PM hopes intra-Afghan negotiations will start soon

ISLAMABAD – Prime Minister Imran Khan hoped that Intra-Afghan negotiations will commence at the earliest and culminate in a negotiated political settlement to ensure peace, stability and prosperity in the region and beyond.  

He was talking to Uzbekistan’s Deputy Prime Minister for Investment and Foreign Economic Relations Sardor Umurzaqov, who called on him in Islamabad on Thursday. Imran Khan stressed that a peaceful and stable Afghanistan is of paramount importance for Pakistan and the region.

Underlining that there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan, he highlighted Pakistan’s positive contribution to the Afghan peace process. He also highlighted the potential for enhanced trade with increased regional connectivity as a result of different planned railway projects.

During the meeting, matters of mutual interest, including the Covid-19 pandemic, bilateral cooperation, regional connectivity, and regional peace and security were discussed. The Deputy Prime Minister conveyed the cordial greetings and best wishes of the Uzbek President and noted that President Mirziyoyev looked forward to visiting Pakistan. On behalf of President Mirziyoyev, he also extended an invitation to the Prime Minister to visit Uzbekistan.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that ensuring availability of wheat and sugar at reasonable price is government’s top priority to prevent the general public from facing difficulties in getting basic food.

Chairing a high-level meeting on availability and prices of wheat and sugar in Islamabad on Thursday, he expressed satisfaction over the current available wheat stock in the country and particularly in Punjab.

He further directed for advance arrangements for future needs.

Addressing the meeting of National Coordination Committee for Housing, Construction and Development in Islamabad, the Prime Minister reassured the investors in construction sector that the government is committed to remove any obstacle in the way of construction projects.

Expressing satisfaction over the keen interest shown by investors, builders and constructors in the Ravi Front Urban Development Project and Bundal Island projects, the Prime Minister said that these two mega projects would pave the way for investment of billions of rupees and would become milestones in development of the economy.

Talking about the Ravi Urban Development Project, the Prime Minister said that 90 per cent Pakistani products would be used in the project which would boost the local industry.

In a briefing on Ravi Front Urban Development Project and Bundal Island projects, the meeting was informed that country’s major investors in the construction sector have expressed keen interest in both projects.

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday assured investors in the construction sector of all possible facilities particularly those interested to invest in the Ravi Riverfront Urban Development Project and Karachi’s Bundle Island project.

While chairing a meeting of National Coordination Committee on Housing, Construction and Development, the prime minister said the two mega projects would not only encourage investment of billions, but also promote other affiliated sectors and thus would prove milestones in strengthening of the economy.

The prime minister expressed satisfaction over keen interest by the investors, builders and constructors in the Ravi River Front Urban Development Project and Bundle Island project. Imran Khan said the local investors along with overseas Pakistani investors would also be encouraged to invest and benefit from the projects. On the Ravi Riverfront Urban Development Project, he said 90 percent of the material to be used would be indigenous, which would boost the local industry.

The meeting was attended by Information Minister Senator Shibli Faraz, special assistants Malik Amin Aslam, Lt Gen (r) Asim Saleem Bajwa and Dr Shahbaz Gill, Naya Pakistan Housing Authority Chairman Gen (R) Anwar Ali Haider, State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Governor, Federal Board of Revenue Chairman and other officials.

The representatives from the construction industry and noted businessmen, including Aqeel Karim Dhedi, Arif Habib, Abbas Mukhtar, Fawad Mukhtar, Faisal Afridi, Muhammad Ahsan, Shahid Abdullah, Tariq Rafi and others attended the meeting

The businessmen appreciated the active role of SBP Governor in facilitation extended by the banks to the construction industry. The meeting also discussed the projects, including Ravi Riverfront Urban Development Project and Bundle Island with high prospects of investment.

The Punjab Chief Secretary presented the timeline of reviewing master plans of big cities, including Rawalpindi, Faisalabad, Multan, Gujranwala, Dera Ghazi Khan, Sialkot and Sahiwal. He also apprised the prime minister about the projects related to urban regeneration in Lahore and rising trend in purchase of the construction material.

Prime Minister Imran Khan Thursday rubbishing the mindset doubting the patriotism of dual nationals, said Pakistan should better create conducive conditions for the expatriates to tap that valuable asset.

“I can’t understand why the people label the dual nationals as traitors. They just went abroad as we could not give them jobs. Now as they have qualified (in their fields) abroad, we don’t have matching jobs for them here…They are an asset for us. We will just have to facilitate them,” the prime minster said addressing the launching ceremony here of Roshan Pakistan Digital Account.

The Roshan Digital Account, an initiative of State Bank of Pakistan, provides innovative banking solution to millions of non-resident Pakistanis enabling them open bank account in Pakistani banks remotely through digital and online process.

The facility will help the expatriates pay utility bills, send remittances, and invest their amount in various existing and upcoming schemes.

Information Minister Senator Shibli Faraz, Finance Advisor Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Commerce Advisor Abdul Razzak Dawood, Special Assistant Dr Shahbaz Gill and State Bank Governor Raza Baqir attended the ceremony, besides top leadership of collaborating banks.

The prime minister said the overseas Pakistanis were the best mind, professionally competent and successful businessmen but calling them as ineligible for any public office was unjustified. Even, he said, the people immediately moved to court to challenge their appointments.

He exemplified Dubai where the hospitals, airlines and even police services were led by foreigners. But realizing their potential and competence, Shaukat Khanum engaged the expatriates who run the specialized health facility successfully, he added.

He viewed that the expatriates were even more patriot than those in Pakistan because while facing the Islamophobia and other issues abroad, they realized the real worth of freedom back at their homeland.

The prime minister congratulated the State Bank and Finance Ministry for launching the initiative and said the success of Indian and Chinese economies started with the investments by their expatriate communities.

The digital bank account facility was the first major initiative to open up opportunities for the expatriates to invest their capital in ML-1, Diamer Bhasha, housing projects and above all the newly planned cities of Ravi Front Urban Development Project in Lahore and Bundal Island in Sindh.

While recounting the challenges inherited by the government, the prime minister said half of the collected revenue went to pay off the debt which necessitated the wealth creation to increase revenue collection.

He said the construction package announced by the government would create the economic activity.

He said the exports were on surge to fill up the $40 billion trade deficit and Roshan Pakistan Account would attract the investment from abroad to help appreciate the rupee value.

Finance Advisor Abdul Hafeez Shaikh said the facility would make the expatriates to contribute to the national development.

He said the government had drastically brought down the expenditures, and remarkably reduced taxes and duties on raw materials, besides announcing the relief package worth Rs 650 billion to support the businesses impacted by the COVID-19.

            He said under the construction package, around 90 percent taxes had been waived off to support the low-income group, which was giving dividends in the form of improving economic indicators.

            State Bank Governor Raza Baqir said the Roshan Digital Account was in pursuance of the PM’s vision to financially connect and engage the expatriates for national development.

            He said the expatriates would be able to open a hassle free account while being at home within just 10 minutes without visiting any bank or filling up bundles of forms.

Besides sending remittances, the Roshan Digital Account would also allow the account holder to send back the amount abroad without any prior permission from the State Bank.

            He said the government would soon launch the Naya Pakistan Certificate for overseas Pakistanis to allow them invest their money in Pakistan.

            Initially, eight banks, including the Habib Bank, UBL, Bank Alfalah, Samba, Standard Chartered, MCB, Meezan and Faysal Bank, were providing the digital account facility.

            The Bank Alfalah chief executive officer apprised the audience of the journey to develop the facility, which, he hoped, would succeed to attract the investment from the expatriates.

            A video presentation was also made to explain how easy it was to open a Roshan Digital Account within just 10 minute time and its benefits for the account holders.

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