Zardari to launch ‘Friends of Pakistan’ initiative in NY

By Qudssia Akhlaque

ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari will launch a ìFriends of Pakistanî initiative in New York next week to garner the urgently-required economic and security assistance from leading members of the international community, diplomatic sources told The News on Friday.
The Friends of Pakistan (FOP) forum will hold its first meeting on September 26 on the sidelines of the 63rd UN General Assembly session. It will be co-chaired by Pakistan and either the United States or the United Kingdom. The G-7 countries, world’s major financial nations (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK and US) have agreed to be part of this initiative as have China, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Australia and Turkey.

Sources told The News that the inaugural session would discuss the general idea of the FOP initiative. “Member countries will meet to assess Pakistan’s difficulties in areas ranging from security, war on terror, economy, development, and fledlging democracy,” a source privy to the initiative told this correspondent. The idea behind this initiative is for these member states to help Pakistan deal with these multiple challenges. Appeared to be inspired by the ìFriends of Afghanistanî initiative to get the international financial assistance, sources said, Zardari came up with the idea in discussions with some like-minded ìfriendsî at home and abroad.

The FOP initiative, which is believed to have been personally promoted by the PPP co-chairman over the past few months, was finalised early this week in London. Interestingly, it was firmed up during the 150-minute meeting of President Zardari with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown at the 10 Downing Street on Tuesday (September 16). Apparently, this was one of the main reasons why Pakistan asked for an official meeting with the British prime minister during the private visit of President Zardari to the UK last week.

The Foreign Office, which was brought on board just two days back, will now work on this initiative, it is learnt. It is too early to say what this initiative will yield for Pakistan in terms of the scope and actual help. While there are already bilateral and multilateral channels available to Pakistan for such assistance and cooperation, it seems the government hopes to secure a more comprehensive aid package through this initiative. However, it is to be seen what sort of an impact this opening up to another multilateral forum involving the key G-7 countries would have on Pakistan, particularly on the issue of security at a time when the country is rather vulnerable.

Source: The News, 20/9/2009

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