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Pakistan is a Sovereign Nation, Won’t accept US Aid with Strings Attached: Iqbal

Declaring that Pakistan was a sovereign country and both states should respect each other’s laws, Federal Minister for Planning and Development Prof Ahsan Iqbal said Tuesday that Islamabad would not accept any US aid with strings attached. Referring to US decision of linking Pakistan’s aid with release of Shakil Afridi, the federal minister said that each other’s laws should be respected.

“Pakistan is a sovereign country and will not accept any US aid with strings attached,” said Ahsan Iqbal while talking to the media after attending Annual Conference of Pakistan Strategy Support Programme (PSSP).

He further said that Pakistan’s foreign policy was based on principles of strengthening relations with all states while protecting the interests of the country. Talking about the Pak-US relations, the federal minister said that US administration wanted to further ties with Pakistan and hoped it would press the Congress to refrain from taking such a step. Ahsan said Islamabad was negotiating with the Washington to secure enhanced access to US market. Besides‚ he said, Pakistan wanted increased investment in the country from the United States.

Earlier, addressing the Annual Conference of Pakistan Strategy Support Programme (PSSP), Ahsan expressed the government’s resolve to turn around the economy in the next few years. He said, “We are taking difficult decisions today for the better future of the country”.

Ahsan said government was working to exploit livestock and agricultural sector for the development of the country, as these two sectors had great potential. “We should operate our agriculture and livestock sectors at their optimal levels by introducing on-farm best management practices and value-addition techniques,” said federal minister for planning and development.

The minister further said, “Pakistan is an agriculture-based country but we are going to face water scarcity in coming decades.” He said government was focusing on building institutions to overcome the problem of food scarcity in future according to the vision 2025.

“We cannot materialise the dream of integrated development without developing agriculture, the key sector of our economy. Therefore, the government is fully committed to agricultural development to move towards a more food secured country,” he said.

“Only after having enough food supply, we can talk about evolving an efficient system of food distribution, which is an essential condition for improving the access of poor household to food at affordable prices. The government is committed to increase non-farm employment in rural areas through small and medium enterprises for accelerating GDP growth target to 7-8 percent to cater the needs of bulging young population,” he asserted.

“We can earn rich dividends through private sector investment in human resource development in areas like food production, processing, packaging, supply livestock farming, fisheries, horticulture and forestry. Pro-poor investment in these sectors can help overcome menace of unemployment and poverty by creating job opportunities,” Ahsan added. He also urged upon the PSSP researchers to map out cluster-based value chains in agriculture sector establishing collaborative partnership of public, private sectors and academia/researchers.

The federal minister stressed upon the need of conducting research to promote efficient use of water in agriculture.
“Pakistan is a water scarce country and is feared to face acute water crisis within a decade if not planned properly and used judiciously”.

He said, “We need to bridge knowing to doing gap in our public sector for effective implementation and monitoring of development projects, and create K 2 D (knowing to doing) culture in the country”.

The minister said, “The political leadership of the country is sincere, optimistic and dedicated to developing this nation, and want to turn around the economy in favor of prosperity”.

The federal minister appreciated the contribution of USAID for economic development of Pakistan, and expressed his desire that PSSP should promote evidence-based research on the emerging issues of the country to come up with more doable and practicable recommendations that could be inculcated in the policy and plan documents.

He, however, urged the US leadership not to link development aid with any conditions, because that would be counterproductive for fostering good relations between the two strategic partners in the region, and the policy of the govt was to not accept conditions which interfere with country’s laws.

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