$500m for education & health in Afghanistan, claims Ah­san Iqbal

The Pak Banker - - NATIONAL -

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.

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