Drone protests isolating Pakistan: Sharif

Published December 28, 2013
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif addressing a gathering at the newly inaugurated Sahibzada Yaqoob Khan Block during a ceremony at the Foreign Office in Islamabad on Friday. — Photo by PPI
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif addressing a gathering at the newly inaugurated Sahibzada Yaqoob Khan Block during a ceremony at the Foreign Office in Islamabad on Friday. — Photo by PPI

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif sounded on Friday an implied warning to his political rivals engaged in anti-drone protests against pushing the country into isolation in the international arena and said his government desired peace and friendship with other countries.

“Our effort is to transform the existing friendly ties into mutually beneficial partnerships. We live in a globalised world where no-one can afford isolation at any level,” he said after inaugurating a new block at the Foreign Office.

He cautioned that isolation led a state to alienation from the world community. He did not make any direct reference to the ongoing suspension of Nato supplies through Khyber Pakhtunkhwa because of protests by the PTI and Jamaat-i-Islami against drone attacks, but his comments were obvious about the subject and people he intended to address.

Mr Sharif’s remarks came as the anti-drone protests spread to Balochistan for blocking the second land route used by Nato for shipment to and from Afghanistan.

The US has been pressurising the Pakistan government to keep the land routes open, particularly in view of the drawdown taking place from Afghanistan.

The US Congress had last week passed a bill linking Coalition Support Fund reimbursements to reopening of the supply routes. The US reimburses, under the CSF, the cost incurred by Pakistan on operations in support of the war on terror in Afghanistan. The amount authorised for reimbursements during 2014 is $1.5 billion.

The government has lately temped down its rhetoric on drones. There has been a substantial shift in the language of statements from the Foreign Office since Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan’s threat of reviewing ties with the US in response to the killing of TTP chief Hakeemullah Mehsud in a drone attack on Nov 1.

The prime minister said his government was conscious of the challenges posed by extremism and terrorism and deteriorating economy. Listing his government’s policy priorities, he said their objective was to build a peaceful and prosperous neighbourhood, reach out to regional and international partners, focus on “trade, not aid” and develop a consensus-based approach to counter terrorism.

He said his government had begun taking steps for achieving these goals by improving relations with Afghanistan, resuming dialogue with India, strengthening strategic partnership with China, rebuilding relations with the US, engaging with Europe and enhancing solidarity with the Muslim world.

APP adds: Prime Minister Sharif said conventional diplomacy had now acquired new dimensions and specialised streams like multi and bilateral diplomacy and economic and public diplomacy and services streams were now more relevant.

He said the Quaid-i-Azam had enunciated the key element of the country’s foreign policy when he stated that Pakistan wanted to live peacefully and maintain friendly relations with its immediate neighbours and with the world at large.

The prime minister said that one of the most distinguishing features of the present times was the peaceful democratic transition in Pakistan, adding that the vibrancy of today’s Pakistan was further reflected in an independent judiciary, a free media and a dynamic civil society.

“Our government’s priorities in the domestic arena include: fighting terrorism, reviving economy, resolving energy crisis and improving governance.”

He said that in the modern age, political diplomacy went hand in hand with economic diplomacy and stressed that the missions abroad must enhance their skills of economic diplomacy. “Their role in the enhancement of trade, investment and economic cooperation is critical and will be a yardstick by which their performance will be evaluated.”

The prime minister said the Foreign Office needed to further strengthen institutional linkages with ministries of commerce, economic affairs, information and broadcasting and interior and organisations like the Board of Investment and the Trade Development Authority in order to build a positive image of the country and to promote and safeguard its economic interests.

He said that after devolution of powers to the provinces, the FO had to interact with the provincial governments more often and facilitate the provinces to establish contacts with other countries.

He expressed hope that the FO would harness its economic potential in tandem with other ministries and provincial governments in a proactive manner to attract foreign investments and to adopt a cohesive approach for implementing a positive advocacy campaign for the important role in the fight against terrorism.

The prime minister said the new block at the FO was befittingly named after former foreign minister Sahabzada Yaqub Khan who was a towering personality in every respect.

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