Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday said the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) would have derailed had Imran Khan staged another sit-in in Islamabad as he revealed how the PML-N government in its last tenure worked simultaneously with the US to install power projects in the country.
Shehbaz mentioned the 2014 Dharna staged by former prime minister Imran Khan at the US embassy where he attended the event to mark the 75 years of diplomatic relationship between Pakistan and the US.
“When Pakistan was facing the worst kind of power outages, the then-prime minister Nawaz Sharif had decided to spend from our own meagre resources to invest another 5,000 megawatts,” he said.
“The then-finance minister Ishaq Dar opposed the suggestion tooth and nail, saying I don’t have the money,” the prime minister added while narrating the incident.
“The Prime Minister thought ‘no’. On top of that what we are getting in the CPEC project, let’s not delay it if there is another dharna so to say, then this CPEC programme will be derailed and by the time of the elections 2018, we wouldn’t be able to show anything to the people of Pakistan,” he added.
“As a result of that decision, out of 5,000 megawatts, 3,500 megawatts were installed by GE — a US Blue Chip company — and it was the most transparent investment and the prices were the lowest in the world. It can’t be beaten as I speak and in the fastest possible time, these plants were installed. That’s how we want to build our friendship in terms of transparency, in terms of trust, in terms of mutual respect,” the prime minister said.
“And, I want to assure you my friend ambassador I will be the most ardent supporter of this friendship,” he stressed.
The prime minister sought to reset the troubled ties with the US and admitted that had Pakistan used the billions of dollars assistance provided by Washington appropriately the country would have broken the begging bowl.
The fact that the prime minister himself went to the US Embassy suggested eagerness on part of the current government to remove any hurdles in the bilateral relationship between the two countries.
Shehbaz admitted that there were ups and downs in the bilateral relationship. He said the countries had issues and differences but stressed his government wanted to restore the relationship to the level where once both enjoyed close ties.
“Let bygones be bygones,” Shehbaz added, acknowledging that the US provided $32 billion assistance to Pakistan since its inception. He, however, regretted that the financial assistance was not utilized appropriately otherwise Pakistan would not have needed bailout packages from friendly countries and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
He said he had a “useful” meeting with US President Joe Biden in New York at the sidelines of the recent UN General Assembly session. He said Pakistan did not need a sum of money but relief and assistance to build climate resilient infrastructure for those who were uprooted by recent flooding in the south of the country.
He once again highlighted that Pakistan was not responsible for the climate change but was bearing the brunt of the manmade disaster.
The relationship between Pakistan and the US has warmed up visibly in recent months particularly after the change of government in April in Pakistan.
There has been a flurry of meetings and visits from both the sides and renewed push to find common grounds to build relationship on.
Shehbaz emphasised that bilateral relationship between Pakistan and the US must not be seen through the prism of Afghanistan or China.
Ambassador Blome reaffirmed continuing US support to Pakistan during the difficult recovery process, saying, “While the water is only now receding and the rebuilding just beginning, the people of the United States continue to stand with Pakistan. We are doing what friends and partners do – support each other when it’s needed most.”
The long history of US humanitarian and development assistance to Pakistan is only one of the many ties that bind our countries together. Over the past 75 years, the United States and Pakistan have built a relationship based on mutual respect, shared goals and values, and people-to-people ties, and our partnership has been advantageous to both countries.
Over the decades, more than $32 billion dollars in US support has benefited Pakistan’s infrastructure, agricultural and economic sectors, and health and governance systems to improve the lives of the Pakistani people, the envoy said.
More than 500,000 Pakistani-Americans in the United States and more than 37,000 US government exchange alumni in Pakistan – including both students and established professionals – have helped build bridges between our two societies.
Looking to the future, Ambassador Blome summarized the many opportunities for continued and expanded partnership between the United States and Pakistan, saying, “While our two democracies have steadfastly stood together over the years, the rapidly changing world provides a pivotal opportunity to reframe the US-Pakistan partnership and recognize that our shared objectives and mutual ambitions go much deeper. When I consider the future of US-Pakistan relations, I see many possibilities to advance our shared interests in trade, investment, clean energy, health, security, education, and other shared priorities. As we look forward to the next 75 years and beyond, I hope you will join me in opening this new door.”