No quick fix for energy crisis: US

KARACHI - The United States is planning to open four visa consular sections in Pakistan within a year while is restarting the consulate service in Karachi, which will provide 100 business visas per week from next month aiming to promote business opportunities and potential of Pakistans economy in the current world of economic globalisation and trade liberalisation. Richard Holbrooke, US Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, stated this while speaking at a news conference held on Wednesday at local hotel. He said US was committed to work with Pakistan, and knew well that Pakistan could compete at the global set up, fairly well. Replying to a question if the upcoming elections in Afghanistan would be fair and transparent, he replied, I am not sure, whether the elections will be transparent in Afghanistan or not; we will see it when the elections are held. Afghanistan is a different country and it is difficult to hold elections in a war zone. No elections are perfect, but it is hoped that there will be observers and around 800 journalists who will get to cover the election process in Afghanistan. He said he felt at home in Pakistan, particularly in Karachi, which he found to be very hospitable, adding being a native New Yorker himself, he had found great similarities between the two cities of Karachi and New York. Holbrooke said he was well aware of the energy shortfall that was turning the country into complete blackout and also hit hard at the economic and social set up of the country. Pakistans natural resources could be utilised more efficiently in such hard times. But his country did not have a magic solution to every problem that Pakistan was facing, but it could call for help in this regard, he added. Talking about a plan, he said, We plan to set up a inter-agency team called the Pakistan Emergency Task Force, which will deal with the short and long term problems of the country. To begin with we plan to have an energy dialogue with business leaders of Pakistan; more importantly, we plan to have financial assistance from OPEC, IMF, ADB and World Bank for ending the energy crisis. The United States is committed to ensure that the economy grows and so do job opportunities for the people of Pakistan. Regarding the Afghan war as to how long it will continue, Holbrooke was uncertain about the timeframe. It is not like WWII as we have repeatedly said as no negotiations will take place in Geneva, with the Taliban, he remarked, adding it was a different war and a different enemy, which was a common threat for Pakistan, Afghanistan and United States. As far as the Balochistan issue is concerned, he said, Balochistan no doubt is a concern for us, but more importantly it should be a greater concern for Pakistan as tensions are rising. He pointed out to the fact that the province is located at a place, which is at the edge of the area where the American military offensive is going on and said, Its a domestic problem of Pakistan, and issue of Balochistan must be addressed by your leaders. Praising President Obama for reaching out to Muslims all over the world in his Cairo address and in the inaugural speech, Holbrooke said it was no doubt a paradigm shift in the US policies. Reuters/APP adds: US President Barack Obamas envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan promised on Wednesday help for Pakistans beleaguered power sector but said there was no quick solution for a crisis that has taken years to develop. The United States is committed to assisting Pakistan to move beyond its current energy crisis and we are vigorously pursuing ways to expand our engagement, Richard Holbrooke told a news conference in Karachi. But let me emphasise that the US does not have a magic solution for Pakistans energy problems. They have been at least 25 years in the making, they were predicted by international economists and experts, and they will not be solved easily. Holbrooke said a team of US experts would arrive in Pakistan today (Thursday) to assess the problem and consider solutions, while a meeting of Pakistani and US officials will be held in October in Islamabad to discuss the issue. He also said the US government was seeking support for Pakistans power sector from US financial entities, including the Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corp. We are also working closely with the International Monetary Fund, the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank, all of which are making considerable efforts in the energy field, he said. However, he emphasised that it was up to Pakistan to take the lead role to solve a problem that had no quick fixes. We cannot do it for Pakistan, he said. We can only help and we can only help to the extent that Pakistan extends the leadership role. Holbrooke said the recent gains by the Pakistan Army against militants gave the US room to focus more attention on Pakistans economic woes, chief among them the shortage of electricity. It is important to recall that after meeting Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Sunday, Holbrooke declared the energy sector, rather than security, as his primary focus in talks this week in Islamabad and Karachi. Earlier, responding to a participant request about American help in the ongoing energy crisis, access to US markets and in creating employment opportunities, which would bring a turn around in the lives of people of Pakistan, at a gathering at Governor House, Richard Holbrooke promised positive action, but cited certain things which, in his opinion, the US can do and certain that it cannot. He also stressed enhancing the mutual collaboration between the two countries but in a much more open manner. MONOTORING DESK adds: Holbrooke also said the repatriation of Malakand IDPs is very significant development. Talking about the Pak-India relation, he said, This is not my duty to mediate between Pakistan and India. Commenting on the local bodies system, he said the system should continue.