Zardari, Biden discuss strategic ties, regional security

President Asif Ali Zardari on Wednesday called for a close, long-term and broad based relationship between Pakistan and the United States (US) for promoting peace, stability and progress in the region and beyond.

Talking to US Vice President Joseph R. Biden at the President House here, Zardari said Pakistan was committed to fight terrorism and underlined the need for support and understanding of the international community in this effort.

Bilateral matters, Pakistan’s fight against militancy, transfer of drone technology, poverty alleviation and regional situation came under discussion during the meeting that lasted for about one hour in a very cordial atmosphere.

Briefing media, Spokesman to the President Farhatullah Babar quoted the President as saying that Pakistan was committed to fight and defeat extremists and terrorists of all hue and the fight against them would continue till its complete eradication.

The President said that a handful of militants and extremists would never be allowed to impose their vicious agenda on the people of Pakistan.

About drone attacks, the President said that it undermined the national consensus against the war on militancy and reiterated Pakistan’s call for transfer of drone technology to be used by its own security forces against the militants.

President Zardari spoke of his vision to take the country forward and the efforts to put Pakistan on sound economic footing.

He said it was Pakistan’s security imperative to curb violent extremism, adding that the country needed international support to implement a comprehensive strategy to fight militancy that also laid emphasis on economic development and job creation opportunities for the people.

The President also acknowledged Biden’s efforts and support for democracy and for supporting socio-economic development of the country as an integral part of fighting militancy.

Farhatullah Babar quoted the President as saying that Pakistan needed increased market access to the US markets and called upon the US to create a special category for conflict affected countries under its GSP Plus programme.

He reiterated Pakistan’s call for the establishment of Reconstruction Opportunity Zones in the country and an early adoption of legislation in the US in this regard.

The President also urged the US to use its influence on the international community for providing enhanced market access to Pakistan.

Pakistan’s energy requirements also came under discussion. The President welcomed the setting up of Energy Task Force and expressed the hope that Pakistan’s energy issues would be addressed in a timely and focused manner to overcome power crisis in the country.

President Zardari also thanked Vice-President Joe Biden for his government’s consistent support in the rehabilitation of last year’s flood victims.

He urged for continued US support for the reconstruction and rehabilitation phase as well.

Appreciating Pakistan’s fight against militants, Vice President Joe Biden reiterated US support to democracy in Pakistan and its stability.

Biden assured that the new US administration would support Pakistan’s efforts to strengthen democracy, countering terrorism and in meeting its developmental needs and capacity building.

The US Vice President was accompanied by Anthony J. Blinken, National Security Advisor to the Vice President, William Burns, Herro Mustafa and Allison Melia. US Ambassador in Islamabad Cameron Munter and Acting US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Frank Ruggiero were also present.

Pakistani side included Makhdoon Amin Fahim, Federal Minister for Commerce, Ch. Ahmed Mukhtar, Federal Minister for Defence, Rehman Malik, Federal Minister for Interior, Dr. Hafeez Shaikh, Federal Minister for Finance, Salman Faruqui, Secretary General to the President, Hina Rabbani Khar, Minister of State for Finance and Economic Affairs, Farzana Raja, Chairman BISP, Senator Syeda Sughra Imam, Farahnaz Ispahani, Malik Asif Hayat, Secretary to the President, Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir and Taimour Azmat Usman, Information Secretary