Embassies pledge support for Pakistan

International and UN delegates meeting in Abu Dhabi agree to help Pakistan target terrorism and support its troubled economy.

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ABU DHABI // International and UN delegates meeting in Abu Dhabi agreed yesterday to help Pakistan target terrorism and support its troubled economy. The group of 60 diplomatic representatives, called Friends of Pakistan, was meeting for the second time to discuss ways of bolstering the ailing nation. The meeting agreed to focus on Pakistan's energy needs, economic recovery, infrastructure development, institution building, improved trade access and better security.

Countries including the US, Saudi Arabia, Britain and China signed up to a framework to help take Pakistan forward, a move that was described as a "big development" by Aizaz Chaudhry, the additional foreign secretary in Pakistan. Pakistan's shaky economy, the second biggest in South Asia, got a boost over the weekend when it reluctantly agreed to a US$7.6 billion (Dh29.9m) emergency loan from the IMF.

Yesterday's four-hour meeting at the Intercontinental Hotel, chaired by the UAE and Pakistan, saw the participating nations agree to a gathering of experts in Islamabad in late January. That would be followed by a higher level ministerial meeting, also in Pakistan's capital, the next month. "It's ultimately a demonstration of political support by the friends of Pakistan to Pakistan and provides a forum where they can discuss how best they can help," said Mr Chaudhry. "As our economy needs support, our mandate was to put in place a framework so that things can move, and that has been agreed, which was a big development. Financing is one issue, technical support is another. It is too early to put figures to it. It has to be studied first."

Suggestions were made about a possible development trust fund and a campaign to improve the image of the country was also launched. Mr Chaudhry, who represented Pakistan alongside Javed Malik, the ambassador at large, stressed that the country was not a charity case. "We want to make it really clear it is not a donors' group. It is a different kind of group. If somebody wants to donate they will just go and do it. We want to synergise, bring the energies of all the members together and see them engaged in partnerships to projects, to proposals, to ideas," said the official. "We can help each other. Investment will be very much part of it."

Areas of development include education, health and security. Since being elected in September the new president, Asif Ali Zardari, has faced a country experiencing severe economic hardship under the threat of terrorism. The group showed some support for Mr Zardari's efforts to protect his country from terrorism, but will not see the sort of precise figures that could help manage the country's debt problem, until Pakistan releases them in January.

"We did not discuss debt today but once we go to the developmental cluster, all of these bullet points will be there," said Mr Chaudhry. asafdar@thenational.ae