KYRGYZSTAN ON ROAD TO PROGRESS UNDER NEW LEADERSHIP

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Pakistan is a friend indeed; Pakistani tourists are invted to visit Kyrgyzstan; CASA-1000” regional project will allow for the export of surplus hydroelectricity from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to Afghanistan and finally to Pakistan: Ambassador Erik Beishembiev

Ansar Mahmood Bhatti

ISLAMABAD: Ambassador of Kyrgyzstan Erik Beishembiev has said majority of people of Kyrgyzstan has voted in favour of a presidential form of government. According to the results of the Central Election Commission Sadyr Zhaparov received 79% of the votes at the presidential election.

 Referendum on the political system of the country with voters asked whether they would prefer a presidential system, a parliamentary system, or opposed both, ended with 81% of votes in favor of presidential form of governance.

The ambassador made this announcement during a press conference held at the Kyrgyz embassy on Monday.

The ambassador further said, that following parliamentary elections of October 4 last year, which were marked by numerous violations of the election law, falsifications and vote buying, leading to annulment of the election results and changes in the political leadership of the country, this Embassy had organized first briefing on October 23, 2020.

He said today he will give briefing about further development of political and socio-economic situation in the Kyrgyz Republic. Following the resignation of President Sooronbay Jeenbekov in October 2020 and appointment of Sadyr Zhaparov as Prime-minister and acting President, presidential elections alongside with a referendum on the form of government were held on 10thJanuary 2021.

Shortly after the parliament approved and President signed decree on appointment Mr. Ulukbek Maripov as new Prime Minister and as well as members of his cabinet of ministers.

Recently, on April 11thof the current year, a constitutional referendum and local elections were held in Kyrgyzstan. According to the Central Election Commission 79.3 percent voted in favor of the new constitution, with just 13.6 percent voting against it.

The ambassador further said, only 30 percent of Kyrgyzstan’s eligible voters needed to participate for the April 11 referendum to be declared legitimate. Preliminary results show 37.1 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots in the referendum. International observers found no any violations of the law during plebiscite.

Talking about the international reaction, Ambassador Erik said, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization declared that referendum was held in the atmosphere of openness and transparency with active participation of civil society representatives and creation of favorable conditions for voters to make their own and informed choice.

Commonwealth of Independent States Parliamentary Assembly noted that referendum on the new Constitution of Kyrgyzstan meets international standards.

The new constitution replaces previous mixed presidential-parliamentary system with a presidential one. The President is the head of the state, highest official and heads the executive branch of power. His term is limited to two five years periods instead of a single six-year term before.

The position of the Prime Minister is transformed to the head of the cabinet of ministers and presidential administration.

The new law, he said, also reduces the number of seats in the Parliament from 120 to 90 and establishes a constitutional court. The new constitution will enter into force after its signature by the President and official publication.

To a question the ambassador said, currently, transitional period of change of leadership and reforms has mainly completed, we have a new President and a new Constitution. We expect to finalize in full reforms after the new parliamentary elections planned in September 2021.

‘Today Kyrgyzstan is continuing to dynamically develop as a country with diversified and liberal economy, where foreign investors are widely represented, including from Pakistan’.

After election as President of the Kyrgyz Republic Sadyr Zhaparov paid official visits to Russia, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, launched Central Asia – South Asia “CASA-1000” regional project that will allow for the export of surplus hydroelectricity from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to Afghanistan and finally to Pakistan, as well as major investment project on development of Kyrgyzstan’s second-largest gold deposit Jerui with annual output eventually reaching 5.5 tons. Gold reserves at the deposit are estimated at 88 tons. These major developments show that international community and investors have trust in the new government of the Kyrgyz Republic.

On January 29, 2021 President of Kyrgyzstan Sadyr Japarov signed a decree on the protection of property and support for entrepreneurs and investors. The document was adopted to provide constitutional guarantees for the protection of property, stimulate sustainable economic growth, to exclude unjustified state interference in the economic activities of business entities, as well as to increase investor confidence, create a favorable investment climate and business environment.

Ambassador Erik further said, in the 2020 Doing Business report published by the World Bank, Kyrgyzstan ranked 80th out of 190 countries, which represents that country is making significant progress on payment of taxes (the government has reduced the tax burden on repatriation of profits by foreign investors to conform to the tax rate for domestic investors) and getting credit.

‘Investing in Kyrgyz Republic is profitable and easy as the main factors are the liberal trade regime, full protection of investments and unlimited repatriation of profits, as well as currency exchange freedom, low business costs, an educated workforce. At the moment, there are five Free Economic Zones (FEZs) in the Kyrgyz Republic: Bishkek, Naryn, Karakol (Issyk-Kul province), Leylek (Batken province) and Maimak (Talas province)’.

When asked to comment on bilateral relations between Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan the ambassador said, unfortunately, despite the fact that Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan have good bilateral and regional cooperation for more than 25 years, trade relations between our countries are still at a developing stage.

I think that the major difficulty on the way of our bilateral relations remains in little knowledge about Kyrgyzstan and Central Asian region and its opportunities in Pakistan as well as about Pakistan’s great potential in my country. So, we need to intensify our people to people contacts, spread more information about our countries and arrange exchanges of the visits between our governments and businessmen in order to boost the trade between our countries, he added.

I invite Pakistani businessmen to look into opportunities of joint cooperation. From the beginning of this year charter frequent flights are carried out between the countries. Kyrgyzstan’s geostrategic position on the crossroads between Central Asia and China and further through Karakorum pass to Pakistan opens excellent opportunities for regional trade and economic cooperation and connectivity.

When asked as to how Pakistan can play its role in providing trade route, the ambassador said, Pakistan can play a vital role as a gateway for Central Asian states by the shortest way to the open sea.

Another important area of cooperation is education. In recent years, higher education is developing very fast in Kyrgyzstan. We had only 12 universities before independence in 1991 and now there are about 50.

We have also a number of international higher educational institutions in Kyrgyzstan, including American University in Central Asia, Aga Khan’s University of Central Asia, two Turkish Universities, Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Academy, Kyrgyz-Russian Slavonic University and others.

Most of the Universities have established partner relations with American, European and Asian universities and programs of student’s exchanges. Many international students study in Kyrgyz universities due to high level of education and relatively low prices. About 7000 Pakistani students are studying in Kyrgyzstan mostly in medical universities and their number is growing every year.

We would be interested to expand academic exchanges and cooperation between higher educational institutions of Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan.

I think that education is the key for stability and development of any country as future belongs to the youth. Properly educated and skilled young people can change society for better so I would want to see more progress in this field of cooperation.

To yet another question about tourism, the Ambassador invited Pakistani tourists to visit Kyrgyzstan to see the beautiful mountains of my country, which cover more than 90% of the territory.

The highest mountain peaks after the Himalayas and Pamir are located in Kyrgyzstan. With population of 6 million people, before Covid-19 pandemic, Kyrgyzstan was visited by more than 4 million foreign visitors a year. We provide a visa-free regime for more than 60 countries and introduced e-visa system two years before. This year New York Times readers included Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan in the list of best countries for visit in 2021.

To a question about NDMA support, the ambassador said, he was indebted to the Government of Pakistan and National Disaster Management Authority for providing humanitarian aid in the form of 5 thousand N95 medical masks, 5 thousand protective suits, 5 thousand protective shields, with a total weight of 1400 kg. for the needs of the health care of the Kyrgyz Republic in the fight against corona virus infection. There is a saying that a friend in need is a friend indeed. So Pakistan is really is our true friend and brother.