No trade with Israel for now: PM
* Expresses satisfaction with India-Pakistan dialogue
By Shahzad Raza
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz on Friday ruled out the possibility of bilateral trade with Israel at present, but declared that Pakistan-Israel interaction would benefit the people of Palestine.
Talking to journalists in his Parliament House chambers, he said it was premature to talk about creating trade links with Israel - not yet recognised by Pakistan. Israel recently waived restrictions on import of Pakistani products after foreign ministers of the two countries met in Turkey. Aziz said Pakistan’s stance on Israel’s recognition was identical to that of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC). Recognition, he said, would only be possible with the establishment of a free Palestinian state.
Aziz denied apprehensions that the pace of the India-Pakistan dialogue was slow. On President Pervez Musharraf’s meeting with Indian Premier Manmohan Singh in New York, he said such meetings provided the two sides with an opportunity to share ideas, understand each other’s stance and bring them closer. Aziz said he might also meet the Indian premier on the sidelines of the upcoming Shanghai Conference.
He said the parliamentary committee on Balochistan had prepared recommendations for development and reforms in Balochistan, and would complete its recommendations after the third phase of the local council elections.
Aziz hoped the new National Finance Commission (NFC) Award would be announced soon with the consent of all four provinces. “We want the provinces to adopt a positive approach for their own benefit,” he said. The federal government wanted appropriate distribution of resources among provinces after deducting revenue for defence, debt servicing and civil service expenditures, he said.
The prime minister said the government was sincere in strengthening democratic institutions. “I just talked to Makhdoom Amin Fahim,” he said. “And let me tell you that the relationship between the government and opposition is not turning sour,” he said.
Aziz said sectors like electronic media, information technology and construction were facing shortage of skilled manpower. “We are announcing the formation of the National Training and Vocational Training Authority (NTEVTA) board for skill development today,” he said. He claimed the government had taken several steps to eliminate crimes against women. He said it was wrong to single out Pakistan in crimes against women. “If you observe the situation in world, you would find Pakistan on the lower end (in terms of crimes against women).” To a question he said the government would soon hold elections for the Senate deputy chairman. “I have started the process of election of the Senate deputy chairman,” he said. “I will be done soon. However, no date has been fixed for it.”