Pak President, PM chairs meeting of Friends of Democratic Pakistan

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Islamabad, Oct 21 (UNI) Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani jointly chaired the preliminary meeting of the core group of the recently formed ''Friends of Democratic Pakistan'' here.

The meeting, held last night, was attended by the representatives from the US, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, China and the UK, who were briefed in detail about the financial crisis facing by the cash-strapped Pakistan.

Pakistan's foreign exchange reserves had last week touched a record low of 2.48 billion dollars in real terms, barely enough to cater to the needs of one and a half-month imports.

The country was left with overall foreign reserves of 7.3 billion dollars, of which the State Bank of Pakistan possessed 3.98 billion dollars and the commercial banks 3.32 billion dollars.

Out of 3.98 billion dollars, 1.5 billion dollars were consumed in the wake of forward booking liabilities, leaving the Central Bank with only 2.48 billion dollars in real terms.

Briefing the media following the meeting, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Sherry Rehman said the meeting was a preliminary meeting to prepare the grounds for the next meeting to be held in the UAE.

''The agenda was to define the parameters and set priorities to enable Pakistan to meet domestic and global challenges,'' she said.

Ms Rehman said the Friends of Democratic Pakistan Group was an initiative spearheaded by the efforts of Mr Zardari during his visit to the United States last month to attend the United Nations General Assembly.

''The group symbolises the support that the new democratic Pakistan is receiving from the countries represented on the forum.

The extraordinary interest, expressed by the core group for the well being of our nation, reflects their confidence in the leadership of Pakistan,'' the Minister added.

She said the government views group as a very important initiative that could serve as key to long-term strategic and economic stability of the country.

''The President and the Prime Minister have reiterated their firm resolve to make this effort a success. Mr Zardari has said the group will serve as a strategic setup for advancing Pakistan's interests and enhancing the country's capacity in all spheres,'' Ms Rehman said.

The UAE will host the next meeting for which dates are yet to be set. ''The UAE meeting will chalk out a roadmap for the contours of a more comprehensive strategy based on sharing best practices and laying strong multilateral foundations to promote the interests of Pakistan,'' the Minister said.

UNI XC SW DS1100

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