US tells Pakistan: Do more to wipe out terrorism

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, left, with US Vice President Mike Pence in New York. (Photo courtesy the Prime Minister's Office)
Updated 19 March 2018
0

US tells Pakistan: Do more to wipe out terrorism

ISLAMABAD: US Vice President Mike Pence wants Pakistan to work more closely with Washington to defeat terrorism on its soil.
A White House statement said Pence reiterated President Donald Trump’s “request that the Government of Pakistan must do more to address the continued presence of the Taliban, Haqqani Network, and other terrorist groups operating in their country.”
But the statement did not share any details about the nature of talks and meetings.
PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who is on a private visit to the US, met Pence on Saturday. But his office has not shared anything, so far, with the media about his visit or the meeting.
On Thursday Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Faisal said that active negotiations are in progress between Pakistan and the US. “It is a difficult balancing act and both sides have conveyed their reservations and differences on the new US strategy to each other.”We are actively seeking to find common ground, as is manifested in continued engagement at all levels between Pakistan and the US.”
Former Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir believes that this particular White House statement reflects a partial view.
“Pakistan and US interests converge on both peace in Afghanistan and countering terror. Both sides need to talk more and cooperate more. There have been positive developments in this regard,” he told Arab News.
Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, professor of politics and international relations at Quaid-i-Azam University, believes this reflects the significance of Pakistan’s role in the US strategy for culmination of the war in Afghanistan. “Mike Pence asked Prime Minister Abbasi to do more. Doing more means more cooperation.”
Qamar Cheema, a political analyst, told Arab News that the mistrust between Pakistan and the US is over the alleged presence of the Haqqani Network.
“The US has been asking Pakistan to do more on the Haqqani Network, whereas it also accepts that Pakistan has taken certain measures which are appreciable. If the trust deficit between both countries will be bridged, that will be a win-win situation for both,” Cheema said.
Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua visited Washington on March 7-8, where she met senior US officials including US Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan at the State Department and Deputy National Security Adviser Dr. Nadia Schadlow, at the White House.
According to the Foreign Ministry, Janjua had in-depth discussions with South Asia experts at the US Institute of Peace.
“She reaffirmed Pakistan’s constructive approach to work together with the US for regional peace and stability,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement after Janjua’s visit.
The US and Afghanistan have been asking Pakistan to move against the Haqqani Network, which the US says operates from Pakistan. However, Islamabad maintains that Pakistani forces have eliminated the infrastructure of militants and acted indiscriminately against all terrorist groups, including the Haqqani Network.


Pakistan bracing for austere budget under IMF, finance chief says

Updated 25 May 2019
0

Pakistan bracing for austere budget under IMF, finance chief says

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is preparing a belt-tightening budget to tame its fiscal deficit, the de facto finance minister said on Saturday, adding that both civilian and military rulers agreed austerity measures were needed to stabilise the economy.
But Hafeez Shaikh, Prime Minister Imran Khan's top finance adviser, declined to say whether the military's hefty budget would be cut following last week's agreement in principle with the International Monetary Fund for a $6 billion loan.
The IMF has said the primary budget deficit should be trimmed by the equivalent of $5 billion, but previous civilian rulers have rarely dared to trim defence spending for fear of stoking tensions with the military.
Unlike some other civilian leaders in Pakistan's fragile democracy, Khan appears to have good relations with the country's powerful generals.
More than half of state spending currently goes on the military and debt-servicing costs, however, limiting the government's options for reducing expenditure.
"The budget that is coming will have austerity, that means that the government's expenditures will be put at a minimum level," Shaikh told a news conference in the capital Islamabad on Saturday, a few weeks before the budget for the 2019/20 fiscal year ending in June is due to be presented.
"We are all standing together in it whether civilians or our military," said Shaikh, a former finance minister appointed by Khan as part of a wider shake-up of his economic team in the last two months.
In the days since last week's agreement with the IMF, the rupee currency dropped 5% against the dollar and has lost a third of its value in the past year.
Under the IMF's terms, the government is expected to let the rupee fall to help correct an unsustainable current account deficit and cut its debt while trying to expand the tax base in a country where only 1% of people file returns.
Shaikh has been told by the IMF that the primary budget deficit -- excluding interest payments -- should be cut to 0.6% of GDP, implying a $5 billion reduction from the current projection for a deficit of 2.2% of GDP.
The next fiscal year's revenue collection target will be 5.55 trillion rupees ($36.88 billion), Shaikh told the news conference, highlighting the need for tough steps to broaden the tax base.