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Pakistan asked USA to provide economic package for return of three million Afghan refugees

20 January, 2018

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GWADAR: Pakistan asked the United States on Friday to provide an economic package for honourable return of three million Afghan refugees to their homeland instead of indulging in blame game.

Talking to journalists, Minister for Interior and Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal said Pakistan could not be expected to certify who among the 3m Afghan refugees were peaceful or involved in cross-border terrorism. He said Pakistan could only guarantee having no terrorists on its soil when it did not have to look after foreign refugees who also had relationships across the border.

He said the US had withdrawn after the cold war and left Pakistan in the lurch. They should now share the responsibility instead of blaming Pakistan for its difficulties, he said, adding that the “US should now announce economic package for return of 3m Afghan refugees” to their homeland.

“In the presence of 3m Afghans living in the country, Pakistan cannot certify who among the Afghans are involved in terrorist activities. It’s time for the US to do more in partnership with other stakeholders, otherwise if we are engaged in blame game then terrorists will get benefit,” Mr Iqbal said.

In response to a question about growing ties between the US, India and Israel, he said new alignments were being made in the world, but “we don’t need to be worry as we also have other foreign policy options”.

“We should settle all domestic issues and ensure political stability; only peace and stability can take us forward instead of indulging in confrontation,” he added.

The minister said some neighbours were making conspiracies against the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) because they were not happy with the new central position Pakistan was going to secure after developments under the CPEC and opening up of Central Asia, South Asia and Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). He said India should get rid of its narrow approach as these would benefit the whole region.

Speaking about Gwadar development, Mr Iqbal said no special treatment was given to China with regard to the Gwadar port, adding that the agreement Pakistan had signed with the Singapore Port Authority more than a decade ago but could not induce investment for its development was transferred to the China Overseas Port Holding Company on the same terms and conditions which had actualised the project development.

Within a short span of five to six months, the Gwadar Business Centre had been built which was the largest facility in Balochistan, he said, adding that Chinese companies were moving quickly for infrastructure development.

The minister said that around $4 billion investment had been made in Gwadar in the first phase to energise or complete different projects, including port, basic infrastructure and free economic zone.

He said that initially China committed $800 million out of total $46bn under the CPEC for development of Gwadar, adding that for the second phase, $3-4bn investment had been mobilised cumulatively by the federal and Balochistan governments as well as the private sectors of both China and Pakistan, which would translate Gwadar into gateway for the CPEC.

Gwadar Port Authority Chairman Dostain Khan Jamaldini said China had so far invested $2bn in Gwadar’s infrastructure, energy, transport and industrial sectors. Separately, he added, local expenditure on Gwadar had significantly increased to Rs36bn from Rs3.5bn in 2013.

Responding to questions about water crisis in Gwadar, Mr Jamaldini said the town’s water requirement stood at six million gallons per day (MGD), but two small dams were currently providing around 2.7 MGD. The requirement would rise to 12 MGD for which additional arrangements were being made to get 10 MGD, he added.

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