Foreign Minister Qureshi: Pakistan to solidify alliance with Turkey

Foreign Minister Qureshi: Pakistan to solidify alliance with Turkey

Pakistani FM Shah Mahmood Qureshi

August 30, 2009, Sunday/ 10:24:00/ ABDULLAH BOZKURT
Turkey and Pakistan should solidify their close ties by boosting economic cooperation and enhancing educational exchange programs, a top Pakistani politician has said.

In an interview with Sunday's Zaman, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi lamented on the limited economic ties between the two countries, despite very strong political and military ties. “We need to enhance -- qualitatively upgrade -- commercial and economic relations and move beyond hugs and goodwill wishes,” he said.

Qureshi said he touted several projects during meetings with his counterpart, Ahmet Davutoğlu, PM Tayyip Erdoğan and President Abdullah Gül. “They [the economic coope-ration projects] were very well received, and I think we will see the materialization of some of these very soon,” he said.

One of the proposals raised by the Pakistani foreign minister was a meeting of CEOs from both countries. “It would be a ‘Turkey-Pakistan CEOs' Forum' and they would discuss how to proceed with joint ventures and investments,” he underlined. According to him, the meeting can be held on sidelines during the Turkish prime minister's visit to Islamabad in October.

Pakistan's foreign minister also praised the Turkish-Pakistani schools -- numbering around 50 -- in his country. ‘They are very popular, and they are doing a very good job’ he said, adding that the issue had come up during his talks with Davutoğlu

Turkey and Pakistan have also agreed to reconvene a joint economic commission as soon as possible to further boost the economic aspect of the bilateral relations. The commission has not convened since 2002. The two countries are also pleased with the freight train project from Islamabad to Ankara via Tehran. While he was visiting the Turkish capital last week, a test run was successfully completed and the first train arrived in Ankara. “The prospects for economic relations between two countries are huge,” Qureshi stressed.

Approaching the end of his visit, after what he called a successful meeting of Friends of Democratic Pakistan (FoDP), Qureshi said business meetings were held last week in parallel with the FoDP meetings with the participation of prominent businessmen from Pakistan, Turkey and other countries representing variouis sectors. The so-called public-private partnerships to help Pakistan's democratic development were devised at the meetings to complement the strategic cooperation among Pakistan and its allies.

Pakistan's foreign minister also praised the Turkish-Pakistani schools -- numbering around 50 -- in his country. “They are very popular, and they are doing a very good job,” he said, adding that the issue had come up during his talks with Davutoğlu. “We have invited Turkish scholars to come and teach us how to best deal with extremism. I asked the Directorate of Religious Affairs in Turkey to share its experiences with us,” he said. The two countries also agreed to establish partnerships between universities and think tanks to widen the base of cooperation in education.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi

We need funds

Qureshi made a plea, saying the international community urgently needs to release billions of dollars in pledged aid to Pakistan to help support the campaign against the Taliban. “Pakistan is playing a significant front-line role in global and regional peace and security. For that we are paying a huge economic and human price,” he said, stressing that the people of Pakistan and its economy have been dealt a great blow.

“This specter of extremism and terrorism is not of our creation, and we need the world's attention and help in dismantling this terrorist network,” he continued. “One of the ways to help Pakistan is to stabilize the economy. Once the economy is stabilized, the standard of living raised and poverty addressed, we will be able to change the mindset that lures people to extremism and terrorism,” he remarked.

Pakistan secured $5.7 billion in aid in April in Tokyo at a donor conference held in response to a humanitarian crisis created by fighting between government forces and Taliban fighters, but only a small portion of those funds have arrived so far. Only $300 million for internally dislocated people have been transferred to his country, Qureshi said. Around 2.3 million people were forced to leave their homes after a government offensive against the Taliban in northwest Pakistan. Qureshi said 95 percent of them have returned home.

The Pakistani foreign minister described the meeting of the FoDP in İstanbul as successful overall. “We met all our objectives. The Friends of Pakistan unanimously endorsed our Malakand pilot project as well, which will undertake the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the affected areas.” The next meeting is scheduled to be held in New York with the participation of Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani. Qureshi lamented on the fact that people often confuse the FoDP meetings with a donor conference. “The meeting we held in İstanbul was never a donor conference, but rather [an opportunity] to get political support for Pakistan,” he said, adding the confusion was probably caused by the back-to-back meetings held in Tokyo, one for donors and the other for the FoDP.

“The idea behind the FoDP meetings is to get political support for Pakistan and institutional dialogue with important countries of the world who are allies and partners in the fight against extremism and terrorism. That was the idea behind the İstanbul conference. At the New York conference this idea will be entrenched further,” he said.

Pakistan's foreign minister also pointed out that a forum for the donor conferences is already in place. “The Pakistan Development Forum was created to address monetary problems, and there will be a meeting of that forum soon,” he stated.

Turkey has already paid two installments on its pledge of $100 million, and the US is expected to make a transfer of about $1 billion by the end of this year, Qureshi said. The pledges must be fulfilled within two years, but Pakistan asks that the payments be made earlier because of the urgency of its situation. Turkey is also planning to open an office of the Turkish Cooperation and Development Agency (TİKA) -- a government agency that manages Turkish development aid -- in Islamabad.

Taliban is in chaos

Qureshi described the campaign against the Taliban as a success, especially in the Swat and Malakand valleys. “Now we are turning our attention to other areas,” he said. Waziristan, in the mountainous region of northwest Pakistan bordering Afghanistan, is a prime target of the Pakistani government. He stressed public opinion has moved decisively against the Taliban in the country.

The foreign minister further explained that Pakistan has developed what it calls a “3D strategy” to deal with the Taliban. It stands for dialogue, development and deterrence. For areas affected by the fight against the Taliban, the government came up with the “3R strategy,” meaning rehabilitation, relief and reconstruction in those areas. “As a result of consultation with our friends and allies, we have developed an action plan and have a clear vision of where we want to go,” he noted.

As for the US drones deployed in Pakistani territory, Qureshi said his government has issues with the use of this technology. However, he acknowledges that the drones do have value as they were able to take out a high-value target. A drone was used to kill Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, which led to disarray in the ranks of the Taliban in Pakistan.

“But there are the issues of collateral damage and the violation of Pakistan's sovereignty. We conveyed our concerns to the Americans on this. What we are suggesting is a technology transfer so we can use them ourselves. The backlash from the public will be far less if Pakistani forces employed these drones,” he explained.

Strict border control

Pakistan's foreign minister also unveiled comprehensive package of measures the government is undertaking to secure the border with Afghanistan. More than 120,000 troops were deployed along border, and 1,000 posts have been set up to monitor border crossings. In cooperation with Afghan authorities, Pakistan plans to introduce a biometric system to regulate the flow of human traffic with a sophisticated identification and registration system. They also plan to install modern border control mechanisms equipped with sensors and other high-technology devices.

The Pakistani official argued that the Taliban cannot last without funds and weapons provided by groups within Pakistan. Though he declined to name those who channel money and weapons to the Taliban, he disclosed that Pakistan and the US are working together closely to trace these resources and prevent them from reaching the Taliban. “With a joint effort, we will be able to identify and block those channels,” he said.

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