PM TRACKER
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PM ENSURES TRANSPARENT LOCAL BODY ELECTIONS

Level playing field to all stakeholders

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By AMANULLAH BASHAR
July 18 - 24, 2005
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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 field.

"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 technology.

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.

UN REFORMS

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".

KASHMIR

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 border-crossing.

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 remarked.

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.

IMAGE BUILDING

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 that".

"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 maintained.

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 logics.

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 remarked.

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.