Days of depending on US are over: PM Abbasi

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has said the days of Pakistan’s dependence on the US to meet its military requirements have ended.

In an interview to Arab News, published on Monday, the premier said the world should recognise Pakistan’s efforts in fighting the “world’s war” on terror. “If one source dries up, we have no option but to go to another source. It may cost more, it may consume more resources, but we have to fight that war, and that’s what we emphasised to all the people that we met.”

“We have major US weapons systems in our military, but we’ve also diversified [our arsenal]. We have Chinese and European systems. Recently, for the first time we inducted Russian attack helicopters,” Abbasi informed.

Responding to a question, the premier said that US’ newly devised policy to include India for peacebuilding in Afghanistan will be detrimental for the region.

“We don’t believe that injecting India into the Pakistan-US relationship will help resolve anything, especially in Afghanistan, where we don’t see any role for India. India has a relationship with the US, and that is between them and the US,” Abbasi said.

He added that Pakistan wants an ‘equal relationship or partnership with the US, like every other nation’ and wants to work with Washington in resolving regional and global issues ranging from the ‘economy to nuclear matters’.

He said that in his speech at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and side meetings, he stressed that nobody wants peace in Afghanistan more than Pakistan.

“We’re partners in the war on terror, and that’s what we emphasised. We emphasised to everybody we met at the UNGA that nobody wants peace in Afghanistan more than Pakistan”.

He disclosed that investigations showed that the person who carried out a suicide attack on deputy chairman of Senate in Mastung, Balochistan on May 12 was an Afghan national who had crossed the border for the attack.

“The reality today is that much of the area bordering Pakistan is controlled by the Taliban. The people we’re fighting in Pakistan today, their sanctuaries are in Afghanistan, their leadership is living there, the planning is done there, the logistical bases are there, and they regularly cross the border and attack our installations. We recently had a suicide attack on the deputy chairman of the Senate. He survived, but 22 people were killed. It was by an Afghan national who had crossed the border to attack his convoy deep inside Pakistan,” he said.

Abbasi said that in the recently held meeting between Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Asif told his counterpart that Islamabad pursues a zero-tolerance approach to “all terrorist and militant groups.”

He called his meeting with US Vice President Mike Pence, ‘very constructive’.

“There was no meeting scheduled (with President Trump). In fact, the meeting with Vice President Pence wasn’t scheduled [either]. It was at their request,” the prime minister said.

Govt closes first quarter on strong fiscal performance

ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister, Senator Mohammad Ishaq Dar chaired a meeting at the Ministry of Finance on Monday to review fiscal out turns of the first quarter (July to September) of current fiscal year. Finance Secretary presented provisional data on fiscal operations during the meeting, and stated that the first quarter has closed on strong fiscal performance.

Finance Secretary stated that as per the provisional data, the FBR tax collections remained robust. Total collections of Rs.765 billion during July-September 2017 demonstrated growth of over 20% as compared to collections in the first quarter of last year. Because of higher tax collections, the amounts transferred to the provinces also increased substantially. As compared to transfers of Rs.416 billion last year this year the total transfers have so far reached Rs.570 billion, including arrears.

The meeting was informed that on the expenditure side, the Federal Government maintained strict fiscal discipline. As against total expenditure of Rs.914 billion in first quarter last year, the Federal Government spent Rs.894 billion in the first quarter this year. This was despite the fact that increased investments were carried out through the development budget.

The overall budget deficit was recorded at Rs.324 billion in the first quarter this year as compared to Rs.438 billion in the same period last year. This was made possible through robust tax collections and lower expenditure. In terms of GDP, the overall deficit decreased to 0.9% in the first quarter of current financial year as compared to 1.3% recorded in the first quarter of last year. Reduced fiscal deficit means lower public debt accumulation which supports alignment to targets defined in the amended Fiscal Responsibility and Debt Limitations Act.

The Finance Minister expressed satisfaction with the growth in revenue collections by the FBR and appreciated the measures taken to achieve fiscal prudence in the first quarter. The Finance Minister reiterated the government’s resolve of continuation on the path of fiscal discipline. He directed officials to ensure achievement of fiscal targets in the remaining three quarters of the current fiscal year.

While commending inflation containment, low interest rates, positive and strong growth in large-scale manufacturing, recent increase in exports and remittances, the Finance Minister stressed on the need to maintain focus on acceleration of economic growth for continued reduction in unemployment and poverty.

Senior officials of the Ministry of Finance attended the meeting.