Sharif to Asharq Al-Awsat: Reforming the economy and resolving the Jammu and Kashmir conflict are our top priorities

Sharif to Asharq Al-Awsat: Reforming the economy and resolving the Jammu and Kashmir conflict are our top priorities

Pakistani Prime Minister hailed new cooperation opportunities with Saudi Arabia


Monday – 17 Muharram 1444 AH – 15 August 2022 AD Issue No. [
15966]


Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Riyadh: Fath Al-Rahman Yusuf

After 75 years of Pakistan’s independence, Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif is putting economic reform at the top of his country’s priorities, and the launch of a serious dialogue on Jammu and Kashmir is dependent on the need for India to stop what he describes as “illegal acts ” and “brutal treatment of innocent Kashmiris”.
In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Sharif said his country has broken the thorn of terrorism, after paying a heavy price in the loss of 83,000 lives and a loss of 150 billion dollars. Although Pakistan is the seventh nuclear power in the world, Sharif admitted that his country still faces internal and external challenges, as boosting the economy is considered the biggest challenge.
Sharif did not hide his concern about the “disturbing” effect of the rise in food and fuel prices as a result of the war in Ukraine, pointing out that the repercussions of high prices were “more visible in developing countries”. Especially in his country Pakistan.
At the level of Saudi-Pakistani relations, Sharif emphasized that the renewed economic scene in Pakistan and the Saudi “Vision 2030” have created new opportunities for economic, political and cultural cooperation, including sectors: information technology, agriculture, food security, environment, renewable energy, defense and tourism, Recruitment and training of workers.
For the interview details:
> How do you see Pakistan today, after 75 years of independence?
– 75 years is not a long time in the life of a nation. Like any other nation, we have experienced our highs and lows in the past 75 years since our founding. Since our inception in 1947, we have faced and overcome the most difficult problems. At the same time, there are some missed opportunities that have marked our journey.
Today, thank God, Pakistan is the seventh nuclear power in the world, and the first and only Islamic country to achieve this feat. Moreover, we defeated the terror beast in the country, and greatly contributed to making the world safe.
Pakistan is home to the youngest population in the world. Our natural and human resources make our country uniquely positioned to accelerate the journey of progress and prosperity.
The economy is the biggest challenge we face. Our coalition government has prioritized economic stability on the agenda, and we are implementing reforms to achieve economic self-sufficiency.
> Is Pakistan still committed to the Kashmir issue? Are you having a dialogue with the Indian side about it?
– “Jammu and Kashmir” is the main dispute between Pakistan and India. Pakistan’s principled stand on the Jammu and Kashmir dispute will continue and will remain at the top of Pakistan’s foreign policy priorities until its final resolution, in accordance with relevant Security Council resolutions and in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people.
Pakistan stands ready to engage with India in a meaningful and result-oriented dialogue on all issues, including the underlying dispute in Jammu and Kashmir, provided India ceases its illegal actions (refer to India’s revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status on August 5). 2019), and about the brutal treatment of innocent Kashmiris.
The onus is on India to create an enabling environment.
> What is the political and economic reform approach that the government is currently taking?
– Politically, the current coalition government is already a national government; This includes all the major political parties in the country, with the exception of Imran Khan’s Insaf movement. This represents an important development in our political life; Where political parties with separate electoral agendas came together to fix the problems facing our country. We have a very clear agenda, and the decision is made through a consultation process.
The coalition government took difficult and unpopular decisions to save the economy from disaster. We had to pay a heavy price, but it was necessary to capture the interests of the great state.
The IMF program came back after negotiations. We are also in touch with friendly countries for cash flow. These are short-term measures. There is a feeling that unless we get the basics right, the initial treatments cannot last.
> What are the most difficult internal and external challenges facing Pakistan today?
The past decade has seen an exponential growth in polarization and populism in the world. This wave has severely affected the social fabric of societies. We, in Pakistan, are victims of divisive policies that have taken a heavy toll on society; As it led to the hardening of political positions and the shrinking of the space for tolerance.
As I explained earlier, the economy presents another daunting challenge. No country can make independent decisions as long as it is weak and dependent on others for bailouts.
Pakistan’s foreign policy interests have suffered in the last four years. I won’t go into details; But I understand that we need to inject vitality and vision into relations with partners and friendly countries. The process started shortly after we took control, and we got the results of our efforts.
> Is Pakistan still suffering from terrorism? What are your plans to curb it?
– Pakistan has played a crucial role in the fight against terrorism in the region. No country in the region has contributed more to peace than Pakistan; Pakistan has been targeted by terrorists supported and sponsored beyond the borders of this country. These terrorist activities aim to destabilize Pakistan and hinder its development and economic growth.
But the sponsors and facilitators of terrorism do not realize that there is a complete national consensus on combating terrorism and extremism. Despite paying a heavy price in the form of 83,000 human casualties, and more than $150 billion in economic losses. We are determined to preserve the profits and eradicate this scourge.
It is possible; Because Pakistan is taking a comprehensive approach to combat terrorism. We owe our success in fighting terrorism to the collective efforts and sacrifices of our security agencies, and to the innocent people in Pakistan who have lost their lives at the hands of terrorists.
> What are the most prominent areas of cooperation between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia?
– Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have always enjoyed a strong brotherly relationship, which has allowed both brotherly countries to develop multidimensional cooperation with each other. In recent years, Pakistan has emerged as an important destination for investment and business, thanks to its reforms and the development of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor projects. The renewed economic landscape in Pakistan and the “Saudi Vision 2030” have created new opportunities for economic, political and cultural cooperation. The main areas of cooperation and investment between the two countries include: information technology, agriculture, food security, environment, renewable energy, defence, tourism, employment and training of workers. Pakistan and the Kingdom also have strong cooperation in multilateral organizations, particularly in the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Pakistan and the Kingdom are among the founding members of the Digital Cooperation Organization, which was established in November 2020.
> How do you see the dialogue between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and the necessity of Tehran’s commitment to regional security?
– Pakistan has always supported and welcomed political dialogue and negotiations to resolve issues. We hope that all these diplomatic efforts will contribute to regional harmony and sustainable peace.
> The escalating crisis between Russia and Ukraine is driving up food and energy prices. What is your assessment of the repercussions of this situation?
The disturbing impact of rising food and fuel prices is being felt around the world, including in developed countries that are facing the highest inflation in decades. For developing countries, such as Pakistan, the effects of higher prices are more pronounced; Especially in light of our current economic challenges.
We welcome recent agreements between Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations to transport Ukrainian grain from Black Sea ports, as well as between Russia and the United Nations to boost Russian food and fertilizer exports. We hope that these initiatives will help alleviate food shortages.
> Is there a Pakistani plan for peace in Afghanistan?
Peace and stability in Afghanistan are prerequisites not only for the stability of Pakistan; Rather, it is for the collective prosperity of our entire region. Therefore, Pakistan strives to see Afghanistan as a stable, prosperous, peaceful and interdependent country.
The basis of our dealings with Afghanistan remains the same: to discuss matters at the bilateral level in a spirit of trust, through well-established institutional mechanisms. Pakistan has developed a trade facilitation and visa system that has contributed to increasing Afghan exports to Pakistan, which remain an important source of income for ordinary Afghans. Pakistan has also been involved with the Afghan authorities in communication projects. We provided capacity building training sessions for Afghan institutions.
Pakistan also provided humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. Pakistan recently sent several shipments of humanitarian aid, including medicine, relief items and food, in the wake of the devastating earthquake and floods in eastern Afghanistan.
Similarly, Pakistan engages with the international community to ensure that the world’s focus remains on Afghanistan, amid other crises. Pakistan has been part of all international mechanisms focused on Afghanistan, including Troika Plus, the Moscow Format and the Afghanistan Neighboring Countries Platform established on Pakistan’s initiative in September 2021.
Through this multi-paradigm approach, we hope to continue our efforts to ensure peace and stability in Afghanistan.


Pakistan

Pakistan

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