• Premier says Pakistan wants ties with US based on ‘mutual respect’
• Army chief terms minerals projects ‘stepping stone’, hails special investment council
ISLAMABAD: PM Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday said Pakistan was ready to hold talks with India as Islamabad was interested in the resolution of issues with New Delhi through ‘serious dialogue’
“We are prepared to talk to them (Indian government), provided that the neighbour is serious to talk [on] serious matters … because war is not an option,” he said in an apparent reference to India.
The PM made these remarks while addressing the Pakistan Minerals Summit which was also attended by Chief of Army Staff Gen Asim Munir.
“Pakistan is, thanks to God, a nuclear power — not as an aggressor, but for our defence purposes. And God forbid if there is a nuclear flashpoint, who will live to tell what happened? So war is not an option,” he added.
The country, he said, had fought three wars in the last 75 years, which resulted in more poverty and a lack of resources. These resources could have otherwise been spent on the development and prosperity of the people, he added.
Pakistan suspended ties with India following the BJP government’s unilateral move to revoke occupied Kashmir’s special status on August 5, 2019.
Talking about relations with the US, the PM expressed the desire to have friendly relations with the United States.
“We want to work with Americans. We want to have the best of relations with them as in the past, based on mutual respect and trust [and in which] we don’t try to deceive each other,” he added.
He said the government formed the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) to collaborate with all stakeholders and facilitate the execution of development projects. “Pakistan has its natural deposits worth around $6 trillion,” he claimed.
He recalled that with Russian support, the Pakistan Steel Mills was established during the 70s while in Reko Diq, a hefty penalty of $10 billion was imposed on Pakistan.
Similarly, he continued, Chiniot iron ore fields were another “worst example of corruption”. He said without any bidding, the project was “handed over to an overseas Pakistani who had no business history”.
During his address, he also appreciated the leadership of Saudi Arabia for their financial support worth $ 2 billion, which he said also helped Pakistan in reaching an agreement with the International Monetary Fund.
‘One platform for investors’
Speaking on the occasion, COAS Gen Syed Asim Munir said Pakistan’s government, along with state institutions, had ensured the establishment of SIFC in order to bring the stakeholders to one platform.
He said the council had laid down new rules for ‘ease of doing business’ for domestic and foreign investors. “We will ensure an investor-friendly system that avoids unnecessary delays and provides easy terms and conditions for business. There are vast mining opportunities in our country which will be realised through joint efforts,” he added.
He stressed persistence in staying on the path of peace and prosperity and said the mineral-related projects were the “stepping stone”, which would eventually lead towards the development of the masses.
“It is our social responsibility to play our collective role in the country’s economy. We must never lose hope. Our land is endowed with many minerals and to fully utilise this potential, we invite foreign investors to play their role in discovering the hidden treasures of Pakistan,” he said.
Later, the PM met a Saudi delegation led by Saudi Deputy Minister for Mining, Industries and Minerals Khaled bin Saleh Al-Mudaifer, and urged them to invest in Pakistan’s mining sector. He said the solar power project of 10,000 megawatts announced by the government was also a good opportunity for investment.
In a separate meeting with a delegation of Barrick Gold led by CEO Mark Bristow, the PM said the Reko Diq project would prove to be a game changer for the development of Balochistan and the region. According to a PM Office statement, Barrick Gold agreed to make the payment of Pakistan’s share of investment in Pakistani rupees.
Published in Dawn, Aug 2nd, 2023