ISLAMABAD: (By Yasir Habib Khan)– Pakistan has assured United Kingdom (UK) to midwife dialogue process for peace in war-ravaged Afghanistan but called upon involvement of all stakeholders to bring the peace talks to fruition. President Asif Ali Zardari, during his meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron at the Presidency, expressed the hope that efforts made would also take into account legitimate concerns of all stakeholders. President Zardari said Pakistan was a staunch supporter of peace and stability in Afghanistan and would continue to support every effort aimed at restoring sustainable and long-term peace in the region.
Spokesperson to the president Senator Farhatullah Babar said two rounds of talks were held-one at the delegation level and the other a one-on-one meeting. Pakistan-UK bilateral relations and the regional situation were discussed during the meetings, with special reference to some recent developments aimed at bringing peace in the neighbouring country, Babar said. Discussing the regional situation, the president recalled the three trilateral summits that were facilitated by UK and appreciated Britain’s role in promoting reconciliation in Afghanistan.
He reiterated that Pakistan considered regional peace and security vital for its own socio-economic interests and would continue to support every effort aimed at restoring peace, stability and development in Afghanistan and in the region. Zardari emphasised that Pakistan had always maintained a constructive approach and believed that dialogue and reconciliation was the only war forward towards ensuring durable peace in Afghanistan. The president welcomed efforts being made for finding a peaceful solution to the long drawn conflict in Afghanistan.
The British premier at the very outset of the meeting congratulated the president for overseeing a smooth democratic transition and said it reflected a measure of maturity achieved by the country that augured well for further strengthening democratic traditions in Pakistan. President Zardari while thanking the visiting dignitary said credit for the smooth transition went to all political parties, the Parliament and above all the people of Pakistan for participating in the electoral process despite threats from militants and anti-democratic elements. Zardari said the smooth transition of government following elections was a clear demonstration that the ethos of Pakistani people was democratic and that was why dictatorship failed to take roots in the country.
Discussing bilateral relations, the president said Pakistan considered UK a friend and a genuine development partner. He said it was a matter of great satisfaction that Pak-UK Enhanced Strategic Dialogue (ESD), that covered the entire spectrum of bilateral relations, had institutionalised consultation process in all areas of mutual concern. Zardari also appreciated UK assistance to Pakistan, especially in the education sector and poverty alleviation program. He expressed satisfaction over the fact that mutual trade between the two countries was following an upward trajectory.
He said sustained efforts should continue to go beyond the target of £2.5 billion set under 2012 Pakistan-UK Trade and Investment Roadmap. Calling for expanding the scope of UK Foreign Direct Investment in the fields of energy, infrastructure development, agriculture, agro-based industry and mining, the president said Pakistan looked forwards to UK’s investment, especially in the energy sector. Highlighting the investment-friendly regime of the country, Zardari said Pakistan would welcome UK investors who want partnerships and those who want to operate independently. “We are working simultaneously on coal mining and coal-generated power plants and would welcome UK expertise,” he added. While thanking Cameron for his personal efforts in securing trade concessions for Pakistan in the EU and UK’s advocacy for Autonomous Trade Preferences for Pakistan, the president said Pakistan was keen to be included in the GSP Plus Scheme in 2014. He said Pakistan would greatly welcome UK assistance for early consideration of its request by EU.
The president said GSP Plus would create jobs and economic opportunities for Pakistan’s unemployed youth which was the most effective tool to neutralise the threat posed by militants and extremists. Those present during the meeting included Saeeda Warsi, UK National Security Advisor Sir Kim Darroch, British High Commissioner Adam Thomson, and Ed Lewellyn. Pakistan’s delegation included Adviser to PM on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, Spokesperson to the president Senator Farhatullah Babar and Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani among others.
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