FAISALABAD - US ambassador to Pakistan Richard Olson said Tuesday that Islamabad’s decision to hold talks with Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was its internal matter.

Talking to reporters during his visit to GC University Faisalabad, Olson said, “The United States and Pakistan continue to have a vital, shared strategic interest in ending extremist violence so as to build a more prosperous, stable and peaceful region, but Pakistan has to make its own decisions for a secure country.”

He said his country wanted to build a strong relationship with Pakistani people due to which the US government was assisting Pakistan in education, business and energy sectors.

Later Ambassador Olson met Acting Commissioner and DCO Noorul Amin Mengal at his office. Other officers of US Embassy were also accompanied Olsen. The DCO welcomed the US ambassador and apprised him of the geographical, industrial, agricultural, historical and cultural aspects of Faisalabad district.

Amin said a number of steps were being taken for the development and progress of the district for making it a developed city. He said Tepa had been established for designing the roads, inter-sections and other areas while Faisalabad Parking Company was being set up. He said many projects of building parking plazas were proposed. Amin said rural and urban areas were being given equal attention as regards their uplift was concerned. The DCO also informed the ambassador about the significance and importance of Faisalabad in textile sector.

The US ambassadar highlighted education, business, and agricultural partnerships between the United States and Pakistan and discussed how both the countries could work together to enhance educational exchanges, entrepreneurship, and advanced agricultural research that would increase food security in Punjab. He inquired from the DCO about the measures taken for the promotion of the education in the district. The matters of mutual interest also came under discussion during the meeting. US Ambassador Olson also visited the University of Agriculture Faisalabad and called on UAF Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Iqrar Ahmad Khan at his chamber.

Olsen also visited the Centre of Agricultural Biochemistry and Biotechnology (CABB), Centre for Advanced Studies in Food Security and Agriculture, Horticulture Sciences Citrus Nursery and Rosa Lab. He was accompanied by US Counsel General in Lahore Nina Maria, officials of USAID and others.

The ambassador said that the US was providing resources to Pakistan agricultural sector. The steps were aimed at boosting the productivity. He said the US was providing scholarships to agricultural scientists to pursue their higher education there.  

The vice chancellor gave a briefing to the ambassador about the UAF and the agriculture sector in Pakistan. Dr Iqrar said the UAF was running many US-funded projects for the development of the sector to ensure the food security in the region. He linked the poverty alleviation to the uplift of agriculture sector as majority of the country’s population was living in rural areas. He added that the UAF had emerged among the top 100 institutions of the globe in the subject of agriculture sciences. He said with the funding of the US, as many as four endowments were functioning in Pakistan to train the manpower, conduct researches, outreach, product commercialisation and other areas of the development. The UAF had got the share of Rs 650 million under the endowment.

Talking about citrus, he said the disease citrus greening was responsible for around 30 percent decrease in the fruit yield in Pakistan and causing sudden deaths of orchards. It was also an emerging threat to US citrus production. “The UAF entomologists have discovered a natural enemy of the greening virus to overcome its outbreak,” he maintained. The VC said that the same was being taken by US counterparts of California to avert the losses in the production.