What investment opportunities are there for Poland in Pakistan?
Located in the heart of Asia, Pakistan is the gateway to the energy-rich Central Asian states, the financially liquid Gulf States and the economically advanced Far East. This strategic advantage alone makes Pakistan a marketplace teeming with possibilities. A large part of the workforce is hardworking, intelligent and proficient in English. Pakistan possesses a large pool of trained and experienced engineers, bankers, lawyers and other professionals, with many having substantial international experience. It also has one of the fastest growing economies in the world, with 170 million consumers and a growing middle class.
The bright prospects of Pakistan’s lucrative oil and gas sector have attracted the attention of Polish companies like PGNiG, Geofizyka Krakow and Oil and Gas Exploration Company Cracow. These three Polish companies are currently working on joint venture projects in Pakistan. PGNiG has made a gas discovery in Pakistan and is in the process of expanding its operations in Pakistan.
Global terrorism is a key issue for Pakistan’s national security. As Pakistan is on the frontline of the war on terror, how are the lives of ordinary Pakistani people affected?
This war [on terror] has disrupted the social fabric of Pakistan and has affected the life of normal people in more ways than one. Over the last two years, Pakistan has suffered more than 30,000 civilian casualties and 5,000 security agency casualties, compared to the 8,812 casualties sustained by NATO in Afghanistan in the last 10 years. There have been more than 4,000 terrorist attacks carried out against military and civilian targets in Pakistan since 2001, including about 200 suicide bombings.
In 2008 alone two and a half million people were forced to flee their homes in the Swat Valley in northern Pakistan, posing a huge challenge for the government to settle them temporarily in urban areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The loss to the economy has also been enormous. Unemployment has increased rapidly and the percentage of the population below the poverty line increased from 17 percent in 2007 to 30 percent in 2010. Growth in GDP also fell from 9 percent in 2005 to 2 percent in 2009.
What are the main priorities of Pakistan’s foreign policy?
The priorities for our foreign policy are safeguarding Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as vital security and geostrategic interests, the promotion of peace, stability and economic development, and to continue to fight the menace of terrorism. Realization of Pakistan’s development goals is contingent upon a peaceful regional environment. We are therefore committed to working constructively with all our neighbors, with the aim of deepening cooperation with partners in Asia and Europe.
Stabilizing Afghanistan and the adjoining region is a pressing priority for Pakistan. To promote this goal, Pakistan is closely associated with several regional and trilateral frameworks. We have recently resumed the dialogue process with India and hope that it will lead to the peaceful resolution of all bilateral issues, including the long-festering Kashmir dispute.
We have forged important links with Asia and Europe alike through mechanisms such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the Asia-Europe Meeting. Other foreign policy priorities include consolidating our commercial and economic interests and promoting Pakistan as a dynamic, progressive, moderate and democratic Islamic country.
How do you view Pakistan as a nuclear power?
Pakistan did not join the nuclear club out of choice but because of security issues. Nuclear tests carried out by India in May 1974 were followed by five more nuclear tests in 1998. This tilted the strategic balance in favor of India, leaving Pakistan with no choice but to follow suit, to ensure its own security and territorial integrity. The Indo-US nuclear deal and the introduction, by India, of a nuclear powered submarine have further raised security concerns in Pakistan.
We are a peace-loving country and are maintaining nuclear capabilities only as a deterrent. We do not believe in an arms race. So far as the safety of our nuclear assets is concerned, they are absolutely safe and secure. Our control and command system is second to none and is compatible with international best practices and is acknowledged internationally by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Relations between Pakistan and the US may have been affected by the killing of former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. How do you view the situation?
We have very good relations with the US and there has been close cooperation between Pakistan and the US in our fight against terrorists and struggle against extremism. The two countries have helped each other in this common fight.
Despite this, the killing of bin Laden did increase tensions on both sides. In our view it was a unilateral action taken by the United States, which violated our sovereignty. It was also a violation of the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, and therefore our country has asked for an end to drone attacks and other such actions in Pakistan.
Yet relations between our two countries are based on solid foundations. We are strategic allies and there are efforts on both sides to overcome the difficult situation arising out of the incident. We have a common enemy and various mechanisms of cooperation will help us continue this fight against the menace of terrorism.
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