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  PM TRACKER

From SHAMIM AHMED RIZVI, Islamabad
Oct 10 - 16, 2005

AZIZ ON A PRODUCTIVE VISIT TO S. KOREA, MALAYSIA

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz left Islamabad on Wednesday last on a six-day highly productive visits of South Korea and Malaysia. The visit undertaken to these economic giants in South East Asia is aimed to promote Pakistan's economic and trade relations with the emerging powers specially to allure investors to Pakistan.

Earlier during the week, he co-chaired with the President a meeting in Islamabad , to review the future water and energy requirements of the country and met a delegation of Iranian journalist, which called on him at the PM House in Islamabad. During the meeting he assured the Iranian journalist that Pakistan was opposed to the use of force against Iran over its nuclear programme and wants the row to be settled through discussion and dialogue.

"Pakistan will never support use of force against Iran and wants that (Iran's nuclear) issue is settled through discussion and dialogue". He said adding that "Pakistan is against proliferation in any form and believes that it is the right of every country to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes in line with the IAEA guidelines".

Addressing the meeting to review water & energy requirements of the country, both President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz directed the concerned departments to ensure optimum utilization of water for the socio-economic benefit of the people. Both the leaders expressed their deep appreciation of the tireless efforts put in by the members of the political and technical committees on water. They said that any decision on the construction of water storage facilities would be taken, keeping in view the interests of all the provinces. They underscored the importance of creating public awareness on importance of conservation and proper utilization of this previous natural resource.

Earlier, Water and Power Ministry gave a presentation on the necessity of construction of additional water reservoirs in the country. The officials from the ministry in their presentation highlighted that creation of additional water reservoirs was essential for sustained development of the country. They said that in addition to water storage, it was equally important to increase hydro electricity generation in the country in view of rapid increase in the fuel oil prices internationally. The participants were informed of various feasibility studies that are being conducted on dam sites as well as the technical aspects of the potential sites. The officials said that there was a consensus among all members of the technical committee on water, for creation of additional water storage facilities in the country.

Talking to newsmen while going to Malaysia after completing his 3-day visit of South Korea, the Prime Minister described his visit highly productive. South Korea and Pakistan would work together hand in hand in all spheres for the benefit of the two people and further expand existing cooperation at all international forums that would benefit the entire Asian region, he said adding that Islamabad and Seoul hold identical views on all international and regional matters and have pledged to further develop this understanding.

Aziz concluded his three-day official visit to South Korea sounding great optimism on the outcome of his meetings with his counterpart, President Roh Moohyun and several heads of Korean firms and investment companies. During his meeting with President Roh, premier Aziz extended and invitation to him on behalf of President Pervez Musharraf to visit Pakistan which he happily accepted. Aziz reiterated Pakistan's position on nuclear free Korean Peninsula, and ongoing six nation Beijing-based negotiations, which President Roh fully understood. Other issues which came under review included Afghanistan, Iran's nuclear wrangle, latest situation in Indo-Pak peace process and Iraq. President Roh appreciated Pakistan's stance.

To a question Prime Minister Aziz said during his stay in Seoul, the process of cooperation has moved from "meeting of muscles to meeting of minds". "I am returning confident and satisfied that South Korea and Pakistan will learn from each other's experiences," he said.

Asked to comment on his expectations as far as Korean investment in Pakistan was concerned, Aziz quipped: "It is difficult to give a specific figure. But I am convinced that I have placed Pakistan on the radar screen of major Korean investors. Let's hope for the best."

Pakistan and Korea signed two agreements, on Thursday, on an assistance under Korea's Economic Development Cooperation Fund and Cultural Exchange Programme as Pakistan's visiting Prime Minister and his Korean counterpart held formal talks on bilateral, regional and international issues of mutual concern. The two leaders were later joined by their respective delegations for formal talks, covering wide-ranging issues of bilateral interest, regional and international issues, including Pakistan- India relations, relation with Afghanistan, terrorism and nuclear proliferation.

As the two sides discussed ways and means to promote ties between the two countries and to enhance cooperation in trade and economic fields, Shaukat Aziz briefed his Korean counterpart on recent gains accruing to Pakistan's economy as a result of wide ranging structural reforms in all sectors of the country's economy. Notably, he pointed out that Pakistan was eagerly looking forward to increased investment from Korea, as the country offered best investment opportunities in various areas. While so elaborating the economic environment in Pakistan, understandably, he urged Korean investors to benefit from its excellent investment friendly regime.

Besides other engagements in Malaysia the Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz was a Keynote speaker at the inaugural session of the world economic Islamic forum in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday. In his thought provoking speech he presented a ten-point roadmap to ensure an environment of peace, progress and prosperity of the Muslim Ummah and for promotion of inter-civilizational dialogue and harmony with the rest of the international community. He was accorded a rousing welcome at the inaugural session as his address acclaimed huge appause by the participants, who were virtually impressed by his visionary road map. Some 500 delegates from Islamic countries and representatives of non OIC countries - Australia, China, Croatia, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Thailand, United States and the United Kingdom attended the three day forum.

The Prime Minister discussed in detail the simmering social, economic and political issues confronting the Muslim Ummah, and suggested various steps to resolve them. He said the sole voice of the Ummah, the Organization of Islamic Conference has to be reorganized, reinvigorated and repositioned as a forum for the empowerment of the Ummah to meet the challenges of the new millennium. He said there is a need to create a necessary intellectual environment for the renaissance of the Muslim world through achieving intellectual revival and academic excellence. The empowerment of women and minorities would ensure a more progressive and enlightened Ummah.

"We should ensure good governance through people's participation, transparency and accountability." He said the economies can be restructured through deregulation, liberalization and privatization, this he added, would ensure a sustained high growth trajectory and raise living standards. He called for improving delivery of social services especially health and education in the scientific and technical fields.

Shaukat Aziz said the Muslim countries need to restructure and redefine the role of the Islamic Development Bank and enhance its capacity not only for development but also to promote investment and trade. The Islamic Development Bank should also play a leading role in developing the framework for Islamic Banking. He said we should move forward towards an eventual Islamic Economic Union by entering into multi lateral Free Trade Arrangements and promoting the free flow of labour and material resources. We can create a world-class market to attract international capital, which would enable us to finance our development and growth. He said our financial and commodity surpluses should be shared to promote development and progress through institutional mechanisms.

The Prime Minister expressed his conviction that with commitment, dedication and hard work, we shall be able to write a new and glorious chapter in the history of Islam. In accordance with the tenets our noble faith, we can contribute to the creation of a new world order based on peace, justice and equality, characterized by harmony and co-existence. Terming the holding of the forum an extraordinary event at a right time, Shaukat Aziz said that the forum had been convened at t time when Muslim Ummah is faced with multiple challenges, especially Iraq and Afghanistan, which were confronting the menace of violence and turmoil.

Later, responding to various questions after his address, the Prime Minister agreed with a questioner from UAE, that education was much more important than the arms, however, he added, it would only be possible when these lingering disputes were resolved. "We need to focus on solution of pending problems."

Addressing the students and members of the teaching faculties of the International University in Kuala Lumpur, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz underlined the need for rethinking and Ijtihad and called for political, economic and social reforms to build and consolidate a system capable of ensuring harmony and tranquillity in the Muslim societies. Ijtihad is important for the Muslim societies to face the internal challenges. He added.

Muslim societies are generally facing many an internal challenge on account of incoherence of religious values and cultural traditions with needs of changing times. The intellectual challenge of reorientation and adjustment to the imperatives of modernity is, of course, the foremost of them all. It's regrettable that the institutions of Islamic learning such as Al-Azhar have failed to harmonize religious values and teachings with essentials of modernity in order to guide the Muslims out of social, cultural and religious obscurantism. The truth is that our religious scholars, intellectuals and thinkers have not been able to keep pace with imperatives of modernity and have thus left the Muslims in the lurch to drift into abyss instead of guiding them to the concept of reorientation and adjustment in the face of the compulsions of modernity. Europe, which was in the dark era when Muslims had mastered the knowledge of mathematics, science, medicine, astronomy, etc, is today up on the Muslim world due to the positive response of their scholars and leaders to the changing times. On the contrary, Muslims have failed to pursue reorientation and adjustment with the call of modernity and hence their drift to poverty, ignorance, obscurantism and extremism. We, therefore, feel that Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz has raised a very pertinent question for the Muslim Ummah in general and Islamic scholars, intellectuals and thinkers in particular to rise to find a way out for unity in Muslim societies. We feel that Ijtehad is the only way forward to retrieve the Ummah from its present state of chaos, disruption and disharmony. It's rather duty of the religious scholars, intellectuals and thinkers to help the Ummah on this count with a sense of prudence and enlightened moderation is important for the Muslims externally, Prime Minster Shaukat Aziz's call for Ijtehad is essential to help them deal with the internal challenges. It's hoped that institutions of Islamic learning the world over especially in Cairo, Kuala Lumpur and Islamabad will respond to the challenge with an enlightened and progressive outlook.

The signing of a free trade agreement between Pakistan and Malaysia during Prime Minster Shaukat Aziz's visit to Kuala Lumpur is a good step and should provide a much-needed boost to the country's export oriented industries. In fact, during the visit, Malaysia also made an announcement that it would back Pakistan's desire to become a member for Asean, a regional grouping whose stature and importance has only risen with the passage of time. The trade pact itself, called the 'Early Harvest Agreement', will come into forced from January 1, 2006, and will seek to reduce tariffs on several dozen items of trade between the two countries. Malaysian investors are currently engaged in the real estate development and housing sectors in the country. Completed and ongoing projects involving them include a large gold club in Lahore and building housing colonies with a well-known local land developer. Hopefully, the new agreement will allow Malaysian firms to engage in mutually beneficial trade with Pakistan in other fields as well. Besides, with Pakistan wanting to enhance the manufacturing and services component of its national economy, the lowering of tariff barriers will facilitate the two-way traffic of goods.

 
 

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