Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Sunday said the United States has warned that the Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline project could invoke sanctions on the country in the future.
Some 48 hours earlier, Foreign Office spokesperson Aizaz Chaudhry had disclosed that the government had presented US Secretary of State John Kerry a ‘non-paper’ over the IP pipeline, conveying Pakistan’s standpoint that the project was being undertaken to address the country’s acute energy requirements.
In the past too Washington has voiced serious concerns about the pipeline project. Earlier this year, then US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said that Pakistan risked sparking US sanctions if it pursues its plans to build the $7.5 billion gas pipeline.
Speaking to a delegation of the Pakistan Journalists Forum at Sharif Villa, the residence of his son Hussain Nawaz Sharif, on Sunday, the prime minister said that he had clearly conveyed Pakistan’s demand to end the CIA-led drone campaign during his meeting with Secretary Kerry.
On Thursday, the US secretary of state held out the hope that the controversial drone campaign could end ‘very soon’. His comments, made during an interview with PTV, were subsequently downplayed by US officials.
Talking to reporters, Prime Minister Nawaz said he would draft a comprehensive policy on Kashmir and other issues after consulting all political parties. He called for ending the arms race in the region and urged India to join Pakistan in reducing the two country’s defence budgets.
“Regional peace will remain under threat until there is a balance in armament… We want peace and for that both countries [India and Pakistan] must put a cap on their defence spending,” he said.
“No one, apart from common people, has suffered from the wars between us.”
Replying to a question on Afghanistan, the premier said the country will adopt a policy of ‘non-interference’. Pakistan will not support a particular group in Afghanistan at the expense of others, he maintained, adding that Pakistan supports the Doha process because it is expected to serve regional and international interests.
In response to another question, Premier Nawaz said a commission was investigating allegations against former president Pervez Musharraf and that he would refrain from commenting on the matter till it compiled its report. He added that he did not believe in the politics of revenge.
Talking about the country’s energy crisis, he said it was sad that a nuclear power was beset by chronic electricity shortage. Generating power would not have been such a difficult matter, he said, had previous governments fulfilled their responsibilities and devised plans to meet the shortage.
“Had they done some work on this end, the situation would have been much different,” he contended, adding that since his government had to start from ‘scratch’, it would take some time to solve the crisis.
“The electricity deficit will be dealt within three to four years,” Prime Minister Nawaz reiterated. He announced that the government was working on a dam that would both end the country’s power woes and benefit the agriculture sector. The premier said work on the Thar coal project was also being carried out and would help overcome the power crisis.
Prime Minister Nawaz said Pakistan was confronted by several challenges at the moment, such as terrorism, sectarianism, power shortage, economic woes and depleted resources. He said that these challenges would be solved with mutual cooperation.
He stressed that Pakistan will have to adopt the rule of law, end the scourge of terrorism and extremism, and create a new political culture in order to be a civilised nation.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 5th, 2013.