Pakistan attaches utmost significance to its relations with Afghanistan:Dar

KABUL, Feb 23 (APP): Minister for Finance and Economic Affairs Senator Mohammad Ishaq Dar said on Sunday that Pakistan attached utmost significance to its relations with Afghanistan, one of the most important neighbours of Pakistan. Senator Dar said this while addressing the inaugural session of the 9th Pakistan – Afghanistan Joint Economic Commission (JEC) here. The session was co-chaired by Mohammad Ishaq Dar, Minister for Finance, Revenue, Economic Affairs, Statistics and Privatization and Dr Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal, Afghan Minister for Finance.
Dar called for enhancing bilateral trade, extending the trilateral transit trade agreement to Tajikistan for the economic betterment of the people of the region, early completion of ongoing projects funded by Pakistan, visa facilitation for Pakistani businessmen and labour and urgent finalization of Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
He said that Pakistan had been playing active role in the social and economic development of Afghanistan.
In this regard, he said the Government of Pakistan had undertaken a number of projects including the 400-bed Jinnah Hospital in Kabul, 200-bed Hospital in Logar, Liaquat Ali Khan Engineering University, Balkh, Rehman Baba School and Hostel for 1500 children in Kabul, Nishtar Kidney Hospital in Jalalabad and the dual carriage way from Torkhum to Jalalabad.
Besides, he said the Prime Minister of Pakistan had increased the development fund from $385 million to $ 500 million as a gesture of goodwill to Afghanistan so as to complete the ongoing development projects in Afghanistan.
In order to encourage and improve bilateral trade and road connectivity, the Government of Pakistan has committed to construct Peshawar-Jalalabad Motorway as well as Peshawar-Jalalabad Railway link which would tremendously benefit the traders of Pakistan, Afghanistan as well as the Central Asian States, the minister added.
He said that these steps were a manifestation of importance being attached by Pakistan towards its brotherly country.
The minister also highlighted the achievements made by the government of Prime Minister Mohammad Nawaz Sharif, during the last eight months.
He said that the present government, under the wise leadership of Mohammad Nawaz Sharif, had developed a road map to overcome the security, economic and energy challenges being confronted by Pakistan.
He said that Pakistan’s economy on average grew since 2008-09.
He stated that Pakistan had fixed a GDP growth target of 4% to 5% during the next financial year taking it to 6% to 7% in the medium term.
He stated that Pakistan had embarked upon a major reform programme that aims at fiscal stabilization, mobilizing domestic resources, phasing out subsides, restructuring the power sector and other public sector enterprises and strengthening the social safety nets.
Granting of GSP Plus status to Pakistan by the European Union is the manifestation of the trust over the socio-economic policies of Pakistan, the minister added.
Afghan Finance Minister, Dr Hazrat Omar Zakhailwal underscored the need for enhanced trade and economic relations for the mutual benefits of the two countries. He also appreciated Pakistan’s role and efforts in the reconstruction and rebuilding of Afghanistan particularly, the development of social infrastructure.
After the opening remarks made by the respective ministers, the meeting approved the agenda of the 9th Joint Economic Commission (JEC).
Thereafter, technical experts from both the sides discussed issues threadbare under respective committees. The 9th JEC Session will conclude on Monday (tomorrow) in Kabul.
Later, the minister along with his Afghan counterpart visited Jalalabad and handed over Nangarhar Nishtar Kidney Hospital to Afghan Government constructed by Pakistan at a cost of about $7.5 million.
He also inaugurated the commencement of work on the 75 km dual carriageway from Torkhum to Jalalabad. (Courtesy: APP)

Ahsan Iqbal signs several projects in China

(Beijing) Ahsan Iqbal, Federal Minister for Planning, Development, and Reform signing agreement of early harvest projects under Economic Corridor with Chinese counterpart ( Zhang Xiaoqiang, Vice Chairman NDRC)in presence of Presidents of China and Pakistan, under which China will help Pakistan in 20,093 mw energy projects and major transportation projects including Karakarom Highway upto Islamabad, Karachi-Lahore motorway, new Gawadar Airport, and economic zones.

President Mamoon to embark upon visit to China on Tuesday

ISLAMABAD, Feb 17 (APP): President Mamnoon Hussain will embark upon three-day official visit to China on Tuesday (February 18) to further promote bilateral relations and trade ties between the two countries. Foreign Office Spokesperson giving details of the visit said this is his first-ever state visit abroad after assuming office of the President, and he will be the first dignitary to meet Chinese leadership after Chinese New Year celebrations (year of the horse).
During the visit, President Mamnoon Hussain will hold summit-level talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
He will also have meetings with Premier Li Keqiang and Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of China Zhang Dejiang, besides interacting with senior officials and government functionaries.
The visit signifies another hallmark in the strengthened and growing bilateral relations between Pakistan and China.
Soon after the announcement of the historic Pakistan-China economic corridor, the two countries have started planning on implementation of infrastructure projects to concretize the gains of connectivity.
This visit may be seen as a reiteration of Pakistan’s commitment to establish close, cordial, cooperative and friendly ties with its long-standing strategic partner.
During the President’s visit, the second meeting of the Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) of the Pakistan-China Economic Corridor will be convened on 18 February. Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reform Mr. Ahsan Iqbal will lead delegation to attend the meeting.
The JCC will finalize and decide on the implementation of mutually agreed projects of the Economic Corridor.
Economic Cooperation between Pakistan and China has expanded significantly in recent years.
Under a comprehensive framework Pakistan and China have bilateral economic cooperation in the form of Joint Economic Commission, Economic Cooperation Group, Joint Energy Working Group and a Joint Investment Committee, besides several other mechanisms.
Trade volume has crossed the figure of US$ 12 billion, with Pakistan’s exports increasing by 48%.
The visit of the President will be another milestone in the traditionally tested and ever expanding multifaceted and multidimensional relationship between the two neighbours. (Courtesy: APP)

Chief of Naval Staff calls on President

ISLAMABAD, Feb 17 (APP): Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Muhammad Asif Sandila NI (M) called on President Mamnoon Hussain here at the Aiwan-e-Sadr on Monday. Professional matters pertaining to Pakistan Navy were discussed during the meeting. (Courtesy: APP)

Pakistan, Saudi Arabia vow cooperation to promote int’l peace, stability

ISLAMABAD, Feb 17 (APP): Pakistan and Saudi Arabia Monday desired to further strengthen the cooperation in various fields for promotion of the causes of Muslim Ummah as well as international peace and stability. This was discussed in a meeting between Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and Saudi Crown Prince, Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Salman Bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud who called on him at the PM House. Federal Minister for Finance Ishaq Dar and Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif were also present on the occasion. Both the leaders remained together for some time and discussed matters relating to mutual interest. Prime Minister said that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia had brotherly relations and had similar views on regional as well as international matters.
Pakistan supported efforts of Saudi Arabia aimed at strengthening unity among the Islamic countries, the Prime Minister added.
Prime Minister said that Pakistan held Saudi Arabia in highest esteem and the relations between the people of both the countries were more than fraternal.
He said that the large Pakistani community in Saudi Arabia served as a bridge between the two brotherly countries and played a positive role in the development of Saudi Arabia as well as Pakistan’s economy through annual remittances of over $4 billion.
Saudi Crown Prince Salman Bin Abdul Aziz Al- Saud expressed his gratitude to the Prime Minister for the hospitality shown towards him and his delegation during the visit.
Earlier, both the leaders witnessed the agreements signing ceremony between the two countries that included agreement on export credit facility of US$ 125 million for purchase of urea from Saudi Arabia Industries Cooperate.
The second agreement contained US$ 58 million funding by Saudi Fund for Development of Golen Gol Hydropower Project in Chitral.
Secretary Economic Affairs Division Nargis Sethi from Pakistan side and Vice Chairman and MD Saudi Fund for Development Yousaf Ibrahim Albassam, from Saudi side signed the agreements.
Later, the Prime Minister hosted a dinner in honour of the visiting dignitary and his delegation. (Courtesy: APP)

Chinese ambassador calls on the President

KARACHI, Feb 13 (APP): Ambassador of China to Pakistan Sun Weidong called on President Mamnoon Hussain here at the State Guest House on Thursday. Pakistan-China bilateral relations and President’s forthcoming visit to China were discussed during the meeting. (Courtesy: APP)

No discrimination at federal level in appointing secretaries, CEs: Mamnoon

KARACHI, Feb 13 (APP): President Mamnoon Hussain Thursday said no discrimination was being meted at the federal level with the provinces while appointing secretaries and chief executives of government institutions. The President was speaking at an interactive session with media persons of Sindhi print and electronic media. The participants had pointed out the under-representation of officers belonging to the Sindh province at federal level. The President clarified that there was no discrimination in this regard. The President also discussed the political situation of Sindh with them and the issues faced by the Sindhi media.

President Mamnoon, who is the chancellor of 17 universities, expressed his resolve to upgrade the standard of education in Sindh, particularly at school level.
The media persons urged the President to give more autonomy to the provinces, implement the 50 percent quota on share of natural resources, and increase the representation of rural Sindh at Sindh High Court.
Qazi Asad Abid, Chairman Ibrat Group of Publications, highlighted the issues being faced by the Sindhi newspapers regarding advertisements. The President assured that their issues would be resolved on priority. (Courtesy: APP)

Pakistan, Turkey, Afghanistan reaffirm commitment to joint efforts for regional peace, security

ANKARA, Feb 13 (APP): Pakistan, Turkey and Afghanistan on Thursday reaffirmed their resolve to continue collective efforts and enhanced cooperation to ensure sustainable peace and security in the region. Addressing a joint press conference here after the 8th trilateral summit hosted by Turkish President Abdullah Gul, leaders of three countries expressed their ‘satisfaction’ over the outcome of the summit, held in an environment of ‘fraternity’. Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif reaffirmed Pakistan’s strong and sincere commitment for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process.
“Afghanistan today is at a defining moment in its history.  This is a time for all Afghans to come together, make peace and rebuild their country,” said the Prime Minister.
He hoped that the Afghan people would overcome all the challenges with resilience and perseverance and Pakistan would continue to facilitate the peace process for a peaceful Afghanistan.
“Together we are working to build a new chapter in Pakistan-Afghanistan relations,” he commented and deeply appreciated Turkey’s support for building sustainable peace in the heart of Asia.
This was not only the thematic focus of this summit, but indeed the crux of their collective efforts, he added.
The Prime Minister said his government would continue its sincere efforts to promote good neighbourly ties with Afghanistan.
“It is also clear that such common challenges are best resolved through common endeavours at the regional and international levels. Commonality of purpose creates new opportunities,” he added.
He said an inclusive political settlement was key to sustainable peace in Afghanistan as well as the whole region.
Nawaz Sharif said the three leaders had extensive exchanges during the summit. The region faced formidable challenges, ranging from extremism and terrorism to socio-economic development, he added.
The joint statement to be issued after the summit reflects the path we intend to take, he added.
“We are very pleased with this outcome and would remain constructively engaged to see our Afghan brothers succeed and thrive in the months and years ahead.”
Describing Turkey as his second home, the Prime Minister extended his profound thanks to the Turkish government and people for their warm welcome and gracious hospitality.
“Pakistan and Turkey are bound in a fraternal relationship that has few parallels in inter-state relations. Our strategic partnership is growing in leaps and bounds,” the Prime Minister said, lauding the contributions by Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Erdogan in giving a robust character to the bilateral cooperation.
When asked if the issue of perceptions about the involvement of each other’s state and non-state actors in terrorism in Pakistan and Afghanistan was discussed during the summit, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said these issues were discussed in detail, but they had not yet found any outcome.
He, however, added that the current and historical facts needed to be addressed as Muslims.
About the presence of Mullah Fazlullah in Afghanistan, President Karzai said it was a direct consequence of ‘inaction’ and violation of the Afghan territory by Taliban and terrorists.
He, however, hoped that as the process of cooperation moved forward, the two sides would be able to tackle this issue.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said he was extremely satisfied with the talks held in Ankara. There were concerns, but Pakistan and Afghanistan were on the same page, he added.
He said the purpose of the summit was to iron out such concerns and “we have been quite successful in addressing these issues.”
Replying to a question, the Prime Minister appreciated the Turkish contribution in education sector in Pakistan and said their institutions were providing excellent and quality education.
“I believe these institutions are contributing towards forging stronger bonds of friendship and cooperation between the two countries”, he added.
The Afghan President said the three leaders discussed all areas of cooperation among the three countries with special focus on security and peace building in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
He said the three countries would continue their engagement to increase a trusted environment between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
President Karzai said Afghanistan had a very important year ahead in which a complete transition to Afghan security forces and withdrawal of international forces were taking place, besides presidential elections to be held on April 5 this year.
He said Afghanistan was committed to the trilateral dialogue and expressed his confidence that the next Afghan President would be following the process.
President Karzai expressed the hope that as this process moved forward it would unfold a result for both Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Turkish President Abdullah Gul said all the three countries were jointly striving to maintain peace in the region.
He said the summit was aimed at carrying the existing multi-dimensional collaboration between the three countries, which took its strength from their historic and deep-rooted amity, to the future in a stronger way. (Courtesy: APP)

PMLN rebuts claims of those speculating against peace talks

طالبان سے مذاکرات کی ناکامی کی پیش گوئیاں کرنے والے ملک اور قوم کی خیر خوا ہ نہیں
طالبان سے مذاکرات کو بچگانہ کہنے والے وہی ہیں جنہوں نے اپنے مفادات کی خاطر پاکستان ، آئین اور اداروں کو موم کی ناک بنائے رکھا
جنہوں نے ملک کو دہشت گردی کی آگ میں دھکیلا وہ اپنے انجام سے خوفزدہ ہو کر ہسپتال کے بستروں میں چھپے ہوئے ہیں
عوام چاہتی ہے کہ ملک میں امن و امان کو یقینی بنایا جائے اور آئین و قانون کے مجرموں کو کیفر کردار تک ضرور پہنچنا چاہیے

پاکستان مسلم لیگ (ن) کے مرکزی سیکرٹری اطلاعات سینیٹر مشاہد اللہ خان نے کہا ہے کہ طالبان سے مذاکرات کو بچگانہ کہنے والے وہی ہیں جنہوں نے اپنے مفادات کی خاطر پاکستان ، آئین اور اداروں کو موم کی ناک بنائے رکھا۔ انھوں نے کہا کہ طالبان سے مذاکرات کی ناکامی کی پیش گوئیاں کرنے والے ملک اور قوم کی خیر خوا ہ نہیں ۔ پاکستان کو دہشت گردی کے عفریت سے بچانے کے لئے پوری قوم حکومت کی پشت پر کھڑی ہے ۔ انھوں نے ان خیالات کا اظہار اپنے گھر پر آنے والے پارٹی کارکنان کے وفود سے ملاقاتوں کے دوران کیا۔ مشاہد اللہ خان نے کہا کہ ملک مزید ایڈونچرازم کا متحمل نہیں ہوسکتا۔ آمریت میں ہر مسئلے کا حل طاقت اور گولی سے نکالا جاتا ہے جبکہ جمہوریت میں مذاکرات اور برداشت سے کام لے کر معاملات کو مثبت سمت میں لے جانے کی کوشش کی جاتی ہے ۔ انھوں نے کہا کہ حکومت قوم کو دہشت گردی سے نجات دلانے کے لئے قومی سیاست کے اعتماد اور اتفاق ِ رائے سے اقدامات کر رہی ہے ۔ معاشی ترقی کا خواب امن کی منزل کے حصول سے وابسطہ ہے ۔ مشاہد اللہ خان نے کہا کہ ہماری نیت صاف اور معاملات کار میں شفافیت ہے کوئی بد ترین مخالف بھی ہمارے ارادوں اور اقدامات پر انگلی نہیں اٹھا سکتا۔ جنہوں نے ملک کو دہشت گردی کی آگ میں دھکیلا وہ اپنے انجام سے خوفزدہ ہو کر ہسپتال کے بستروں میں چھپے ہوئے ہیں۔ انھوں نے کہا کہ آنے والی نسلوں کے مستقبل کو تاریکیوں میں دھکیلنے اور پاکستان کو عالمی سطح پر بدنام کروانے والے کسی رعایت کے مستحق نہیں۔ مشاہد اللہ خان نے کہا عوام چاہتی ہے کہ ملک میں امن و امان کو یقینی بنایا جائے اور آئین و قانون کے مجرموں کو کیفر کردار تک ضرور پہنچنا چاہیے۔

Pakistan-IMF successfully complete second review under IMF programme

ISLAMABAD, Feb 9 (APP): Pakistan and IMF have successfully concluded the second review under the 3-year (Extended Fund Facility) EFF programme for an amount of $ 6.64 billion. This will enable IMF to go to their Board for the release of third tranche of about $ 550 million, Finance Minister Senator Muhammad Ishaq Dar said in a joint press conference with IMF Chief, Jeffery Franks in Dubai, according to message received here Sunday.
Senator Ishaq Dar said this is an indicative of government’s commitment in implementing structural reforms in the areas of  taxation, energy, monetary and financial sectors and public sector enterprises.
Based on the increase in growth in the first quarter recorded at over 5 percent, the Minister said the growth at 2.8 percent, estimated in the first review, has been scaled upto 3.1 percent by the IMF on account of improved economic activity.
He said LSM has been the main contributor registering a growth at 6.8 percent while services sector also posted a growth of 5.7 percent.
Based on the moderate rate of inflation of 7.9% during January,2014, it is expected that the inflation for the entire fiscal year would remain within a single digit, however, IMF has projected the same at 10%.
He said Fiscal sector exhibited strong performance during the first half of the year. Against the target of 3.5%, the actual fiscal deficit was 2.2% of GDP.
Stringent control on spending and implementation of austerity measures as announced in the Budget have helped in containing the fiscal deficit, he added.
He said that FBR revenue collection for the first half recorded an increase of over 17% i.e. Rs 1031 billion against the target of Rs 1029 billion.
Tax administration reforms are expected to gradually deliver further improvements in revenue collections. An initiative to incorporate new taxpayers into the income tax net is moving ahead as planned, Ishaq Dar added.
The recently approved investment incentive package, he said, seeks to foster investment in key productive sectors and provide incentives for taxpayers to voluntarily enter the tax net.
“ We remain committed to our plan to broaden the tax net through the elimination of most tax exemptions and loopholes granted through Statutory Regulatory Orders (SROs),” he added.
The Senator said that SBP will continue its prudent stance on monetary policy as needed to help accumulate reserves and maintain price stability and added that the target of Net Domestic Asset (NDA) of SBP for end-December 2013 was met and the monetary programme remains on track.
The IMF commended SBP’s efforts in meeting the end-December 2013 Net International Reserve (NIR) target and expressed satisfaction with current progress in meeting the end March target, despite an ambitious reserve accumulation path.
He said that “ PML(N) government gave autonomy to SBP in early 90s, and we intend to enhance central bank independence by taking necessary measures.”
It will improve monetary policy making and help in pursuing price stability as a primary objective, he added.
The Minister said IMF also acknowledged the stability of the banking sector in Pakistan and there was an agreement to enhance the regulatory and supervisory framework to further strengthen the financial stability.
“We are implementing our recently announced Power Policy to ensure improvements in collections, rationalization of costly and poorly targeted subsidies, strengthening governance and regulatory and increasing energy supply. Reforms in the electricity sector are bearing fruit with energy shortages and unscheduled load-shedding declining,” he said.
Ishaq Dar said the government has already undertaken key reforms including the amendments to the Pakistan Penal Code 1860, enacted by an Ordinance, hiring of an internationally recognized  professional audit firm to conduct a technical and financial audit of the system to identify energy sector payables to stop the buildup of circular debt.
He said Central Power Purchasing Agency (CPPA) has been set up to improve the cash flows of the power sector. Revenue-based load shedding in all remaining electricity distribution companies has been initiated to curtail leakage from the system.
He said the import of LNG is being finalized to mitigate the gas shortages by the end of 2014 while Gas (Theft Control and Recovery) Ordinance 2014 has been promulgated for control of losses in the system.
“ As planned, we are moving ahead with privatization of PSEs through capital market transactions and strategic partnership. We are hoping to achieve the first phase of capital market transaction by the end of the current financial year,” he added.
He said disbursement procedures for Income Support Programme to ensure timely release and distributions of funds to the vulnerable sections of the society is being streamlined.
The current account deficit for first quarter was higher than  the target reflecting strong aggregate demand, emanating from higher investmentrequirements as reflected in higher machinery imports.  The deficit was also affected due to lower capital and financial inflows, he added.
He said working through this programme requires exceptional discipline and diligence.” It is a team effort. We have achieved negotiation of the Programme and second review successfully,” he added.
The Minister said “our challenges remain numerous but we are determined that we will remain on track in achieving the objectives of the programme in line with PML(N)’s 2013 election manifesto.”
“Our policies have already changed the economic direction of the country and has put our economy on the road of recovery, stability and economic prosperity,” the Minister said and thanked Jeffery Franks, the Mission Chief and his team, for an outstanding job they have done in conducting the second review within a tight time schedule. (Courtesy: APP)