ISLAMABAD, May 3 (APP) - Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani Monday said the economic challenges that Pakistan is faced with are directly linked to its war against terrorism.Pakistan, at this critical juncture, hence needs assistance by way of market access through Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) plus regime and through passage of Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZs) Bill by the United States Congress to be able to address the root causes of terrorism, he added.
The prime minister was talking to a delegation of the members of US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee led by its Chairman Howard L. Berman that called on him here at the Prime Minister House on Monday afternoon.
Prime Minister Gilani underlined the imperative need for creation of new employment, development of infrastructure, provision of education and health facilities as well as enhanced security in the militancy affected areas to defeat the phenomenon of extremism for the safety and security of not only Pakistan but the world at large.
He expressed the hope that the US Congress would play its crucial role also in fast-tracking the disbursement of pledged economic and security assistance to strengthen the hands of his Government in pursuing these goals.
Referring to his very useful and productive meetings in Washington, DC with President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senator John Kerry, the Prime Minister said that Pakistan-US relations have attained a new height in the past one year, with the increased high level interaction.
He hoped that these exchanges will be further strengthened and that President Barak Obama would undertake an official visit to Pakistan in the near future.
He emphasized that both sides through concerted efforts should follow up on the last round of Strategic Dialogue held earlier this year and meetings on its different tracks should be scheduled to prepare for the next round to be held in second half of this year.
The prime minister stated that despite great human and material sacrifices, Pakistan had remained steadfast in fighting the menace of terrorism and its Armed Forces had achieved remarkable successes in the process.
His government now wished to focus on the economic development of areas cleared from militants as well as on countrys economy, he said, adding that Pakistan, therefore, would like to request the help of friendly countries like US in its negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other international financial institutions to give relief to its people.
He also urged the US to use its influence with the European Union to gain GSP Plus facilities for enhanced market access of its products to the European Union markets.
The prime minister dilated upon his meeting with his Indian counterpart in Thimphu, Bhutan and termed it positive as it had helped in removing misgivings and had paved the way for resumption of talks on all the bilateral issues.
He hoped that in follow up of that meeting, Foreign Ministers and Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan will hold talks in the near future for deciding the modalities to move forward towards resolution of all the contentious issues.
The prime minister also stated that he considered peace and stability of Afghanistan a pre-condition for the stability in Pakistan.
While referring to his last meeting with the Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the prime minister stated that both sides had agreed to make further headway in their ongoing cooperation in multi-faceted areas.
Congressman Howard L. Berman and the accompanying US Congressmen profusely commended the Prime Minister for stabilization of democratic institutions in the country and on his remarkable process in consensus building.
Congressman Howard L. Berman stated that he had noticed significant positive changes in all fields in Pakistan, since his last visit in April 2009.
The US Congress fully appreciated the sacrifices made by Pakistan for the safety and security of whole of the world and was committed to make Pakistan-US ties even stronger.
The US delegation was also full of praise for prime ministers steadfast efforts to improve relations with India and expressed the hope that subsequent to his successful meeting with his Indian counterpart, the Pakistan-India dialogue would be back on track.
They assured the prime minister of US Congress and governments continued support to Pakistan in economic and security fields and promised to fast-track not only the US assistance pledged under Kerry-Lugar-Begman Bill, but for interceding with Friends of Democratic Pakistan to deliver on their pledges of assistance made to Pakistan in Tokyo, last year.
US Ambassador in Pakistan Anne W. Patterson, Advisor on Finance Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Senator Sughra Imam, Foreign Secretary and Defence Secretary were also present in the meeting.