Time to hit ‘reset’ on Pak-US relations: Ahsan Iqbal

Says Pakistan advocates ‘proactive engagement of the int'l community to mitigate humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan’

Rizwan Shehzad   July 19, 2022
Ahsan Iqbal attending a with USIP, Washington DC, July 18 2022. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB


Minister for Planning Development and Special Initiatives Ahsan Iqbal on Tuesday said that it was time to hit “reset” on Pak-US relations in the economic and development domain.

Addressing a roundtable hosted by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) on 'Pakistan-US Relations – looking forward', the minister said that the shared values and aspirations for democracy, rule of law and diversity were natural bonds between the people of Pakistan and the United States, and provided a solid base to transform their existing relationship into a robust developmental partnership.

Discussing Pak-US bilateral cooperation, Iqbal highlighted education, healthcare, energy, technology, agriculture, food security, and climate change as the key areas for greater collaboration between the two countries.

Read IMF and Pakistan’s trade dilemma

On regional situation, he said that Pakistan was a key stakeholder in regional peace and stability. The minister said that the situation in Afghanistan had direct bearings on Pakistan and therefore Islamabad advocates “proactive engagement of the international community to mitigate humanitarian crisis” in neighbouring Afghanistan.

The minister also highlighted the situation in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IIOJK) and stressed the need for the international community, the United States and other “champions of human rights across the globe” to take cognizance of the situation.

The participants also interacted with Iqbal and discussed a host of issues, including Pakistan's political and economic situation.

Govt committed to IMF, economic stability

In a meeting with International Monetary Fund (IMF) Deputy Managing Director Ms Antoinette M Sayeh, Iqbal appreciated the recent staff-level agreement between the IMF and the government.

He also underscored Pakistan's continued commitment to the programme and apprised the Fund of the difficult economic and fiscal decisions taken by the government as its priority is the economic stability of the country, which would lead to the socio-economic development of the people.

Iqbal further expressed the hope that IMF's Board would give early approval to the staff agreement.

Sayeh also congratulated the government on the successful conclusion of the staff-level agreement and assured that the IMF would continue to play its role to assist stabilising Pakistan's economy.

The minister highlighted that Pakistan has a robust agricultural sector and related economic sectors. He stressed that despite Pakistan having a low carbon footprint, it was one of the most vulnerable countries due to climate change.

He sought IMF's assistance to the country's agriculture sector, especially to mitigate the impact of climate change.

Read more Govt faces $4b financing gap despite IMF deal

Iqbal also suggested that the Fund may consider assisting countries to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals because the economies of many countries have been affected due to the ongoing Ukraine crisis. Sayeh agreed that this had created difficulties and the IMF was trying to assess how it could assist member countries.

The minister proposed that the IMF may consider extending training to public officials from the provinces of Pakistan for capacity building in matters related to public finance because such important areas had been devolved to the provinces after the 18th Constitutional Amendment. To this, Sayeh assured that the Fund would look into this proposal.

The meeting was held at IMF headquarters and Ambassador Masood Khan; Executive Director (MENA Region) Hossein Mirshojaeian Hosseini; Senior Adviso rSaeed Ahmad; Pakistan Mission Chief Nathan Porter, and Counsellor/Acting Minister (Economic) Qasim Mohiuddin were part of the meeting.

Pakistan open for business

Talking to a delegation of US-Pakistan Business Council which called on him at the Embassy of Pakistan Washington DC, Ahsan Iqbal said that Pakistan with its huge market, modern infrastructure and unique geo-location offered great opportunities to US businesses and tech entrepreneurs to undertake profitable business ventures and create a win-win partnership.

“The successful business ventures of US companies, operating in Pakistan for decades, provided a solid base for strengthening our business-to-business ties,” he said,

With its upward trajectory, the minister said, the IT sector of Pakistan was poised to witness exponential growth in the days ahead and provided a new dimension to the Pak-US bilateral ties.

Also read Economic outlook could turn worse: IMF

He also stated that Pakistan needed a “Second Green Revolution”. He observed that climate change has compounded issues related to the agriculture sector posing a serious challenge to food security.

He said that Pakistan looked forward to benefiting from the US expertise in the agriculture sector for “enhancing its productivity, maximising the efficiency of agriculture sector and optimising natural resource utilisation”. He also highlighted energy, engineering, and healthcare as crucial areas for investments.

“Pakistan”, the minister observed, “was ripe for US investment”.

Ahsan Iqbal assured the delegation that the government was committed to providing a conducive environment and removing all obstacles to unleash Pakistan’s full potential. “We would continue to make every possible effort to facilitate foreign investors and the business community,” said the minister.

The delegation thanked the minister for his assurance and shared their experiences doing business in Pakistan.


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