–Premier says peace and stability vital for economic growth, therefore, Pakistan won’t be part of any conflict in future
–Says biggest challenge for his govt is to bring reforms in state institutions to improve governance
–Says all-out war between Pakistan, India unlikely but int’l community should still defuse tensions between the two
DAVOS: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday said that Pakistan is on the path to economic growth and will not be a part of any future conflict because peace and stability are vital for prosperity.
In his keynote address at the special session of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, the premier said that Pakistan is trying hard to defuse tensions between the United States and Iran and is playing a crucial role in the Afghan peace process.
The prime minister said that Pakistan is placed at a very important geostrategic position. He said that with peace in Afghanistan, Pakistan can tap the benefits of energy-rich Central Asia besides acting as a bridge between East and West Asia.
He said that Pakistan’s economy cannot grow unless there is peace and stability. Referring to Pakistan becoming part of the US war against the Soviet Union in the 1980s, he said that Pakistan was left with militant groups as a by-product of war and that became an impediment in the country’s growth. After the events of 9/11, Pakistan faced a similar dilemma and 70,000 Pakistanis sacrificed their lives in terror wave, he added.
Responding to a question, he said that there is no terrorism in Pakistan and 2019 has been the safest year in the country since the 9/11 incident.
In reply to another question, the prime minister said there is no military solution of the Afghan crisis and it can be resolved only through dialogue. “It is easy to start a war but very difficult to predict the course it will take after some time,” he added.
Referring to Pakistan’s relations with its neighbours, he said with the normalisation of relations with the biggest neighbour India, development and prosperity can be achieved. He added that the biggest challenge for his government is to bring reforms in state institutions to improve governance and work is being undertaken in this regard.
Speaking about the economic situation of the country, he said that his government inherited huge fiscal and trade deficits. “In order to stabilise the economy, the government took tough decisions which resulted in an upward trajectory of the stock market, stabilisation of the value of rupee and an increase in the country’s foreign reserves,” he said.
“In one year, ease of doing business improved by 28 points as per the estimates of the World Bank,” he added.
The prime minister said that Pakistan has a population of 210 million people and sixty per cent of its population comprises youngsters. “This factor alone will play an important role in the economic development of the country,” he added.
PM Imran said that his government has started skill development programmes to encourage youngsters to start their own businesses and entrepreneurial ventures as they hope to harness their potential for the country’s economic progress.
He said that Pakistan is endowed with rich mineral resources, including gold and other deposits and the government is now focusing to exploit these fully. “Apart from minerals, Pakistan is blessed with fertile land whose full potential has yet to be explored. With the help of China under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), work is being done in enhancing the agricultural productivity of the country,” he added.
Referring to the steps taken by his government to cope with the challenge of climate change, the prime minister said that after coming into power in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) in 2013, his party embarked on planting one billion trees in the province to stop the adverse impact of global warming and succeeded in this venture. “After I became the prime minister in 2018, we resolved to plant 10 billion trees in Pakistan to make the country greener. This is now our objective and we are using the same experience we learned in KP. We are especially involving women as they are very good at planting nurseries,” he added.
“Forestation is crucial because not only is Pakistan vulnerable to global warming but because pollution has become a silent killer in cities across the country,” he further said.
The prime minister said that his government is taking steps to exploit the tourism potential of the country after the restoration of peace. Dilating upon the huge potential of tourism in the country, he said that apart from some of the most fascination mountains, the country is dotted with religious sites of various faiths. “We are inviting foreign investment in the tourism sector of the country,” he said.
US-IRAN WAR WILL BE DISASTROUS:
During a Q and A session with WEF President Børge Brende following his speech, Prime Minister Imran said the year 2019 was the safest year for Pakistan since the 9/11 attacks and that was reflected in the country’s tourism, which he said doubled between 2018 and 2019.
“Whatever terrorism now comes into Pakistan every now and then is from Afghanistan,” he said, stressing the importance of the Afghan peace process.
In response to a question, he reiterated that a conflict between Iran and the US and its allies will be a “disaster” for Pakistan and the developing world. Prime Minister Imran said he had expressed the same fear during his meeting with US President Donald Trump as well.
When asked by Brende whether Trump had agreed with his concern, the prime minister responded: “He didn’t say anything.”
Prime Minister Imran also highlighted his government’s efforts to synthesise the various education systems that exist in the country, saying the disparity had created “economic differences” among people.
‘PAKISTAN-INDIA WAR UNLIKELY’:
Prior to his keynote address, the prime minister, during an interview with the International Media Council in Devos, said that although it is unlikely that Pakistan and India would engage in an all-out war, it is necessary for the international community, including the United Nations (UN) and the United States to prevent tensions between the nuclear-armed countries.
The premier said he fears that India might attempt to raise tensions at the border in order to divert attention from domestic protests against two government measures that have been criticised as anti-Muslim.
“You cannot have two nuclear-armed countries even contemplating a conflict,” he said, adding that it for this reason that the UN and US must take steps. He also demanded that UN observers be allowed along the Line of Control (LoC).
The prime minister recalled that he “came across a brick wall” when he reached out to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi after assuming office in 2018, and the relationship deteriorated with India sending fighters jets into Pakistani territory in retaliation for the Pulwama attack in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK).
But “things went from bad to worse” when New Delhi unilaterally annexed occupied Kashmir in August last year, he said, terming the existing state of affairs in India a “disaster” for the people of India and occupied Kashmir.
“I just think that the path which India is going [on] is a disaster for India,” he said.
Answering a question, PM Imran said the close relationship between India and the US was “understandable” because of the former being a huge market for the latter. But he said his main concern is the “direction” in which India is going and that the sequence of events taking place in India bears “striking resemblance” to Nazi Germany.
According to the FO, the prime minister will also speak to senior international media persons and editors during a session with the Forum’s international media council.
The premier is accompanied in Davos by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Adviser on Commerce Abdul Razaq Dawood, Special Assistant on National Security Mooed Yusuf, Special Assistant on Overseas Pakistanis Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari, Adviser on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh and Ambassador at large for Investments Ali Jehangir Siddiqui.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the WEF where political leaders, business executives, heads of international organisations and civil society representatives will deliberate on contemporary economic, geopolitical, social and environmental issues.