- Ahsan says we are all in the same boat
- Interior minister says government, democracy and army on the same page
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Monday acknowledged the right of the army chief to comment on the country’s economy, while Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, taking a u-turn from his earlier stance, praised the army for its efforts in security and prosperity of the country.
“The army chief has every right to express his opinion on the matter like everyone else,” the prime minister said while talking to a private TV channel in an attempt to apply a brake to the recent controversy surrounding Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s remarks on the country’s economy.
Abbasi said that relations between the army and the government are devoid of grievances. He said, “Economic indicators are very transparent. World Bank’s report is not too favourable, but The Economist has placed Pakistan in world’s five growing economies.”
The premier’s statement comes on the heels of Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal’s remarks in which he deviated from his earlier stance, saying that there was no confrontation between the institutions of the country. He however reiterated that his statement last week asking the military spokesman to refrain from commenting on the country’s economy was not in fact against the army.
“I did not aim to malign the army,” Ahsan said while talking to media during his visit to the house of Captain Hasnain who was martyred in Kurram Agency landmine blast, adding that the government, democracy and army have no differences among each other.
“We all ride the same boat and have to do our part to steer through the storm,” he went on to add. The interior minister also said that the ISPR has clarified its position about its statement, and the issue has been settled.
Ahsan had earlier said that the economy did not come under the jurisdiction of the army and urged Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Major General Asif Ghafoor to refrain from commenting on the state of economy.
Last Wednesday, 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.”
Earlier, ISPR chief Maj Gen Ghafoor said on a TV show that the economy was not good if it is not bad. His statement was met with a strong retort from Ahsan Iqbal, who urged him not to interfere in the economic matters of the country. “Such irresponsible statements can dent Pakistan’s global image,” the minister had said.
Ahsan Iqbal’s statement however was not welcomed by the political parties and business community. The ISPR chief too expressed his disappointment at such response from the government, saying that as a citizen of Pakistan and a solider, he was disappointed with the government’s reaction. “We have all done a lot of work for the economy. And I have said the same thing: we have to sit together. It is a very simple [request]: that everyone needs to cooperate,” Gen Ghafoor had said.
The statement of the prime minister echoed same sentiments on Monday as he said, “I agree with ISPR chief. Every decision must be taken by parliament and according to the Constitution and added that [If democracy is attacked] the country will suffer.”
Imran Khan took to Twitter following the statement of the interior minister, saying the statement was aimed at maligning the army and even went on to compare it with the newleaks [Dawn Leaks]. He said, “Ahsan Iqbal’s unwarranted attack on ISPR is absurd because the dismal state of Pakistan’s economy is known to the world.”
Commenting on Ahsan Iqbal’s remarks, National Assembly Opposition Leader Khursheed Shah had said that it was everyone’s right to comment on the state of the economy, let alone the army chief.
The Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) also took a jibe at the interior minister, saying that the military could not remain indifferent to deteriorating economic situation of the country.