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