year. The two leaders reached on a conclusion that a level-playing field would be ensured to all contesting candidates in the local government elections and no one would be allowed to influence the elections.

Meanwhile, the Khushhal Pakistan Program, which lays emphasis on health, education and social sectors, is expected to go a long way in uplifting the living standard of the people of Pakistan.

FLOOD JUSTIFIES NEED FOR HIGH DAMS

Had the big dams and reservoirs constructed in time, Pakistan could have saved millions of gallons of water, which was now being wasted. PM Shaukat Aziz in Islamabad made these observations while sending relief goods to the rain and flood affected people in NWFP. Commenting on the recent rains and floods causing serious risks to life and water management in Pakistan, he said that the deluge could be utilized for irrigation and other purposes.

He said there was a need to think about the construction of dams and big reservoirs to store water so that the chances of floods wreaking havoc could be minimized and the stored water could be utilized in a productive way. He assured the people of NWFP that the federal government would not leave the flood victims alone in this critical hour and would ensure their rehabilitation. The federal government had already announced Rs100 million to offset the flood related losses, the PM observed. This was in addition to Sindh and Punjab governments' contributions of Rs50 million each. He said that government was monitoring the flood situation round the clock. The latest reports indicated that the flood level was coming down after the start of rains, with melting of snow at mountains on the wane. The PM regretted that water resources were wasted in a big way during floods. He said that the country needed water reservoirs, which will lessen the possibility of floods besides strengthening the water management in a positive and productive manner. The provincial governments have also been directed to take steps for the protection of rivers and canals so that the population living on the banks of rivers could be saved from any catastrophe, the PM said.