ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari has said that the matter of Raymond Davis, involved in the killing of Pakistani nationals in Lahore already before the courts and it would be prudent to wait for the legal course to be completed.
A US congressional delegation Monday separately called on President Asif Ali Zardari at Aiwan-e-Sadr and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani at PM House.
The delegation included Representatives Darell El Issa, Todd R. Platts, Jason Chaffetz, Stephen F. Lynch, Brian M. Higgins and Raul L. Labrador. Mr. Stephen Engelken, Charge d’ Affairs, Mr. Thomas A. Alexander, senior Counsel (Majority) Committee on Oversight, Mr. Adam Pl. Fromm, Counsel (Majority) Director of Member Services and Mr. Scott Lindsay, Counsel (Majority) Committee on Oversight, were also present.
Pak side included Dr. Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, Finance Minister, Mr. M. Salman Faruqui, Secretary General to the President, Ch. Abdul Ghafoor, Chairman National Commission for Government Reforms , Ms. Hina Rabbani Khar, MOS for EAD/Finance, Senator Syeda Sughra Imam, Ms. Farahnaz Ispahani and Spokesperson to the President Mr. Farhatullah Babar besides Foreign Secretary Mr. Salman Bashir and other senior officials.
Briefing media Spokesperson to the President Mr. Farhatullah Babar said that
matters relating to Pak-US bilateral relations, mutual cooperation, fight against militancy, ROZs and security situation in the region among other related issues were discussed during the meeting.
Babar said the Congressmen also raised the matter of Mr. Raymond Davis, involved in the killing of Pakistani nationals in Lahore, with the President. The President said that he appreciated their concern but the matter was already before the courts. It would be prudent to wait for the legal course to be completed, he said.
Mr. Babar said that the President highlighted economic situation of the country during the meeting and focused upon the need for US support to Pakistan in pleading its case for assistance and market access before the international community. Ours is a war ravaged and flood stricken economy, Mr. Babar quoted the President as saying, and our people need priority attention and assistance to overcome financial difficulties. Our priority, the President emphasized, is trade not aid. We need preferential market access to support our economy from the dire impacts of ongoing struggle against militancy, on one hand, and to rehabilitate and reconstruct damaged infrastructure due to devastating floods, on the other. The President urged the visiting delegation to use their influence to secure market access and trade for the country.
Discussing Pak-US relations, the President said that a long-term and stable equation marked by close collaboration and multidimensional cooperation between the two countries guarantees not only development of the country but also peace and stability of the region.
He expressed satisfaction on progress being made through the channel of Pak-US strategic dialogue on various sectoral levels. The members of congressional delegation appreciated the country’s struggle against militancy and assured US continued support in this regard to the people and the Government of Pakistan. The President reiterated his call for expediting passage of ROZs legislation to create economic opportunities for the people who are worst hit due to scourge of militancy. Discussing regional situation, the President reiterated Pakistan’s principled stance that it has an abiding interest in a stable, peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan and it firmly believes in neutrality and non-interference in internal affairs of the country. Pakistan, the President said, would continue to support all efforts for promoting sustainable peace, stability and development in Afghanistan. He said that we firmly believe that political approach seconded by economic development was equally important for bringing stability to the war tarnished country. He said that Pakistan would support all efforts for the capacity building of the institutions in Afghanistan.
The delegation thanked the President for meeting and said that US administration would continue to provide all possible help to the Government in overcoming its difficulties.
Meanwhile Prime Minister in his meeting with US delegation said it was imperative on part of the US to quicken the pace of disbursement of its economic assistance for the development projects not only in the affected areas but throughout the country to help his government sustain the momentum and retain the support of the masses in fighting this menace. He particularly called on the new US Congress for fast tracking the passage of ROZ and Enterprise Fund legislation for creation of higher employment and bringing down the economic hardships of the people of Pakistan.
The Prime Minister stated that Pakistan was going through an evolutionary process of rebuilding the democratic institutions through restoration of 1973 Constitution; introduction of economic reforms; restructuring of its public sector enterprises; and introduction of transparency and accountability in government’s functions. He highlighted the fact that strong mechanisms were already in place in Pakistan in the shape of institutions of Auditor General and National Accountability Bureau. Besides the Chairmanship of Public Accounts Committee had been assigned by his Government to the Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly. He, nonetheless had still welcomed the advice of International Financial Institutions for Third Party Verification and Beneficiary Assessment as well as for public disclosure of programme performance in order to provide higher comfort level to the international donors as well as to the public at large.
The Prime Minister apprised the US Congressional delegation of his efforts to build national consensus for introducing and implementing economic reforms and of the ongoing deliberations that the government’s team was undertaking with all the political stakeholders of the country. The Prime Minister said that being a head of the democratic government, he must take into account the hardships and grievances of the masses who had come under severe strain with the reduction and removal of subsidies. He urged the international community and the donors in particular to recognize these ground realities in Pakistan.
The Prime Minister appreciated the US support for the flood relief and rehabilitation; financing of Pakistan’s development projects under Kerry Lugar Bill and security and defence related assistance for Pakistan. The Prime Minister termed the US assistance as pivotal for the success in war against terror and hoped that the new US Congress would proactively help Pakistan in achieving that common objective.
While answering a question of one of the visiting Congressman, the Prime Minister said that being a partner of the US in pursuing the regional stability, Pakistan rightfully expects that the US would not discriminate among the South Asian countries and Pakistan would be treated at par with its neighbour particularly in the field of nuclear energy cooperation. Besides, US should stop the predator attacks and share the Drone technology and intelligence with Pakistan, thus enabling Pakistan’s security forces to take action against the terrorists themselves. He vilified the Drone attacks as counterproductive as they only served to strengthen the hands and united the terrorists rather than reducing that threat. The Prime Minister also called for the enhanced cooperation and joint strategy between Pakistan, Afghanistan and US in war against terror and for restorating the peace and stability in Afghanistan.
The US Congressional delegation recognized and applauded the sacrifices of people and Armed Forces in the war against terrorism and extremism. The members of Congressional Delegation held the view that Pakistan – US partnership was critical at this juncture through enhanced civilian and military cooperation for defeating the menace of terror. They congratulated the Government of Pakistan for remarkably and successfully coping with onerous flood relief work and lauded people of Pakistan for their resilience in overcoming the unparallel devastation caused by the unprecedented floods in the country, last year. They assured the Prime Minister that the US Congress despite its agenda of budgetary cut will standby Pakistan and remains stead fast in its support to help it overcome its economic difficulties. They also promised to clear the back log of assistance for Pakistan’s development projects through the USAID.