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Pakistan takes decisions in its own interests

WASHINGTON: Pakistan will pursue economic reforms not because the IMF tells us, the US tells us, but because Pakistan needs economic reforms, Islamabad’s Ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani said in an interview.

Husain HaqqaniHe told Bloomberg’s Washington bureau that Islamabad was committed to economic reforms in the country’s own interests.

“We are not the only country to adjust fuel prices because of public opinion,” Ambassador Haqqani said of last week’s decision by the government to roll back on the energy price increase.

Haqqani strongly defended the government’s economic performance in retrieving some key macro-economic indicators and the overall outlook over the last few years.

“Pakistan has to have a market economy that runs on its own steam, not just on periodic injections of support from our donors, including the IMF,” he said.

“Two years ago when we entered the IMF program, all key indicators were far worse than they are today,” Haqqani said.

The government, he said, could not meet its targets for last year because of the cost of the severe floods that began last July, he said.

The Pakistani government deserves credit from the international community for overseeing an economy that is in better shape now than when President Asif Ali Zardari was elected in October 2008, Haqqani asserted.

On the security side, the ambassador said Pakistan itself will determine the time to launch a military operation against insurgents said to be hiding in the North Waziristan tribal area.

“Only Pakistan will determine what to do and when to do it,” Haqqani said.

“Putting US boots on the ground is not going to happen, and it’s not needed,” he stated.

Pakistan now has 1,47,000 armed forces in the tribal areas, Haqqani said, noting that the previous government, led by General Pervez Musharraf, never launched such assaults in the tribal regions.

Stressing close cooperation in the Pakistan-US relationship, the envoy said    Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Pakistan Wednesday will be an opportunity to reaffirm the allies’ strategic partnership, and ensure that “we understand each other’s needs and objectives and that they are matched by operational capacities.”

The ambassador called Biden a very strong friend of Pakistan who has focused on building a long-term partnership.

President Zardari will be in Washington later this week to attend a memorial service for Richard Holbrooke, the US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, who died last month. He will also meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other senior officials, Haqqani said.

In response to a question about US drone attacks, Haqqani said Pakistan wanted its “sovereignty to be respected”.

“We certainly will stand up against civilian casualties,” he said.

Haqqani affirmed that the US had made a decision in principle to sell Pakistan unmanned, unarmed observation aircraft to provide eyes in the air in its fight against militants.

The ambassador said those who support extremists in Pakistan are a small minority in a nation of 180 million.

Pakistan’s military, he noted, had lost more soldiers fighting terrorists in the last two years than any other nation, and said the Obama administration should publicly give credit to its partner for its sacrifices and accomplishments.

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