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Some Biden administration priorities in line with PM Imran's: Qureshi

Dawn logo Dawn 30/01/2021 none@none.com (Dawn.com)

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Saturday said some priorities of the Biden administration were in accordance with those of Prime Minister Imran Khan's.

Citing the example of environment and climate change, the minister said that the Biden administration had given American diplomat John Kerry the responsibility of playing a role in tackling climate change as a special envoy.

"Imran Khan has previously said on several occasions that Pakistan is among the countries most affected by climate change," he said while speaking to the media in Multan.

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan, Shah Mahmood Qureshi (File Photo) (Photo by Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images) © Getty Minister of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan, Shah Mahmood Qureshi (File Photo) (Photo by Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The minister's comments come a day after his telephonic conversation with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to discuss bilateral ties, the Afghan peace process and the Daniel Pearl murder case.

Speaking about the phone call, Qureshi said the US had also highlighted the priority of battling corruption and money laundering which was also "in line with the premier's thinking".

Referring to the Pearl murder case, Qureshi said: "I also informed [Blinken] that our courts are free which operate within the country's law and Constitution."

He added that Blinken had expressed "concern" over the apex court's decision in the case.

"I informed him that the Sindh government, after consulting with the Centre, had decided to file a review petition [in the Supreme Court]."

Qureshi said he told the US state secretary that Pakistan was aware of its responsibility regarding all legal options within the ambit of the law.

"Pakistan has made progress against terrorism and terrorist networks. We understand the pain of those families, numbering thousands, that have been affected by this and lost their loved ones," he said while speaking to reporters.

The foreign minister said he had a "good conversation" with Blinken and hoped that interaction and engagement between the two administrations would continue on key aspects of the bilateral relationship.

He reaffirmed that it was the wish of the Pakistan government as well that "the family of Daniel Pearl should be given justice" but it should be "within the limits of the law".

'Working on providing relief to the people'

Responding to a question from a reporter regarding the soaring prices of essential commodities such as flour and sugar, Qureshi said: "You are right, the nation wants relief and we are taking a lot of steps to provide that relief to the people."

He emphasised that the reasons for Pakistan's current inflationary woes should be understood. According to him, this was because of the previous government keeping the dollar at artificially low prices which affected the country's treasury and foreign exchange reserves.

He said that practice can't be sustained indefinitely so when the PML-N government went and the dollar returned to being determined by market mechanisms, "the dollar appreciated".

"When the dollar appreciates then there will be inflation".

He also pointed out that the massive loans the previous government took were an additional burden on the incumbent government since "the majority of our treasury is being used to pay back those loans," adding that servicing past debts has "become a big challenge for Pakistan".

He stated, however, that with Pakistan's exports increasing, "opportunities of livelihood are improving and productivity is increasing" and eventually prices of essentials will fall when the gap between demand and supply is reduced.

Qureshi pointed out the current economic problems in Pakistan can't be seen "isolation". He said Covid-19 has impacted the world at large and caused an "economic contraction and slowdown" which also affected prices.

"There are multiple factors over which Pakistan has no control."

Despite that the government is taking initiatives to bring a break in this state of affairs such as the clear stance against mafias and cartels, he said.

"We are against mafias, it is a clear policy of ours. This government has uncovered those mafias, taken action against them and carried out commissions and inquiries."

He added the government was taking action based on the recommendations of such inquiries and "there will be no space given to any mafia — internal or external".

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