US John Kerry calls on President Zardari

Islamabad: President Asif Ali Zardari Thursday called upon the international community especially the United States to step forward and prepare a ‘Marshall plan’ for Pakistan for strategic economic stability and advancement of Pakistan’s development agenda.

The people of Pakistan had suffered greatly as a result of the ongoing fight against militancy and terrorism and there was need for the international community to give our people the peace dividend by way of massive economic assistance, energy development and greater market access.

The President said this during his one on one and delegation level meetings with Mr. John Kerry, US Secretary of State at the Aiwan-e-Sadr.

Spokesperson to the President Senator Farhatullah Babar, while briefing about the meetings said that Secretary Kerry congratulated the President on the peaceful and democratic transfer of civilian power in the country and appreciated his overseeing various phases of the smooth transition.

He termed the smooth power transfer a significant milestone in Pakistan’s democratic progress and said that people of Pakistan have affirmed commitment to democratic rule, which he said is critical to achieving peace and prosperity.

Thanking Secretary John Kerry, the President stated that the credit for first ever smooth power transfer went to the democratic forces, all the political parties, the Parliament and all the people of Pakistan for enthusiastic participation in the electoral process despite threats from militants and extremists. The President said that smooth transition reflected the democratic ethos of the people. The President also appreciated John Kerry’s expressed support to the people of Pakistan.

The Spokesperson said that Pak US bilateral relations, reconciliation in Afghanistan, drone attacks and global and regional issues were discussed during the meeting.

On drone attacks, the President said that drone strikes in FATA by the US violates Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and was also negatively impacting on the mutual desire of both countries to forge a cordial and cooperative relationship and to ensure peace and stability in the region.

The President called for an end to the drone attacks and said that these strikes are counterproductive, entails loss of innocent civilian lives and also fuels anti American feelings.

The President called for sustainable and positive relationship between Pakistan and United States on the basis of mutual respect, mutual trust and mutual interest.

The goal of establishing a long term and durable Pak US equation would remain elusive till the issue of trust deficit is addressed in an effective manner.

He urged the need for enhanced trade and investment ties between the two countries and increased market access of Pakistani goods to the US.

The President said that enhanced market access for Pakistan’s exports in the US will translate into economic growth and decreased poverty which he said was needed to decrease incentive for unemployed youth to be recruited by terrorists.

The President stressed for closer cooperation in areas such as economy, trade, energy, socioeconomic development, agriculture and water issues, science and technology and defence cooperation. He urged the need for more concerted steps on both sides to double the trade volume from existing US $5.1billion between the two countries.

The President said that the Strategic Dialogue was a successful platform for substantive discussions on cooperation and partnership and called for restoring the previous ministerial level of the dialogue.

Discussing regional situation, the President said that Pakistan believed regional peace and security was vital for its own peace, security and development.

He reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to continue to play its helpful role at restoring peace, stability and development in Afghanistan and in the region.

The President said Pakistan supported an Afghan-led and Afghan owned peace process and welcomed all efforts being made for finding a peaceful solution to the long drawn conflict in Afghanistan. He expressed hope that the efforts made would also take into account legitimate concerns of all the stakeholders.

Discussing militancy and terrorism, the President said that Pakistan has suffered the most in terms of human and financial losses in the ongoing fight against militancy and reiterated that Pakistan will continue to fight the menace till its logical conclusion.

He however called for a Marshall Plan for Pakistan to overcome the problems in the wake of fight against militancy.

Those who were present during the meeting included US ambassador in Islamabad Mr. Richard Olson, Mr. John Bass, executive Secretary State Office, Mr. James Dobbins, special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan and other senior officials.

Pak side included Mr. Sartaj Aziz, Advisor on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Spokesperson to the President Senator Farhatullah Babar, Foreign Secretary Mr. Jalil Abbas Jilani and Secretary to the President Ms. Nasreen Haq.

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