General Bajwa says economy is topic of National Security Council meeting
–Time to prioritise economic stability
–On relation with India, says it takes two to Tango
KARACHI: Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Wednesday said Pakistan has to ensure a viable balance between economy and security for its prosperity, adding that these two factors are interlinked in today’s world and cannot survive without each other.
General Bajwa was speaking as the keynote speaker at a seminar titled “Interplay of Economy and Security”, organised by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) in collaboration with the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI).
In his address, the army chief said the country needs to take difficult decision if it wants to break “the begging bowl”. He said “the economy of the country is showing mixed indicators. Growth has picked up, but the debts are sky high. Infrastructure and energy have improved considerably, but the current account balance is not in our favour. Our tax to GDP ratio is abysmally low and this needs to change. At the same time, the common man across Pakistan needs the reassurance of benevolent and equal treatment from the state in return.”
According to the Finance Ministry, each Pakistani owes Rs95,000 in debt with the country’s foreign debt and liabilities standing at $58 billion.
General Bajwa said the subject of economy was often discussed during the National Security Council meetings, adding that the country’s economy was in dire need of reforms, and “in order to secure our future, we need to increase our tax base, bring in fiscal discipline and ensure continuity of economic policies”.
“If I were a statesman or an economist, I would say that this is high time for us to place economic growth and sustainability at the highest priority,” added Bajwa.
Referring to former Soviet Union’s economic collapse, the army chief said the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) had no dearth of armoured divisions, but it imploded due to a weak economic base.
COAS Bajwa further said that after the end of the cold war people were claiming that economic interests alone would dictate national security, but the “reappearance of age-old fault lines and reassertion of ancient parochial passions of race, language, religion and identity” have led to security once again becoming “the foremost business and task of the state”.
“We have to continuously ensure a viable balance between economy and security,” the army chief said, focusing on the security-economy nexus. “Only then will we arrive at a future that ensures sustained peace and happiness for our people.”
Highlighting the need for implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) in order to ensure internal stability, Gen Bajwa said that many of the planned measures, if implemented timely, would contribute directly to the economic and political stability of the country. “Police and judicial reforms were obvious examples; madrassah reforms too are vital; we cannot afford to leave a large segment of our youth with limited options and isolated from the national mainstream,” he added.
On the external front, the army chief said the region remained captive due to historical baggage and negative competition with a “belligerent India in the East and an unstable Afghanistan in the West”. “But on our part, we are making a deliberate and concerted effort to pacify the western border through a multitude of diplomatic, military and economic initiative; not to mention the phenomenal boost to human security that we have provided in FATA and surrounding areas,” he went on to say, adding, “We have also expressed and demonstrated our genuine desire to have normal and peaceful relations with India; however, it takes two to tango”.
About the security situation in Karachi, the army chief said that when the enemies wanted to choke Pakistan, they destabilised Karachi because “when Karachi bleeds, Pakistan bleeds”. He said the army had worked hard to restore peace and revive economic activities in Karachi.
Mentioning the multi-billion dollar project, the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Gen Bajwa said that the project was the future of the country on which the army would never compromise, regardless of the loudness of opposing voices.
He said the CPEC was not just a collection of infrastructure and power projects – it was, in fact, a complete development platform that had the potential to act as a powerful springboard for shared development in the entire CASA (Central Asia-South Asia) region.
Inter-Services Public Relations Director (ISPR) General Major Gen Asif Ghafoor, former adviser to finance ministry Dr Ashfaq Hasan, Dr Farrukh Saleem, and Dr Ainul Hassan also spoke at the seminar and expressed similar views.