Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz had a tight schedule last
week during which he was on a five-day tour of Germany and Italy during
which he successfully sold Pakistan's point of view on regional and
international issues, including Kashmir and UN reforms, besides
promoting Pakistan's image both on political and economic fronts.
LOCAL BODY ELECTIONS
Prior to his departure on his official tour of the
two European countries, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz had declared that
local body elections would not be postponed.
His government would not object to foreign observers
monitoring the polls which, he promised, would be free, fair and
transparent and all stakeholders would be provided a level playing
"If anyone wants to come to observe these
elections, they will be welcome. We will follow Election Commission's
rules," said the PM.
Athough these elections would be held on a non-party
basis, supporters of political parties would vote in these polls and
therefore mutual understanding and dialogue were necessary, he said.
The federal government would assist the provincial
governments in the maintenance of law and order and other matters, if
they so desired, the Prime Minister observed.
About apprehensions over law and order situation
before and during the local government elections, especially in Karachi,
the prime minister was of the view that it had improved in the city but
a lot more was needed to be done. He said that concerns with regard to
local government elections were also deliberated upon but it was noted
that most of these were of local or provincial nature. He said Karachi
was the nerve centre of the country's economy and therefore it was
necessary that all the concerned should evolve mutual understanding and
cooperative relationship through dialogue.
He brushed side the impression that local body
elections could be postponed due to floods and said that nothing of the
sort was even thought of.
Regarding deployment of army to oversee the
elections, the Prime Minister said that whichever institution's help was
to be sought for ensuring free, fair and peaceful elections would be
examined and decided by the provincial government.
VISITED GERMANY AND ITALY
Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz had a five-day official
tour of Germany and Italy last week. On the first leg of his visit to
Germany, his talks with German leaders were focused on trade, commerce,
transfer of technology, particularly in the field of alternative
War on terrorism, Pakistan's relations with India,
Afghanistan, Iran, China and other regional countries and Pakistan's
efforts to promote enlightened moderation also came up for discussions
during his meetings.
Pakistan and Germany agreed on the need for UN
reforms, but differences persisted on when to introduce the much debated
changes to the world body.
The two countries were forcefully in favor of the UN
reforms, the only difference is about timing, said German Chancellor
Gerhard Schroeder at a joint press conference. The two leaders met
earlier for about an hour to discuss bilateral, regional and
international issues. Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri, Minister
for Information Sheikh Rashid and Minister for Privatization Hafiz
Sheikh accompanied the Prime Minister during his meeting with Chancellor
Schroeder. Shaukat Aziz while reiterating Pakistan's stand on the
proposed UN reforms said "it is based on principles". There is
a need to re-invest, revitalize and re-invigorate the UN, the PM said
but maintained that the reforms should be broad-based and done through
consensus "that's how you create ownership".
Chancellor Schroeder said Pakistan and India should
resolve their dispute over Kashmir amongst themselves. "Pakistan
and India need to solve this one issue amongst them. I don't think
anybody can be called upon to play that role," an emphatic German
Chancellor said both were affected parties, he said.
WAR ON TERROR
German Chancellor appreciated Pakistan's role in the
war on terror. He appreciated that Pakistan had placed 70,000 pairs of
boots on the ground along its border with Afghanistan to plug illegal
In his opening remarks the German Chancellor
appreciated Pakistan's fantastic performance in the economic field and
said economic bilateral relationship between the two countries was the
focus of discussion between the two leaders. He said ties between the
two countries had not only increased in the field of direct investment,
but also trade services. He said that there were broad-based agreement
on the importance of international war against terror and appreciated
Pakistan's role. He said there was also agreement on issues concerning
Afghanistan and the Middle East.
Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said that both the
countries agreed on the issues concerning Afghanistan. A strong and
stable Afghanistan was not only in the interest of people of that
country, but also for Pakistan, the region and the whole world, the PM
Germany is Pakistan's fourth largest trading partner
and the second largest in Europe. The volume of trade between the two
countries in 2003-04 was estimated at $1.2 billion. Currently trade is
tilted in favor of Germany. Boosting exports from Pakistan to Germany
was one of the major agenda of the PM's visit to Germany and to seek
support in overcoming anti-dumping duty issue with EU. Germany's
Chancellor Schroeder promised to help during last meeting and Germany
has in fact brought down its anti-dumping duty.
PM observed that Pakistan was interested in
alternative technology to meet its growing energy needs. Germany
produces 19000mw of electricity through windmills and other means of
alternative energy sources.
During his visit to Germany, the Prime Minister
acknowledged that Pakistan has an image problem, but assured that the
country has a promising future.
"We have an image Problem," he said at a
meeting with German corporate sector and added "we are conscious of
"We are not perfect. But we are on the right
path. We are going in the direct direction. We are doing a lot to build
our image. The Pakistan of today and tomorrow is not the Pakistan of
yesteryears. It is on the path of growth, the Prime Minister declared at
a meeting sponsored by Deutsche Bank.
Mr. Jurgen Fitschen, member of the executive
committee of the Germany Bank, described Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, a
former banker, "an old face in a new role" and praised
Pakistan's achievement in the economic field.
PM Aziz spoke in detail about Pakistan's economic
turnaround and listed the achievement of his government in putting the
country from negative growth in 1998-99 to the landmark 8.4 percent GDP.
"We have achieved a lot but a lot more needs to be achieved,"
he said and added that investors should look at Pakistan as a potential
hub of economic activity in the region.
Pakistan had followed a two-track approach to
turnaround the economy: to improve the microcosmic situation and to
initiate a process of structural reforms to sustainable growth.
"This was a two-pronged strategy. That was based on the philosophy
of de-regulation, liberalization and privatization. Pakistan was
managing its debt profile in a prudent manner, it is all very
transparent," he observed.
The vision of Pakistan was one that of enlightened
moderation which was peaceful and had good relations with all the
countries in the region. Relations with India had improved despite
"historical issues" and the composite dialogue was moving
ahead. "The atmosphere is a much better now," the PM
The high economic growth and the huge gap in supply
and demand had an inflationary effect, he said but assured that his
government was taking remedial measures to bring down inflation and
allow import of essential commodities to ease pressure on consumers.
He said his government was not trying to reposition
its market to information technology and telecommunication sector where
he pointed out international investors had shown great interest. The
government had allocated more funds for the social sector including
health, education and gender program. "These sectors are critical
to Pakistan's growth," he remarked.
Later, while on his way to Berlin, Prime Minister
observed that Mercedes Benz's manufacturers Chrysler Daimler had shown
interest in truck assembling project with financial input coming from
UAE groups "but they want to do a feasibility first which is
fair", he added. He said it was time to move Pakistan from the old
truck system to the new fleet of trucks and go for better transportation
During his meeting with Deutsche Bank executives, the
PM asked them to invest more capital and they had held out assurance to
look into it.
MEETING WITH ITALIAN PRESIDENT
After his meeting with Italian President Carlo
Azeglio Ciampi in Rome especially on the issue of UN reforms, Prime
Minister Shaukat Aziz said that let there be reforms that give voice to
all countries and not just create more privileged groups. Pakistan and
Italy called for building consensus on the proposed UN reforms and
reaffirmed their mutual agreement to push for changes in the world body
that were equitable and just. He said that the issue of proposed UN
reforms came up for detailed discussion with Mr. Ciampi.
Pakistan and Italy had identical views on the
proposed UN reforms and both countries agreed that changes to the UN
Security Council should be done in a manner that provides a voice to all
member countries. The reforms should be equitable and not uneven, he
Italy and Pakistan, as members of the "uniting
for consensus" group, are pushing for the incorporation of
non-permanent members at the UN Security Council. The G-4, which
includes Germany, India, Brazil and Japan, calls for the expansion of
the UN Security Council through induction of new permanent members.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has acknowledged
that Pakistan and Germany differ on UN reforms but their differences are
more about timing than anything else.
Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said that he briefed the
Italian President on the situation prevailing in the region with
specific relation to Pakistan's ties with India, Afghanistan and Iran.
Shaukat Aziz told Italian President that Pakistan supported a strong and
stable Afghanistan and had deployed more than 70,000 troops on its
border to check cross-border infiltration of unwanted elements.
PM said that Pakistan was looking after 3.2 million
Afghan refugees and was in favor of their slow and gradual return to
their homeland as it did not want them to be dislocated overnight. The
PM again raised the issues of inter-faith dialogue and Islam's image.
The war against terrorism also came up for discussion. Mr. Ciampi, who
headed Italy's central bank for 14 years before taking over the
presidency, praised the democratic and economic reforms in Pakistan.
PM also had a working lunch with senior executives of
the Food and Agriculture Organization, World Food Program and IFAD and
urged them to do more agriculture in what he called end-to-end programs
involving cultivation, input, research, packaging, storage and marketing
of agricultural products.