$500m for education & health in Afghanistan, claims Ahsan Iqbal
Minister Planning, Development and Reform Prof Ahsan Iqbal said Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif has a clear vision that for peace and prosperity friendly relations with the neighbouring countries is the key.
"The government has an honest intention of forging friendly ties with its neighbours. The PM has seized all opportunities of positive interaction with the leadership of the neighbouring countries to promote mutual confidence. Pakistan and Afghanistan share common destiny and have to work together for promoting peace and stability in the region," he said, while talking here on Thursday to the visiting Afghan delegation comprising academicians, parliamentarians, students and civil society members. He underlined the need for greater exchanges of scholars, artists, businessmen and others for greater cooperation.
The Minister expressed his pleasure for the people-to-people contact initiative, which would be useful for harnessing the cultural and economic potential of both countries. He said we have to start a new chapter in Pakistan-Afghanistan relations by focusing on social and economic dimensions of friendship. He was of the opinion that both countries shared hundreds of years of history, and Pakistan was the biggest beneficiary of peace in Afghanistan. He mentioned the seventh pillar of the Vision 2025, which envisaged regional connectivity, and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) would play an important role of bringing people closer besides improving economics of the region. "One can choose friends, not neighbours, who should live in harmony and closer cooperation. That is why we are looking forward to an all-encompassing relationship, from people-to-people contact to government-to-government relations," he said, while opining that if any untoward thing were to happen in Afghanistan, Pakistan would be first the country to feel its heat, and would affect the rest of the world later on.
"We are following a policy of non-interference, and mending fences," he said. The Minister mentioned various projects for Afghanistan launched by the government, which included $500 million worth of education, health and infrastructure schemes and, 3,000 scholarships in different universities of Pakistan, 100 Afghani students to study at the Lahore University of Management Sciences, and other technical programmes. Upon request of a delegate, he also assured more assistance would be extended in the future. Prof Ahsan Iqbal observed that in the new era prosperous future could be achieved through regional integration, and our region was the least integrated. "If we fail to do so now, then we stand on the wrong side of the 21st century.