Islamabad: Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani has impressed upon the US of his Government’s preference for trade rather than aid. He called for early conclusion of Free Trade Agreement between the two countries to promote economic activities and address the issue of poverty and unemployment particularly in the under developed and militancy affected areas. While dilating on the misperceptions existing in both the countries against each other, the Prime Minister stated that the US presence in Pakistan should be seen as a source of peace and prosperity by the people of Pakistan.
The US administration and particularly the US Congress, he added, have to be sensitive about the opinion and views of the people of Pakistan for paving the way for a long term strategic partnership based on mutual trust, mutual respect and mutual interest. He pointed out that the people of Pakistan are expecting a thorough investigation of Raymond Davis in the US under its law about his conduct in Pakistan. The provision of civil nuclear technology, reimbursement of large amount of with-held Coalition Support Fund to Pakistan and utilization of Kerry Lugar Bill funds for signature projects having direct bearing on the life of ordinary people, the Prime Minister said would help build a positive image of the US in the country.
The Prime Minister was talking to the US Congressional delegation led by Mr Doug Lamborn which called on him here at the PM’s House today.
The Prime Minister also stressed upon the need of positive messaging about each other in both the countries and regretted that certain incidents were blown out of proportion in a negative way about Pakistan in the US which obviously drew a reaction in Pakistan with impact on our relations. While underlining Pakistan’s strong commitment to cooperate with the US in defeating the common enemy of terrorism and militancy in the process of which Pakistan had made un-parallel human and economic sacrifices, the Prime Minister stressed the need for concerted efforts by both the sides to bridge the trust deficit through reinforced cooperation in intelligence sharing, joint action against Al-Qaeda and its affiliates as well as progress on various segments of strategic dialogue in the multi-faceted fields.
The Prime Minister referred to President Karzai’s forthcoming visit to Pakistan during which the Inaugural Session of Joint Commission on Reconciliation between the two countries is scheduled alongwith the launching of Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement. Stating that Pakistan, Afghanistan and US being part of the Core Group have to have strategic coherence among them for ensuring peace, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan. He termed Pakistan-US relationship as significant in the context of how they can shape the future of this region and called for joint endeavours to ensure maximum utilization of the potential for economic development in Afghanistan as well as the region at large.
The members of US Congressional delegation termed Pakistan as an extremely important country in the world in the war against terrorism and for defeating the violent extremism. They acknowledged the great sacrifices of Pakistan’s Armed and security forces as well as of the people of Pakistan for the world’s peace in the ongoing struggle against terror. They assured the Prime Minister that despite strong sentiments in the US Congress for reducing the budget deficit and cutting down on foreign aid, the economic assistance to Pakistan would continue. They also agreed with the Prime Minister that his democratic government needed the political space and undertook to contribute in that regard in the US Congress.
The US Congressmen were highly appreciative of the Prime Minister’s remarks that US presence should be a source of peace and prosperity in Pakistan for addressing the negative perception about it in this country. They welcomed Prime Minister’s proposal for Free Trade Agreement between Pakistan and US and recognized the need that US should help Pakistan address the root causes of extremism, to win the hearts and minds of people of Pakistan in the larger interest of continuing the strategic partnership.
The US Congressional delegation include Rob Woodall, Austin Scott, Richard B . Nugent and W. Keating.
Minister for Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Mrs Hina Rabbani Khar, Senator Syeda Sughra Hussain Imam, Secretaries Foreign affairs, Defence and Interior, US Ambassador Mr Cameron Munter and other senior officials were also present in the meeting.
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