LAHORE - Terming Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s recent US visit highly successful, Information Minister Pervez Rashid says “all targets of the visit” have been achieved and the results of the talks would be forthcoming pretty soon.
Answering questions in the Waqt News Programme ‘Insight’, hosted by The Nation Editor Salim Bokhari, he said the US has not only given Pakistan a go-ahead for initiating peace talks with Taliban but has also assured it of help to make the negotiations successful. The US regards Pakistani Taliban a major headache at a time when it is preparing for reducing its military presence in war-ravaged Afghanistan.
On the US drones attacks, which have killed a large number of innocent people in Pakistan, Pervez Rashid said the prime minister had raised the issue at every forum as a result of which world community has started endorsing our point of view that these attacks were violation of not only the international law but also a blatant infringement of the sovereignty of Pakistan.
Pressure has also begun to build against the US on this account, he said, clearly referring to the criticism the world’s sole super power had to face in the United Nations at the hands of Venezuela, Brazil and China. He said Pakistan’s permanent representative to the UN Masood Khan also drew the world body’s attention to attacks by the unmanned vehicles.
In response to a question, the minister said in unequivocal terms that Pakistan would go ahead with the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project, regardless of opposition being expressed by some countries. Similarly, he said, the Gwadar deep seaport would be completed as planned.
When pointed out that in public perception the US visit was a complete failure, the minister said it was totally a wrong impression. He said in the past unelected ‘leaders’ visited America to get legitimacy for their unlawful rule and then in turn they worked as they were dictated. This time around, he said, an elected premier visited the US and talked of the national interests and accepted no dictations.
Mr Sharif, he said, discussed with President Obama energy shortages, terrorist activities and economy, and received a very positive response for all three areas. He said America assured help for Bhasha and Dasu dams, ignoring India’s opposition to Bhasha dam on account of its being located on a disputed territory.
As for economy, he said investors from all over the world gathered in America expressed deep interest in investment in Pakistan. A big breakthrough was also seen in access of Pakistani products to American markets.
Mr Pervez said the biggest achievement of the visit was a changed perception of the West about Pakistan which no longer regarded Islamabad as part of the problem rather it now considers it part of the solution. Previously, we stood isolated at the international level, but today we are again part of the global community.
When pointed out that the government is sidetracking the Kashmir issue for the sake of good relations with India, the minister said there is no change in the government’s stand on Kashmir and the PM’s speech in the General Assembly is sufficient to support this claim. As for bellicose statements being made by Indian ministers these days, he said nobody should forget that it is the election season in India. Once the elections are over, the tone of statements would also change, he believed.
Asked why Prime Minister Sharif had failed to cite statements of Indians like Col Prohat and Kurkary when Obama raised the issue of Hafiz Saeed and progress in Mumbai attacks, the minister said America has its own concerns on these issues and we have our stand, but Pakistan does not want to engage in any tit-for-tat course with anyone as this policy has in past cost us heavily. He said Pakistan wanted to focus on points of convergence rather than divergences and make the country peaceful. Confrontational approach, he argued, would not yield positive results.
The minister said there are some areas on which not only America but the world grumbles against us. He referred to China, which despite its being a close friend of Pakistan, has accused that three Pakistani organisations are creating disturbance in some of its areas. He said admission of weakness is not disgrace but a step to rectify things for which the world is ready to cooperate with us. To a question that America never paid us the dividend of 60-year friendship, he said situation has changed now and the whole world is extending its hand of friendship towards us.
When asked why the government did not take the nation on board about talks with the Taliban although President Obama and US State Department were being kept abreast with the situation, he said the PM has directed Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan to take all political leaders on board on this matter. To a question, he said a new law has been framed to take to task any agency persons involved in the missing persons’ incidents. He said over the last three months, no incident of missing person has come up.