DOHA: Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and his Qatar counterpart Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabr al-Thani, in wide ranging talks Monday, agreed to collaborate in diverse areas including energy and trade for the mutual benefit of the two countries.
Gilani arrived in Qatar today to discuss Afghan peace efforts in the ultra-rich Gulf state where the Taliban and US officials have begun preliminary contacts.
At exclusive and delegation-level talks at Amiri Diwan, office of Qatar’s prime minister, the officials also discussed joint development of hydro power, while identifying sources of financing, exploring investment in energy, rehabilitating existing hydropower plants and the construction of a National Highway and Motorway infrastructure.
Gilani said Pakistan was interested in importing 500 million cubic feet LNG per day from Qatar that produces 77 million tonnes per annum of LNG. It will be initially provided to power houses to generate 2500MW electricity.
He told the Qatar premier to welcome Pakistani skilled, semi-skilled labour. Already 87,000 Pakistani expatriates were efficiently contributing to Qatar’s economy and more Pakistanis could effectively be a part of Qatar’s demand of two million work force for infrastructure projects in Doha, he said.
Gilani further stressed the need to diversify trade potential between both the countries. He noted that the remittances from Qatar rose to $354 million in 2010 as compared to $339.51 million in 2009, and added that Pakistan gave great importance to its ties with Qatar and wanted to explore new avenues of cooperation.
Qatar was playing an important role in regional stability and peace in Afghanistan, he observed and expressed satisfaction over security and defense cooperation between the two countries.
“The prime minister reiterated the stance of his government to support Afghan-led and Afghan-owned initiatives for a stable Afghanistan,” Gilani’s office had quoted him as saying before his departure.
Islamabad has officially billed Gilani’s visit to Qatar as an opportunity to boost ties and maximise trade.
“He will meet among others the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabr al-Thani,” foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Basit had said.
“The prime minister’s visit is aimed at opening new vistas for enhanced mutual cooperation and activating the existing structured mechanisms and institutional linkages,” he added.
The Taliban confirmed last month that they planned to set up a political office in Qatar ahead of possible talks with the United States. Contacts between both sides have already begun, focused on a possible prisoner exchange.
“There are certain ideas and suggestions on Afghan reconciliation and when Prime Minister Gilani meets Qatar’s leadership, these will certainly come under discussion,” a senior Pakistani official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
“The Americans have been briefing us on all developments aimed at pushing forward the peace process in Afghanistan and we have clearly told them that Islamabad strictly adheres to a policy of non-interference,” he added.
Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said last week that Pakistan was willing to do whatever the Afghans wanted to end the war, but insisted the process should not be led by the Americans or any other foreign power.
The senior official said it was “important to engage all Afghan factions including Taliban in the process to achieve a lasting peace.”
Khar met Afghan President Hamid Karzai last week and sought to refute perceptions that Islamabad was an obstacle to peace, and denied accusations in a leaked Nato report that her country was secretly supporting the Taliban.
Kabul has given its blessing to the Taliban office in Qatar, but has insisted on a central role in any negotiations.
The militia has denied any plans to hold separate talks with the Afghan government in Saudi Arabia, which Pakistan had reportedly offered to assist.
Asked how Pakistan viewed the Taliban’s office in Qatar, the official said: “Now they have an address and all those wanting peace can have a contact.”
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