Pakistan on path to growth after tough economic interlude, PM tells WEF stint

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DAVOS (Switzerland): Prime Minister Imran Khan addressing a special session of the World Economic Forum annual meeting, here Wednesday. - PID photo

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday addressed a special session of the World Economic Forum annual meeting, which is taking place in Davos, Switzerland.
The premier began his speech by talking about his government’s tree plantation campaign, which he said was expanded across the country after seeing its success in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
He said the government aims to plant 10 billion trees in the next four years to deal with the consequences of climate change.
Prime Minister Imran said forestation was crucial because not only is Pakistan vulnerable to global warming but because pollution has become a “silent killer” in cities across the country.
Recounting how militancy took root in Pakistan since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the premier said: “You cannot make your economy grow unless and until there is peace and stability.”
He said his government had decided upon coming into power that, “From now onwards Pakistan will only partner another country in peace. We will not become part of any other conflict.”
“We have gone through a very tough economic period and people are hurting,” he said. “Now we hope to return to growth.”
He said one of the advantages in Pakistan is its youthful population but regretted that “we have neglected this young population because we have not equipped them to become entrepreneurs.” He noted that the government has now has started a programme for skills development.
Prime Minister Imran earlier on Wednesday said that although Pakistan and India are currently not close to engaging in an all-out conflict, international powers including the United Nations and United States “must act” to prevent tensions between the two nuclear-armed countries from reaching a point of no return.
Speaking during an interview with the International Media Council on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, 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.
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 occupied Kashmir.
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.”
Answering a question, Prime Minister 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.
Agencies add: Prime Minister Imran Khan has recalled the “heavy cost” paid by Pakistan and the damage to society after participating in the war on terror after 9/11.
In his address to corporate leaders at the Pakistan Strategy Dialogue at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, the Prime Minister stated that the first conflict left us with militant groups after the soviets left Afghanistan, and “culture of kalashnikovs and drugs we used to pay for the war and sectarian groups.”
He also pointed out to the war on terror that left us with 70,000 people dead, and “suicide attacks”.
Due to these reasons, the PM apprised the leaders that Pakistan was considered one of the most dangerous places in the world (to travel after the war on terror) when he came into power but his government had decided to partner with peace and not any conflict.
“Secondly, the legacy of 80s when we were left with these militant groups still operating in Pakistan, this was the first government that has disarmed them and tried to rehabilitate them. As a result, the first benefit Pakistan saw was in the field of tourism.”
“We have played a role in the conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia to ensure that peace prevails.”
“We are also working actively with the Americans for peace in Afghanistan [where] there are good signs and a chance for a ceasefire. That is important as it will open an economic corridor for us to central Asia.
We are looking to attract investors in agriculture and mining. In addition, we are now moving towards a digital Pakistan and are inviting companies to invest in this endeavor, he maintained.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan-led delegation has held a meeting with Asian Development Bank (ADB) president Masatsugu Asakawa on the sidelines of World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos.
Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance, Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh told media that the premier met new president of Asian Development Bank (ADB) on the WEF sidelines. He said ADB played an important role for the stability of Pakistan’s economy and they hoped for the continuation of its assistance in future.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Imran Khan met his Singaporean counterpart, Lee Hsien Loong, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos and discussed bilateral relations. The two expressed the desire to further deepen bilateral ties with a focus on increasing trade and investment.
Referring to the recent improvements in Pakistan’s rankings by different rating agencies, PM Khan invited Singaporean businessmen and investors to increase their footprint in Pakistan.
Both sides also agreed to enhance cooperation at the multilateral fora.
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday invited SAP (System, Applications and Product), a software solution company of international acclaim, to support ‘Digital Pakistan’ initiative in skills development and training of youths in collaboration with major universities in Pakistan.
In a meeting with SAP Chief Executive Officer Christian Klein on the sidelines of World Economic Forum (WEF) at the Swiss resort Davos, the prime minister expressed desire for establishing SAP laboratories in Pakistan for promotion of software engineering, a PM Office statement said issued.
Later, the premier met Siemens AG CEO Joe Kaeser to discuss technology transfer, investment and cooperation in the IT sector. Siemens AG is a German multinational conglomerate company headquartered in Munich and the largest industrial manufacturing company in Europe with branch offices abroad.
Meanwhile, Ms Susan Wojcicki, the CEO of YouTube called on Prime Minister on the sidelines of WEF Annual Meeting 2020. Both discussed the promotion of Pakistan’s tourism sector, and investment through digital platforms.
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday ruled out the possibility of immediate war between Pakistan and India following the prevailing grave situation in occupied Kashmir which was put under military siege and lockdown by Narendra Modi-led government in New Delhi when it revoked the special status of the territory in August, last year.
Speaking to International Media Council in Davos, the prime minister said that when he became PM, he reached out to Narendra Modi to settle disputes, but the response from Modi was “really strange”. He said that Pakistan wants a peaceful resolution of all disputes with India.
“When I became PM, I telephoned Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and asked him to let both countries invest the money on eliminating poverty nstead of investing on enmity,” he added.
PM Imran said that India is moving towards extremism due to the flawless policies of Modi led BJP government. He said that tensions between the two countries rose after the Pulwama incident.
Commenting over Kashmir issue, the PM Khan said that India has put eight million people of Occupied Kashmir under lockdown and they are forced to live prisoners life.
Prime Minister Khan said the Kashmir dispute must be resolved in accordance with relevant UNSC resolutions and the will of the Kashmiri people, adding that Pakistan will continue moral support to Kashmiris.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Global Vaccine Alliance (GAVI) Seth Berkley Wednesday called on Prime Minister Imran Khan in Davos, Switzerland on the sidelines of annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2020.
The prime minister apprised the CEO of government’s policy reforms for strengthening the health sector in Pakistan.
Meanwhile, President of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Ms. Kristalina Georgieva on Wednesday called on Prime Minister Imran Khan in Davos, Switzerland on the sidelines of the annual meeting of World Economic Forum (WEF) 2020.