ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari on Monday called for expediting the Kerry-Lugar Bill and the Reconstruction Oppurtunity Zones (ROZ) legislation in the US Senate, besides the need for working out a joint strategy to counter terrorism. The President said this in his meeting with Senator John Kerry, also the Chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who called on him at Aiwan-e-Sadr here.
They discussed various issues including situation in the region, upcoming meeting of Friends of Democratic Pakistan in Tokyo on April 17, funds for socio-economic uplift in Pakistan and the ongoing war on terror. Discussing the forthcoming meeting of Friends of Pakistan in Tokyo and the economic and security challenges facing the country, President termed financial assistance as essential for the economic and social uplift of the people of Pakistan. The President said generous support from international community will help strengthening democracy in the country.
Talking to Senator John Kerry, Chairman US Senate Foreign Relations Committee here at the PM House.
Prime Minister Gilani said the US should not attach conditionalities to the assistance package being presented to the US Congress, as the aid with strings attached would fail to generate the desired goodwill and results in Pakistan.
He also asked the US Senator to urge his government to focus on intelligence sharing so that the two countries could get rid of the menace of extremism, militancy and terrorism. The Prime Minister said Pakistan was a victim of militancy and terrorism and would continue to act as bulwark in eradicating this menace in its own interest as well as in the interest of the world at large.
He stressed that the US drone attacks and consequent collateral damage, however, were impeding his government’s efforts in this regard. The Prime Minister pointed out that the negative perception from the US and the West were generating ill will. The Prime Minister urged the Senator that the US Government must take the fact into account that Pakistan cannot ignore its eastern border and hence should play a role in resolving all outstanding issues including the core issue of Kashmir with India so that Pakistan can focus entirely on the western front.
Senator John Kerry informed the Prime Minister that he and his colleagues in the US Senate were working with the House of Representatives for the passage of the legislation for providing Pakistan the much-needed economic and military assistance package.
Senator Kerry said he respected the way Prime Minister handled the domestic political situation last month to bring all political stakeholders in the country on board on important national issues. He hoped that with Prime Minister’s concerted efforts, Pakistan would be able to overcome its economic difficulties by creating conducive environment for foreign investment.
He said US is committed to long term cooperation with Pakistan and financial help to the country for improving life of the people. Addressing a joint news conference with Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi at the Foreign Office after more than one hour meeting between the two, Senator Kerry said Kerry Lugar Bill will triple non military assistance to Pakistan as it will provide $1.5 billion dollars annually for next ten years.
“Extremism and terrorism are common threats and enemies to Pakistan and international community, therefore joint efforts are needed to face these challenges.”
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi terming the meeting with Senator John Kerry very positive and constructive said, “John Kerry has demonstrated his commitment to providing economic assistance to Pakistan.” He said during the good discussion today they exchanged views on the way forward for finding a suitable mechanism of implementing new policy of President Obama administration towards Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Qureshi said he also conveyed the feelings of Pakistan government and its desire to have consensus through parliament to deal with the economic and social challenges. The Minister said the parliamentary committee will prepare its action plan that will be discussed with the Obama administration during his next visit to Washington in early May.
The Foreign Minister said he informed Senator Kerry,
“We are friends and allies. We need to find mechanism to bridge the gap by talking to each other and exchanging views on all subjects.”
Answering a question about any conditionality to US economic aid, the Foreign Minister said it was too early as the bill has to be discussed and processed before assuming a final shape. Terming it “useful and productive” interaction, the Foreign Minister said forthcoming meeting of Friends of Democratic Pakistan being held in Tokyo was also discussed in the meeting today besides other bilateral matters.
Senator John Kerry, terming the meeting very positive said the discussion during his meetings with President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi focussed on a wide range of issues. Appreciating the role of Pakistan in fighting against terrorism, Senator Kerry said Pakistan Government is committed to fight extremism and terrorism and is extending help and cooperation to the international community.
He said extremism and terrorism are global problem, and they need global response to face them. Senator Kerry said extremist elements are present all over the world including in US, Europe, Afghanistan and other parts of the globe, but there is need for cooperation and joint efforts to deal with them. He said the causes of extremism could be different from region to region and could be linked to religion, ideology or poverty.
He said he was here to discuss the new way forward for more economic cooperation to provide basic needs of life like food, education, health and roads to the people of Pakistan. Senator Kerry said international community and even Pakistan had been facing economic challenges, therefore, US would extend its full help and assistance to face these challenges.
Referring to attaching conditions to Kerry-Lugar Bill, Senator Kerry said these are not conditions but these are some measurement of effectiveness of the projects. He said besides concentrating on the improvement of food, health and educational facilities, assistance and cooperation would also be provided to Pakistan in energy sector.
Senator Kerry said, “We have to develop long term relationship between the people of two countries.”
Replying to a question about Pak-India relations, Senator John Kerry said, “Both the countries have strong and vibrant political system and both are committed to have better future, therefore they can resolve their dispute through dialogue process.”
He said before Mumbai attacks, there has been development in the bilateral relations of these two countries. He expressed the hope “We can find a new way forward in Pak-India relations with international community and even with US help.”
Replying to criticism in Pakistan on continuous drone attacks, Senator Kerry said he has listened to the voices raised in Pakistan and would convey these sentiments to the policy makers in Washington for possible review in the policy of drone attacks. On the question of criticism on ISI, Kerry said he had very good meeting with Chief of ISI General Pasha and added the US wanted to continue the cooperation in the intelligence sharing.