Sartaj sees economic revival as a guide out of morass

Published: May 20, 2013
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“Focusing on economic revival will help us increase exports and reduce expenditures,” says Aziz. PHOTO: FILE

“Focusing on economic revival will help us increase exports and reduce expenditures,” says Aziz. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: For the incoming government’s top aide on the national economy and foreign affairs, it’s impossible to choose between a stable economy and an astute foreign policy. Both are equally important and equally indispensable, says Sartaj Aziz, 84, the man who will set  the economic and foreign policy priorities of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government.

“Focusing on economic revival will help us increase exports and reduce expenditures,” Aziz told The Express Tribune in an exclusive interview. “Only then can Pakistan present a strong case before the International Monetary Fund (IMF),” said Aziz, who has served as finance and foreign minister in the past.

“It is unlikely that the PML-N leadership will approach the IMF in two to three months. We will decide upon this later,” Aziz adds. “In the prevailing situation, we may not be able to meet their conditions.”

Aziz sees economic revival as a means to strengthen Pakistan internally and pave the way for better conduct globally. “We will focus on economic development to attract investment. This will help improve relations with other countries,” Aziz said.

He admits the burgeoning power crisis has dealt a severe blow to Pakistan’s already crumbling economy. “If we resolve this crisis, our economic growth will go up by nearly two per cent.”

Aziz says his party is cognisant of the fact and has done proper planning to overcome the energy crisis. “This is a part of our comprehensive economic plan. Several groups are working on it and we will make announcements during the coming budget,” he says.

Peace talks with Taliban

On the issue of dialogue with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Aziz refers to a statement by incoming premier Nawaz Sharif in which he said that his government would pursue talks only with groups that ‘accept Pakistan’s constitution and democratic system”.

“It is premature to tell whether or not we will talk to a certain group,” Aziz adds. “The PML-N government will formulate a formal policy after consulting all stakeholders, and this will take some time.”

Afghan conundrum

On the foreign front, Aziz says the PML-N government will facilitate the withdrawal of Nato troops by 2014.

“We will sit with all stakeholders and chalk out a strategy for talks with Afghanistan and the United States to determine Pakistan’s policy objectives,” he says. “The civilian leadership, political leadership and other stakeholders will formulate a national policy and then we can talk to the Americans. It will not be a decision of an individual. It will need two to three months of homework to come up with a national policy.”

About the telephonic contacts between Afghan leader Hamid Karzai and Nawaz Sharif, Aziz says Pakistan will play its role for a peaceful and stable Afghanistan. “Pakistan will do whatever it can for Afghan peace as instability in Afghanistan will have a direct impact on Pakistan.”

Contentious drone strikes

Nawaz Sharif has said that his government would talk to the Obama administration about bringing an end to its remote-controlled war in Pakistan’s tribal region. Aziz says the thorny issue of drones should not be taken in isolation. “First, we will formulate a national policy and then we will talk to the US on all issues, including the drone strikes. I hope relations with the US will improve during the PML-N government,” he says.

Ties with India

Vis-a-vis relations with arch-rival India, Nawaz Sharif has said that his government would pick up from where the peace process was left before the 1999 military coup. Aziz says the PML-N government will do its part to lower tensions with New Delhi and normalise relations.

He says the overall foreign policy will remain the same. However, the PML-N government will try to ensure its proper implementation. “Our policy will be to ensure peace and to decrease extremist threats as we can set an agenda to improve the economy. At the same time, we will not compromise on our basic foreign policy principles. So it will need a thorough thinking and consultations in parliament to evolve a consensus,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 20th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (14)

  • Billoo Bhaya
    May 20, 2013 - 5:27AM

    Mr.Aziz needs to wet his feet first before policy prescriptions. First determine the state of the Treasury and the extent of deficits in the budget and balance of payments. Mr. Aziz or Mr. Dar cannot rely on numbers kept and left by the corrupt PPP. It’s a minefield to unravel. If Aziz can sort out circular debt only, clouds would clear from the horizon.

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  • Shocked
    May 20, 2013 - 5:29AM

    Will you stop the sloganeering and start working ?

    Honeymoon period is over. Doom time begins !

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  • Zaka
    May 20, 2013 - 6:05AM

    Mr. Aziz are sure your government will not freeze the foriegn currency accounts or make such blunders again?

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  • The Khan-Waterloo,Ontario
    May 20, 2013 - 6:47AM

    Even though i detest PML N but i am very impressed by the political maturity shown by Sharif brothers. They need to take PTI, MQM and PPP on board ASAP and start working on the problems. Also, try not to go on the wrong side of our military establishment please. We all know what they did to PPP.

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  • k. Salim Jahangir
    May 20, 2013 - 6:54AM

    One can only pray for self & them ! In what capacity Mr.Aziz is making tall claims,he is not an MNA or even a senator ?

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  • jibran
    May 20, 2013 - 7:33AM

    And what about after 2 months?

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  • Asif Butt
    May 20, 2013 - 7:49AM

    @Shocked:

    How can you say honeymoon period is over ?

    They have’nt even taken oath and come to power yet.

    Perhaps your doom time is nearing you faster than theirs , since you have mentioned it….

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  • Maulana Diesel
    May 20, 2013 - 8:50AM

    Best of luck PML N

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  • Asif Butt
    May 20, 2013 - 9:06AM

    @k. Salim Jahangir:
    Please study the “PROFILE” of Sartaj Aziz. It contains the answer to your question/complaint.

    If still you dont feel content then there is probably something wrong with your expectation level.

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  • lkhan
    May 20, 2013 - 10:52AM

    Mr. S Aziz’ comments are cautious, aimed in the right direction, wish the new government much success in its negotiations with key stakeholders, and implementation of economic revival.

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  • MA
    May 20, 2013 - 2:42PM

    @Asif Butt
    Agreed

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  • BabaBala
    May 20, 2013 - 2:52PM

    @k. Salim Jahangir:
    He is an advisor to the PML (N) and an ex federal minister for both Finance and Foriegn Affairs. On a side note, he also happens to be a Harvard Trained Economist and therefore he is more than competent to comment on the economy of the country.

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  • k. Salim Jahangir
    May 24, 2013 - 3:54AM

    @Asif Butt & BabaBala………….MR. Sartaj Aziz Whom one have known since 1957 & have immeasurable regards, has said & please note :- (A) The PML-N government will formulate a formal policy after consulting all stakeholders.(B)PML-N government will do its part to lower tension with New-Delhi & normalize relations etc.etc………..This is a policy statement/commitment which can only be given by PM elect himself. The PM elect has no where announced that Mr.Aziz is his advisor on Finance & Foreign Affairs. Such commitments are often counter productive and source of embarrassment when cannot be honored at the end of the day.

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  • Asif Butt
    May 24, 2013 - 6:14AM

    @k. Salim Jahangir:
    Hi again.
    First of all thanks for digging out this burried blog again.

    The logic and fact is very simple , regarding what you are debating about.

    Since Sartaj Aziz “himself” has commented and given these opinions about economy and relations , that ITSELF is legitimacy of his ROLE in the PML-N Government.

    And it was understood as well as projected by PML-N that he is the “Aide/Advisor” to Nawaz Sharif , which makes him almost the “MOST IMPORTANT” member of the group.

    You said “This is a policy statement/commitment which can only be given by PM elect himself.”

    Statements my dear , can be given by anyone , no matter what their nature. You will find tons of examples full in the news.

    Lets argue over something better than this next time .

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