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By Javed Mahmood
KARACHI – Pakistan and Tajikistan have pledged to enhance co-operation to fight terrorism and to improve economic ties during a four-day visit by Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon.
Rakhmon and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari signed a number of agreements as officials held wide-ranging talks on co-operation in agriculture, health and sports and physical training in Islamabad March 7-8, officials and business leaders said. They also signed a joint statement before Rakhmon travelled to Karachi for more meetings.
Security co-operation called vital
Speaking at an Islamabad banquet honouring Rakhmon March 8, Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said both countries face the harsh challenges of terrorism, drug trafficking and organised crime, according to a statement from Gilani's office. Gilani expressed the hope that enhanced Pakistani-Tajik defence and security ties could root out terrorism, the statement added.
Pakistan reiterated its commitment to deepen these relations in defence production and provision of training facilities to Tajikistan, Gilani said, adding that Pakistan placed great importance in Tajikistan’s regional role in maintaining peace and stability in Afghanistan.
Pakistan welcomed the Quadrilateral Initiative (Pakistan, Russia, Afghanistan and Tajikistan) as a crucial step to achieving regional security and stability, Gilani said, describing it as the first initiative in the region to put security and trade issues under a broad framework.
Rakhmon discussed terrorism with Zardari and Gilani and sought their support in combating the threat, said an official who attended the meeting and requested anonymity.
Rakhmon warned that al-Qaeda could shatter the peace in Tajikistan and Central Asia, and called for mutual co-operation in thwarting terrorist inroads in the region, the official added.
Energy and infrastructure co-operation could blossom
Electricity also figured in Gilani's remarks as Tajikistan has ample hydropower resources, while Pakistan suffers from chronic power cuts.
Pakistan is committed to implementing the Central Asia-South Asia (CASA-1000) project, which would supply Tajik and Kyrgyz electricity to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Gilani said.
Last week Pakistan expressed its readiness to help finance construction of Tajikistan’s Rogun hydroelectric power plant.
The two countries' mutual trade reached only US $21m in 2010, Gilani said, adding that such a figure fell far short of the potential amount. Pakistan is deeply committed to promoting air, road and rail connectivity with Tajikistan, he added.
Rakhmon also discussed facilitating trade for landlocked Tajikistan. He reportedly raised the issue of Tajik access to the seaport of Gwadar in Balochistan, officials said.
Business co-operation sought
Pakistani and Tajik business leaders, with Rakhmon present, met in Karachi to discuss investment, trade and joint ventures March 9, Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Shafiq Saeed said.
Corporate leaders from the two countries will hold follow-up meetings to finalise agreements, he said. Rakhmon is scheduled to leave Pakistan March 10.