LONDON, Oct 31: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said dialogue with Taliban has started and hoped that it would progress within the constitutional framework of Pakistan.

He was talking to British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg who called on him here on Thursday.

“The prime minister apprised Mr Clegg of talks with Taliban, relations with India, energy situation and economic reforms agenda of his government,” says a press release issued by the Pakistan’s High Commission.

Prime Minister Sharif said the government could not wait and see innocent people and law-enforcement personnel getting killed in the streets. He said his government was strengthening counter-terrorism forces and intelligence agencies to make them fully capable of eradicating extremism and terrorism. It was part of options to deal with the militancy, he added.

He briefed Mr Clegg on the recently promulgated Protection of Pakistan Ordinance and said its main objective was to deal with terrorists waging war against the people and state.

About relations with India, Mr Sharif said he had made sincere efforts to resolve all outstanding issues with New Delhi. “We have made India bashing a non-issue in Pakistan, but unfortunately Indian politicians are still engaged in unwarranted Pakistan bashing.”

About reduction in subsidy, he said that although some segments of society were criticising the partial withdrawal of subsidy on electricity, he believed the government had taken a correct decision.

He said that over the next three to four years, new projects would start generating several thousands megawatts of electricity which would significantly reduce the demand-supply gap as well as tariff.

Mr Clegg told Mr Sharif that he and his government admired his approach of reaching out to India before and after elections. Mr Clegg assured him that the UK would fully support Pakistan’s case for GSP Plus in the EU market.

He praised the economic reforms introduced by the government of Pakistan. Mr Sharif lauded UK’s support for Pakistan in various sectors, especially education.

Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif, Water and Power Minister Khawaja Asif, Minister of State for IT and Telecom Anusha Rahman, Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani, Fawad Hasan Fawad, Acting Secretary to the Prime Minister, and Pakistani High Commissioner Wajid Shamsul Hasan attended the meeting.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Sharif said that anything which hurt Pakistan’s sovereignty was not acceptable. He told journalists that Pakistan-UK relations were getting stronger with each passing day. “The UK accords high importance to its ties with Pakistan.”

He said every Pakistani remembered the statement of Prime Minister David Cameron during his last visit to Islamabad that “friends of Pakistan are friends of Britain and enemies of Pakistan are enemies of Britain”. Such words by the UK premier proved his close affinity with the people of Pakistan, he added.

He said during his meetings with Mr Cameron and foreign and home ministers of the UK a number of issues, including Kashmir, were discussed.

The prime minister said that during his visit to the US he had told the Americans that Pakistan wanted trade, not aid.

About the trilateral meeting (with UK and Afghanistan) in London, he said it was for the first time since assuming the office that he had met the Afghan president and the UK premier. “In the meeting all issues were discussed, including restoration of peace in Afghanistan and elections there. Peace in Afghanistan is linked to stability in the region and is also vital for Pakistan,” he added.

About relations with India, the prime minister said he had discussed the issue of Line of Control with the US and UK authorities. India should have no objection to third party mediation on the Kashmir issue in line with aspirations of the people of the region. He said Indian stance on the issue offered no solution.

Mr Sharif said Pakistan wanted good relations with India, enhanced friendship, trade and business cooperation. In the past, the two countries had wasted precious resources in fighting but now their resources should be directed to education, besides improving economy and infrastructure.—APP



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