Shehbaz assures Li of CPEC completion, safety for investors

As terrorists continue to target the infrastructure projects, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif discussed regional issues of mutual interest with his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang, assuring him of timely completion of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and safe environment for investors.

“Pakistan would provide a completely secure and conducive business environment for Chinese investors,” Shehbaz said during a telephonic conversation with Li.

“The two leaders’ discussion was characterized by warmth and cordiality, in keeping with the best traditions of the Pakistan-China All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership,” a PM Office statement said.

Shehbaz emphasised Pakistan’s unswerving focus on timely progress of the CPEC and also reiterated Pakistan’s unstinting support on China’s core interests.

On his part, Li assured Shehbaz that China viewed Pakistan not only as a strategic friend but as a country whose stability and economic welfare was of utmost importance to the region and to China. His country would always stand in solidarity with Pakistan, he added.

Shehbaz conveyed Pakistan’s profound gratitude for China’s support for the flood-affected people and talked about the International Conference on Climate Resilient Pakistan being held in Geneva on Jan 9.

Li assured Sharif of China’s continued support for Pakistan’s reconstruction efforts and the success of the conference.

Both leaders agreed to maintain close communication to fast-track the bilateral cooperation agenda for mutual benefit of the peoples of Pakistan and China in 2023 and beyond.

No talks with terrorists

The telephonic conversation comes as Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah on Thursday said the recently-held National Security Committee (NSC) meeting had decided that there will be “no talks with any terrorist or militant group”.

He was asked about the explicit threat issued by the TTP to the PPP and the PML-N for “openly declaring war against the TTP to appease America” during a press conference in Islamabad.

The TTP statement pointedly mentioned PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif by name, as well as their respective parties, and warned religious parties against “activities against us”.

Rana Sana said: “Let me make it clear once again that it is mandatory for them to abide by the law and to assure the state that they accepts its writ.”

The NSC, the federal minister recalled, stressed that no form of militancy would be tolerated and a “zero-tolerance” policy had been adopted against terrorism. “There will no distinction between good and bad terrorists.”

He added, in an interview, that the army chief had categorically said mixed messages should not be given on the issue of negotiations with terrorists, the narrative should be clear that there would be no negotiations with any terrorists. Gen Asim Munir made the point during the meeting in clear terms with the evidence, said Rana Sana.

Self-defence Pakistan’s inherent right

Reiterating the US support on the issue of terrorism, the State Department on Thursday again made it clear that Pakistan had every right to defend itself against the “enduring challenge”.

“Of course, Pakistan has every right to defend itself. This is ultimately, in some cases, a shared threat to the region, and it’s one we take very seriously, as do our Pakistani partners, of course,” State Department Spokesperson Ned Price told a daily press briefing.

He was responding to a question about the terrorist hideouts in the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The latest statement came a day after the United States said Pakistan enjoyed a right to defend itself from terrorism as the country has suffered tremendously from terrorist attacks.

On Thursday, when asked whether Washington is encouraging Pakistan to take any action on the subject, Price said that the US was a partner of Pakistan but did not have any influence on any decisions made by the country.

He said, “Pakistan will do what’s in its self-interest, and it will take action when it deems appropriate based on the inherent right of self-defense”.

According to the spokesperson, terrorism is a “threat that Pakistan itself faces” and has suffered huge losses in terms of precious lives in various terrorist attacks led by militants operating in the border regions.

Price said the presence of militants had been an “enduring challenge” for the US, NATO and “certainly for Afghanistan’s neighbours, who have most frequently been the victims of attacks that have emanated from Afghanistan”.

Explaining his country’s position, he said the US condemned any threat of violence from TTP or any other terrorist group. “US and Pakistan do indeed have a shared interest in ensuring that the Taliban live up to the commitments and that terrorist groups like ISIS-K, like the TTP, like Al-Qaeda are no longer able to threaten regional security,” he added.

He said Pakistan was a close security partner with US but he would not comment on any plans or operations Islamabad may be taking or contemplating.

“The terrorist threat emanating from Afghanistan has in the past not only presented a threat to Pakistan but to the region. So these are questions for the Pakistani government. We are a partner to Pakistan, but ultimately its decisions are its decisions,” Price said.

The US continues to call on the Taliban to uphold the counterterrorism commitments and pledges to curtail the ability of international terrorists to be able to operate on Afghan soil, he said.


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