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Pakistan’s future depends upon variables – Peter Heyward

July 13, 2014 at 12:42 am | Mareea Khalid

Peter

Mr Heyward is a senior career officer with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and was until recently Assistant Secretary Africa Branch, a position he held from June 2011. Prior to this, he was Assistant Secretary, Consular Operations Branch.

He has previously served overseas as Australia’s Ambassador to East Timor; Ambassador to Brazil, also accredited to Colombia and Venezuela; Deputy Permanent Representative, Australian Permanent Mission to the United Nations, Geneva and Deputy Head of Mission, Australian Embassy, Argentina. Mr Heyward holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Tasmania, and a Graduation Certificate in Management from Monash University. He is married and has two daughters.

“There are many variables that will determine the future of Pakistan like the security situation which is a major hurdle in her way to growth; political stability is another variable which if continued can ensure her development. Similarly, looming energy crises and low literacy are other challenges to deal with and especially, Pakistan’s relations with its neighboring countries in coming years will determine the future. However, the tremendous potential Pakistan has for economic growth cannot be denied. She has vast agricultural land, precious natural resources and a large consumer market that provides an ideal situation for investments”, said Peter Heyward, Australian High Commissioner to Pakistan as he and Mrs. Susan Heyward sat down for a conversation with Economic Affairs.

E.A. Do you think the government is moving in right direction to build its repute as investment friendly country and to take over the problem of terrorism? 

Mr. Heyward: The last general elections in Pakistan represented significant milestone for consolidating democracy and democratic values in Pakistan. The
Nawaz government is considered a business friendly government and it has initiated numerous measures to attract investment and to achieve economic stability. It’s understandable that complete resolution of energy crises will take some time. Some Australian companies have also shown interest in coal based power projects.

It seems that the current government has a clear vision to eliminate terrorism and fight militancy. Operation Zarb-e-Azb is a step in right direction. There is news that the military is successfully clearing areas under Taliban’s control. The military operation was needed but unfortunately, the militancy is not limited to tribal areas, the terrorists have erected roots in metropolitans like in Karachi and Peshawar are no more considered safe to visit. The government needs a comprehensive strategy to deal with terrorists and extremists across Pakistan. The military operation in North Waziristan only will not work. There are issues in Karachi, South Punjab and Baluchistan to deal with.

E.A. What kind of economic and commercial collaboration/cooperation Australia is currently looking for/from Pakistan?

Mr. Heyward: Agriculture, energy and education can be major areas of mutual cooperation. As I said, Pakistan has vast agriculture land and marvelous opportunities for dairy and livestock farming. Australia also has advanced experience of modern agriculture and livestock farming. Pakistan is a Muslim country, so joint venture in the field of meat production can be very profitable to export Halal meat especially in Middle East.

Recently, the government of Pakistan has announced policy for coal based power projects and was welcomed by Australian investors. Australian investors are interested in making investments in coal power plants therefore investment deals are being negotiated.

Investment opportunities also exist in mining sector; especially there is vast potential in Baluchistan. Unfortunately, the previous government’s decision to roll back the Reko Diq project hurt the investors’ sentiments, but still if the government can attract investors in Baluchistan by some confidence building measures. I have visited various business chambers in Pakistan to meet business community and invited them to visit Australia to hold investment conferences and seminars for teaming up the investor communities of both sides.

E.A. How would you term the relationship since the inception of diplomatic relations between Pakistan and Australia?

Mr. Heyward: Australia’s relationship with Pakistan goes long way back, long before we established diplomatic relations in 1947. Since then both countries are friendly to each other and faced no problems. The two countries in the past have collaborated in talks and actions on joint ventures relating to agriculture, dairy, livestock and mining. Australia provides scholarships to Pakistani students every year to study at Masters Level in Australia.

Moreover, both countries also have cricket ties and I hope that the international cricket will soon be restored in Pakistan and Australian cricket team once again will play on the Pakistani ground.

E.A. Australian economy is considered the most resilient economy in the world. What are the specific factors of sustainability and focus areas for your government?

Mr. Heyward: I think the soundness of economy is achieved with good management by successive governments. Our internationally renowned agriculture, construction, resources and tourism industries are complemented by dynamic and growing knowledge-intensive and enabling industries. These sectors include aviation, aerospace and defense; food and agribusiness; biotechnology; information communication technology; and health.

Besides good management, a stable political environment is increasingly important for local and international businesses and Australia offers one of the world’s most stable political environments. Australia has been ranked in the top 10 most politically stable countries in the world.

E.A. Australia played an important role for the independence of East Timor.  Some of us in Pakistan think that Australia can also play such a role to get Kashmir issue resolved between Pakistan and India.

Mr. Heyward: I believe that Kashmir is a disputed territory between Pakistan and India and the dispute must be resolved through UN resolution which is pending at UN from decades. However, most importantly, Pakistan and India need to show resolve to conclude this dispute, otherwise I am afraid other countries wouldn’t be of much help.  Both these countries are in possession of nukes and its better if they resolve this dispute for the sake of future generations.

E.A. Many students in Pakistan would be interested to know how many Australian universities are in top ranking in world and what is the policy of your government for granting visas for education purposes?

Mr. Heyward: More than 7,000 Pakistani students have chosen Australia for their studies making Australia the second-most popular country for education among Pakistanis, after Great Britain. I hope that this number would continue to grow, as more Pakistani students become aware of the high-quality educational opportunities provided by Australian institutions. Five Australian universities rank among the world’s top 100 universities, according to Times Higher Education Rankings.

E.A. How do you like Pakistan?

Mrs. Susan Heyward: The culture of Pakistan is fascinating. What fascinates
me is the history of the area which is very ancient and goes back to tens of thousands of years. I keep reading about the history of the region, the Indus Valley Civilization, Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro.

I have yet to visit northern areas, Swat, Gilgit, Chitral, Kaghan which I have seen in books and found very beautiful but didn’t actually get a chance to visit.

 

Mareea Khalid

Mareea is an Islamabad based journalist. She can be reached at mareeakhaled@gmail.com

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