ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari on Monday stressed upon the need for the United States’ support to Pakistan in pleading its case for assistance and market access before the international community.
“We need preferential market access to support our economy from the dire impacts of ongoing struggle against militancy, on one hand, and to rehabilitate and reconstruct damaged infrastructure due to devastating floods, on the other,” he added.
The President expressed these views in a meeting with a US congressional delegation, which called on him here at the Aiwan-e-Sadr on Monday.
The delegation included Representatives Darell El Issa, Todd R. Platts, Jason Chaffetz, Stephen F. Lynch, Brian M. Higgins and Raul L. Labrador.
Stephen Engelken, Charge d’ Affairs, Thomas A. Alexander, Senior Counsel (Majority) Committee on Oversight, Adam Pl. Fromm, Counsel (Majority) Director of Member Services and Scott Lindsay, Counsel (Majority) Committee on Oversight were also present.
Pakistan side included Dr. Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, Finance Minister, M. Salman Faruqui, Secretary General to the President, Chaudhry Abdul Ghafoor, Chairman National Commission for Government Reforms, Ms. Hina Rabbani Khar, Minister of State for Finance and Economic Affairs, Senator Syeda Sughra Imam, Ms. Farahnaz Ispahani and Spokesperson to the President Farhatullah Babar besides Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir and other senior officials.
Briefing media Spokesperson to the President Farhatullah Babar said that matters relating to Pak-US bilateral relations, mutual cooperation, fight against militancy, Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZs) and security situation in the region among other related issues were discussed during the meeting.
Babar said that the President highlighted economic situation of the country during the meeting and focused upon the need for US support to Pakistan in pleading its case for assistance and market access before the international community.
“Ours is a war ravaged and flood stricken economy, and our people need priority attention and assistance to overcome financial difficulties,” Farhatullah Babar quoted the President as saying.
“Our priority is trade not aid”, the President emphasized.
The President urged the visiting delegation to use their influence to secure market access and trade for the country.
Discussing Pakistan-US relations, the President said that a long-term and stable equation marked by close collaboration and multidimensional cooperation between the two countries guarantees not only development of the country but also peace and stability of the region.
He expressed satisfaction on the progress being made through the channel of Pak-US strategic dialogue on various sectoral levels.
The members of congressional delegation appreciated the country’s struggle against militancy and assured US continued support in this regard to the people and the Government of Pakistan.
The President reiterated his call for expediting passage of ROZs (Reconstruction Opportunity Zones) legislation to create economic opportunities for the people who are worst hit due to scourge of militancy.
Discussing regional situation, the President reiterated Pakistan’s principled stance that it has an abiding interest in a stable, peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan and it firmly believes in neutrality and non-interference in internal affairs of the country.
Pakistan, the President said, would continue to support all efforts for promoting sustainable peace, stability and development in Afghanistan.
He said “we firmly believe that political approach seconded by economic development was equally important for bringing stability to the war tarnished country”.
He said that Pakistan would support all efforts for the capacity building of the institutions in Afghanistan.
The Congressmen also raised the matter of Mr. Raymond Davis, involved in the killing of Pakistani nationals in Lahore, with the President.
The President said that he appreciated their concern but the matter was already before the courts. It would be prudent to wait for the legal course to be completed, he said.
The delegation assured the President said that US administration would continue to provide all possible help to the Government in overcoming its difficulties.