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ISLAMABAD: German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Tuesday highlighted the need for fighting terrorism and acknowledged the steps taken by Islamabad to clamp down on groups involved in militancy.

While speaking to the media after meeting Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Mr Maas said there were positive signs that Pakistan was acting against militant groups.

Properties of several banned groups have been seized recently as the government contends that actions are meant to meet its commitments with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and to get the country out of the illicit financing watchdog’s grey list.

In its Feb 21 meeting, the National Security Committee had decided to expedite ground operation against proscribed groups. It had also decided to ban Jamaatud Dawa and Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation, which had already been listed among proscribed organisations by the UNSC sanctions committee.

The German foreign minister called for resumption of dialogue between India and Pakistan and urged both countries to recognise their responsibility of preventing escalation. He said the neighbouring countries needed to keep their communication channels open and collectively work for defusing the conflict.

He said he had told Indian Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj that the Kashmir dispute needed resolution for maintenance of peace and stability. It was the responsibility of both sides (India and Pakistan) to find a solution to the conflict, he added.

FM Maas calls for resumption of dialogue between New Delhi and Islamabad; issues related to German NGOs work in Pakistan resolved, says Qureshi

FM Qureshi said that Pakistan was taking steps for “ensuring implementation of the National Action Plan in letter and spirit”.

He also explained Pakistani perspective on recent escalation of tensions with India and US-Taliban talks.

The foreign minister welcomed the entry of German automobile producer Volkswagen in Pakistani market and investment by Siemens in power generation and medical sectors. He invited other German companies to take advantage of the investor-friendly policies of Pakistan.

Irritant removed

Mr Qureshi said, “An irritant in relations [with Germany]” because of certain issues faced by German political foundations in Pakistan had been resolved. He said three of the five German organisations had been registered, while the other two, which were ending their operations, too, were welcome to return.

“The matter has been amicably resolved. …The German foundations were doing good work and their presence would bring value,” he said.

Support in human development

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan told German Foreign Minister Maas that Pakistan was open to Germany’s technical support for human development initiatives.

The prime minister invited enhanced German technical support to Pakistan in human development sectors, especially education and health, according to a statement issued by PM Office regarding their meeting.

Pakistan had been hosting several German organisations, most of whom worked on democracy, human rights and governance issues. Some of them had to wrap up their work here after the government had changed and restricted the scope of their activities as part of the fresh registration process for international organisations. On that occasion, the government had said the scope of activities for the international non-governmental organisations had been redefined in accordance with the national requirements.

The German government had not been comfortable with the change as some of the German organisations had to end their operations in Pakistan.

The issue has remained on bilateral agenda.

In his meeting with Mr Maas, Mr Khan apparently reiterated emphasis on government’s policy on scope of activities for international organisations by inviting German technical support in human development sector. He also welcomed investment in hydroelectric power generation and automobile sectors of Pakistan.

Regional security

Regional situation with regard to recent escalation with India and peace and reconciliation efforts in Afghanistan, were also discussed. The prime minister asked the international community to take notice of the grave human rights violations in India-held Kashmir.

FM Maas appreciated Pakistan’s efforts for peace and stability in the region. He said Mr Khan’s “responsible handling of the situation”, including early release of the captured Indian pilot, had been praised by the international community.

The German foreign minister also underscored the importance of Pakistan’s role in Afghan peace process.

The foreign minister reiterated German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s invitation to the Prime Minister to visit Germany, according to the PM Office statement.

Gas, power projects Meanwhile, the prime minister underscored the need for progress on gas and power connectivity projects between Pakistan and Turkmenistan.

He was talking to deputy chairman of cabinet of ministers and minister of foreign affairs of Turkmenistan Rashid Meredov and minister for energy Charymyrat Purchekov.

Mr Khan in his conversation with the Turkmen minister discussed the gas and power connectivity projects being negotiated between Pakistan and Turkmenistan.

He also highlighted the need for enhanced trade and economic relations between the two countries.

Published in Dawn, March 13th, 2019