ISLAMABAD - The government has estimated $1.3 billion cost of the ongoing military operation Zarb-e-Azb and assistance provided to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar has discussed the estimates with Senator Jack Reed, Ranking member of the SASC and US Ambassador Richard G. Olson who met him here on Wednesday.

The minister briefed Jack Reed about the ongoing operation Zarb e Azb, which he said was the major offensive against terrorists and a manifestation of the government and people’s resolve to put an end to the menace of terrorism.

He said that the Armed Forces, all the political parties and the civil society were on the same page in the war on terror as they believed that eliminating terrorism was the key to peace and stability.

He said that the government faced severe financial crunch due to the heavy cost of the anti-terror offensive and economic liabilities arising due to displacement of a large segment of the tribal population.

Finance Minister said that the government had already incurred over 400 million dollars in terms of expenses on operation Zarb-e-Azb and assistance provided to the IDPs.

The estimated cost to be met in this regard, he said could go over 1.3 billion dollars.

Secretary Defence, Lt General (Retd) Muhammad Alam Khattak who also attended the meeting said that alongwith the two million IDPs, the presence of over three million Afghan refugees added to economic difficulties faced by Pakistan.  

He said this was the time that needs and requirements of the people in affected Tribal Areas were properly heeded with focused investment in health and education to kill any chances of militancy rearing its head again.

The international community should take due cognizance of the situation, he said.

Senator Jack Reed said that undoubtedly the fight against terrorism had to be a mutual effort and international community’s support to Pakistan is a must to overcome this problem. He said one could see that operation against all the terrorists was being undertaken.

He said it was also good to see positive attitude from the Afghanistan side when it came to ending the scourge of terrorism.

Dar also on this occasion mentioned about the recently concluded IMF 6th review.  Jack Reed, a ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, appreciated Pakistan’s role in counterterrorism efforts. Senator Reed made these remarks in his separate meetings with PM’s Adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz and Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif.

In his meeting with Sartaj Aziz, matters relating to Pakistan-US bilateral relations and the security situation in the region were discussed. The adviser briefed the senator on the improvement of Pakistan’s relations with Afghanistan.

Senator Reed expressed deep appreciation over the sacrifices made by Pakistan in its efforts to root out terrorism and extremism and the success achieved so far. He was accompanied by Ambassador Richard Olson and senior staff of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The discussions covered Pakistan-US bilateral relations and the security situation in the region. The adviser highlighted Pakistan’s comprehensive and robust measures to counter terrorism and extremism and also briefed the senator on the improvement in Pakistan’s relations with Afghanistan. Senator Reed belongs to the Democratic Party and represents the state of Rhode Island. He has visited Pakistan on a number of occasions.

The US senator also called on Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif in Rawalpindi and discussed matters of mutual interest, including operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan and situation in Afghanistan. The senator appreciated Pakistan’s role in counterterrorism efforts.

Talking to the visiting US dignitary, the army chief said infrastructure of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had completely been dismantled in North Waziristan and a large area had been retrieved.

The COAS also took the US delegation into confidence over his trip to Kabul and told Senator Jack Reed that cooperation between Islamabad and Kabul was growing regarding security and counterterrorism. The security situation in Afghanistan also came under discussion during the meeting.

The US senator appreciated Pak role in counterterrorism efforts and assured Pakistan of full cooperation.

Meanwhile, Francis Maude MP, British Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General called on Finance Minister Ishaq Dar. Maude offered condolences on Peshawar incident to the Finance Minister and said that it was a great human tragedy and a great loss to the nation.

Maude said that he is happy to be in Pakistan and greatly appreciates the efforts of the current govt to introduce reforms and make efforts for the uplift of the economy specially reducing the fiscal deficit.

He said that Pakistan has been working hard and we support the efforts made by the country to revive its economy.

Maude further said our relationship has been strong since Pakistan came into being and we will continue to support the Pakistani govt in its efforts to introduce reforms.

Finance Minister shared with Maude the current state of affairs in Pakistan.

The Finance Minister said that we have been following our agenda given in the PML-N manifesto revolving around four E’s, we have made sincere efforts to reduce the fiscal deficit and have brought it down to 5.5 per cent by the end of January.

We are hoping to take it to the 4 per cent by the end of next year, he added.