Pakistan, US agree to promote regional stability ahead of Moscow peace talks

US ambassador Alice Wells leads delegation in talks with Pakistan here at Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday wherein both sides discussed bilateral relations, regional situation and peace and stability in Afghanistan. (Photo courtesy: Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad)
Updated 06 November 2018

Pakistan, US agree to promote regional stability ahead of Moscow peace talks

  • US, Afghanistan reject Russia-led talks
  • Pakistan emphasises need to enhance cooperation with US

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and the United States agreed on Tuesday to promote peace and stability in the region, ahead of talks aimed at ending the conflict in Afghanistan.
“Evolving regional situation and peace and stability in Afghanistan were discussed,” said Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry after talks were held with ambassador Alice Wells from the US State Department.
Wells also called on Finance Minister Asad Umar during her day-long visit to Islamabad.
“Pakistani side emphasised the need to diversify the relationship with particular focus on enhanced economic and trade cooperation,” the Foreign Ministry  said, “the two sides also agreed to diversify the bilateral relationship.”
The ministry said the US delegation also appreciated the need to strengthen the bilateral relationship “with Pakistan, which was an important country of the region.”
The ambassador’s visit comes days before Russia hosts peace talks that are expected to be attended by representatives from Iran, China and Pakistan.
A five-member Afghan Taliban delegation, led by Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai, will also attend.
Amjad Shoaib, a defence and security analyst, said the US was annoyed at the Russia-led peace process and that it was trying to convince Pakistan to scuttle the move.
“The US has been pushing Pakistan to bring the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table, but (on) its own terms and conditions, which has not been possible so far,” he told Arab News.
Shoaib said the US was also using its leverage at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to pressure Pakistan to “bring stability in Afghanistan without Russia and China.”
“The United States also wants to give an important role to India in Afghanistan which is unacceptable to Islamabad,” he said.“There is little hope of improvement in our relationship with the US in the current scenario.”
An IMF mission is scheduled to visit Pakistan from November 7 for two weeks to finalise a fresh bailout package.
But US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned in July that any potential IMF bailout for Pakistan’s new government should not provide funds to pay off Chinese lenders.
“There’s no rationale for IMF tax dollars, and associated with that American dollars that are part of the IMF funding, for those to go to bail out Chinese bondholders or China itself,” he  said.
Professor Tahir Malik, academic and analyst, said US influence in Afghanistan had increased over time while new  players like Russia and China have been cultivating their influence over the Taliban.
“Both Pakistan and the US would remain engaged for peace in Afghanistan, but warmth in the relationship is not expected anytime soon,” he told Arab News. “At the moment Islamabad stands nothing to lose as Washington has already cut financial aid and defence cooperation with it.”


Pakistan to be part of new Saudi foreign manpower program 

Updated 14 November 2019

Pakistan to be part of new Saudi foreign manpower program 

  • New skills-based system to be launched from next month
  • Will include India, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Egypt, Bangladesh, and Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Starting next month, Saudi Arabia will introduce a new skilled foreign manpower program that will eventually include Pakistan, a senior official at the Saudi labor ministry said this week. 

Nayef Al-Omair, head of the vocational examination program at the Ministry of Labor, said on Tuesday in Riyadh that the ministry was categorizing the tasks and the structure of some professions for visa-issuing purposes.

Under the new policy, visas would be issued only after skill tests and the previous system would be gradually phased out. 

The new scheme would be optional for one year starting December 2019 after which it would become compulsory, Al-Omair said. The new program would first be applied to manpower recruited from India due to its large size in the Saudi market.

Eventually, the program will cover seven countries, including India, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Egypt, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. Workers belonging to these states constitute 95 percent of professional manpower in the Kingdom’s local market.

Saudi Arabia is home to around 2.6 million Pakistani expats those have been a vital source of foreign remittances.

Last year the country received $21.8 billion in remittances out of which $5 billion were remitted by Pakistani nationals working in Kingdom.

According to the Pakistani ministry of finance, there was a major decline in manpower export to Saudi Arabia where only 100,910 emigrants proceeded for employment in 2018 as compared to 2017, a drop of 42,453 emigrants.

However, Sayed Zulfikar Bukhari, special assistant to the Pakistani prime minister on overseas Pakistanis, said in an interview earlier this month that Saudi Arabia had agreed to increase the share of the Pakistani labor force in the multi-billion dollar New Taif City development.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have formed working groups to develop procedures for this transfer of manpower. Pakistani groups will visit the Kingdom in the coming months to finalize arrangements.