Pakistan minister uses UAE trip to invite foreign investors

To dispel the widespread impression that Pakistan is a war zone, Dubai plans to host an international meeting to lure businesses

ABU DHABI 12th January 2010.  Shah Mehmood Qureshi (left) the Pakistan Foreign Minister and Rangin Dafdar Spanta, the Afghanistan Foreign Minister talk to the media at the Meeting of Special Representatives for Afghanistan and Pakistan, held at the Emirates Palace , Abu Dhabi yesterday (tues)   Stephen Lock   /  The National   *** Local Caption ***  SL-holbrooke-006.jpg

ABU DHABI // Despite the turmoil in Pakistan, there are "huge opportunities" for investors there, the country's foreign minister said this week. "The perception is that we are in a war zone. People are seeing bombs on TV screens," Shah Mahmood Qureshi said.

"Despite that, there are huge opportunities. We have challenges, but within them there are opportunities." The UAE has agreed to host a conference of the Friends of Democratic Pakistan (FODP) - formed during a UN session in 2008 to promote democracy in Pakistan - on January 26 in Dubai to encourage private and public businesses to invest in Pakistan. "This is for anyone who is interested, not just Pakistani businessmen but also foreign investors," Mr Qureshi said.

There is potential in sectors including energy, water, agriculture, health, education, communications and infrastructure, he said. "This goes beyond governments. We have incorporated the private sector and the corporate sector in creating win-win situations for both sides," Mr Qureshi said. "The private sector can come and help Pakistan stabilise its economy, invest, make a handsome profit and cater to a need that we have today.

"If they invest in the energy sector, for example, Pakistan gains by having additional energy available while they gain by good returns." Mr Qureshi discussed the conference idea in July at an FODP meeting in Turkey. The UAE's foreign minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, offered to host the event in the Emirates. "The UAE has played a positive role with us since day one," Mr Qureshi said. "It is supportive of Pakistan. Pakistan and the UAE enjoy a very special relationship.

The UAE is one of the principal supporters of the FODP, which first convened here in Abu Dhabi, where we met and chartered a way forward." The group was established with the encouragement of the United States, which wanted to marshal political and economic support to promote stability. Members include Australia, Britain, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the United States, the United Nations and the European Union.