Abbasi calls US aid ‘insignificant’

RAHIMYAR KHAN/SADIQABAD – Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has declared himself mystified by US threats to cut off funding, saying that US financial assistance was “very, very insignificant” and that Pakistan was “on the forefront of the war on terror”.

In an interview with the Guardian, Abbasi said that reports that the US was considering cuts of up to $2 billion in security assistance were bewildering because the total aid Pakistan – civilian and military – actually received was a tiny fraction of that amount.

“I am not sure what US aid has been talked here,” Abbasi said in his office in Islamabad. “The aid in the last five years at least has been less than $10 million a year. It is a very, very insignificant amount. So when I read in the paper that aid at the level of $250m or 500 or 900 has been cut, we at least are not aware of that aid.”

Abbasi, who was elected prime minister last year, rejected Trump’s charge of duplicity over the fight against terrorism, calling his claim that Pakistan was harbouring terrorists a “fallacy”.

“Pakistan is a sovereign country and Pakistan has always abided by international conventions,” he said. “We are today fighting the largest war on terror in the world. We are fighting the world’s war on terror with our own resources … That is something the world has to appreciate.

“We have over 37,000 of the civilian population killed. There are tens of thousands of people injured. We have suffered a loss of over $120 billion in our economy. So the world has to appreciate that. We just want the world to know that Pakistan is on the forefront on the war on this terror.”

“Today we are fighting terrorists. So if somebody says we are harbouring terrorists, there is no greater fallacy,” Abbasi said. “We have engaged US at every level from President Trump down. We have explained to them … what Pakistan has done we have explained to the rest of the world also.”

“[It’s] the rest of the world failed in Afghanistan to control terrorists who today attack Pakistan across the border. Pakistan has won the war against terror on its own territory,” Abbasi said.

Back home in Sadiqabad, Prime Minister Abbasi Saturday inaugurated a gas pumping station which has doubled the volume of gas available for use from 1,200 million cubic feet per day (mmcfd) to 2,400 mmcfd.

On the occasion, the authorities concerned briefed the prime minister about the project. It is part of gas infrastructure development across the country. It is a joint venture of Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Ltd (SNGPL) and Sui Southern Gas Company Ltd (SSGC). It also includes construction of 1044 km pipeline by SNGPL and 425 km pipeline by SSGC.

The gas infrastructure development projects will augment supply of gas to power plants, industries, commercial and domestic users, the PM was told.

Addressing a gathering after inaugurating the station, the prime minister said the country was making great strides with construction of 1,800km motorway network and efficient functioning of gas and power plants. He called upon the opponents to compete, like the PML-N government, with even a single complete development project, instead of delivering false statements to beguile the masses.

The prime minister said the PML-N government firmly believed in serving the masses by delivering on its promises. He said the opponents who wanted to test their performance contest the general elections to be held in July this year and the people would decide about their fate.

The prime minister said the politics was an arena for showing performance with concrete work. He expressed his confidence that the project would help overcome energy issues.

Gas was being supplied to Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa from the area, he said. He further said in the energy security, the supply of gas played a significant role in the country and without its abundant supply the energy issues could not be resolved.

He credited the SSNGPL and SSGC for the completion of the project within two and half years, outdoing the achievements made in the developed countries in this sector. He said in the country’s history, never had been laid a 42 inch gas pipeline running over a stretch of 1,469 kilometres.

He said when the PML-N came to power, it inherited the crippling energy crisis while the growth rate was lingering below 3 per cent. The power, fertilisers plants and industries were in dismal state whereas the CNG sector and domestic consumers were not getting power supply. The situation was heading towards bad to worse, he said.

However, due to the vision of Nawaz Sharif and PML-N government’s passion, the way was paved for resolution of the energy related issues, he said. These issues were resolved, and would benefit the country in the upcoming fifteen years as well, he added.

The prime minister said numerous power plants at the cost of billions of rupees were being set up. Plants were functional and import of LNG was made at the cheapest rates which was acknowledged by the world as well, he claimed.

Oil guzzlers power plants were now replaced with energy efficient re-gasified power plants and no import of oil was now made by the government, he said. He added the best performing power plants Baloki. Bhikki and Haveli Bahadur Shah were being supplied with gas.

The prime minister said the PML-N government materialised all its promises as hundreds of development projects were being accomplished by it. He noted that time was running short for inauguration of other completed projects, considering the remaining tenure of PML-N government till June.

He announced that 2 million gas connections would be given to consumers by June and the figures stood about 50 per cent of the total gas connections to be given to the people in the country’s history and that too on merit.

The prime minister also thanked the elected members of parliament from the area for not making any demand because they knew that their government had delivered. He said the PML-N government also focused on the uplift of southern Punjab with completion of various development projects.

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