APP87-22 DAVOS: January 22 - Prime Minister Imran Khan delivering Keynote Address at WEF Special Session. APP

DAVOS, Jan 22 (APP):Prime Minister Imran Khan Wednesday said Pakistan had suffered a lot by joining the US-led war against terror and from now onward it would only be a partner in peace and not to become a part of any conflict of others.

“We have become (a) player of peace, we have tried to play our part in de-escalating Sauid-Iran tension and we play our part in easing tension between the US and Iran. For the Afghan peace process, Pakistan is partnering with the US to get the Taliban talk to the Afghan government. It is the nearest some sort of peaceful solution to Afghan issue,” he said while speaking at the special session of World Economic Forum (WEF).

“You cannot make your economy grow unless there is peace and stability,” he said.
The prime minister said Pakistan in the ’80s became part of the ‘Afghan Jehad’, allied with the United States in its fight in Afghanistan, and as a result the country had militant groups to fight in Afghanistan.

Once the then Soviet Union troops left Afghanistan, Pakistan was left with militant groups and it suffered the consequences. The country had had sectarian groups, drugs and Kalashnikov culture, and that was the watershed for Pakistan.

He said for economic growth, stability and peace was a must “but if you had armed militias that became one of the impediments in economic growth”. After 9/11 Pakistan again became a part of the US war and was required to disarm the same armed groups that were created during the ‘Afghan Jihad’, and in that process it suffered a lot. About 70,000 Pakistanis lost their lives, with over 100 billion dollar losses, which hit the country’s economic growth, besides Pakistan’s image of a dangerous place in world, he added.

About the economic issues, the prime minister said the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government inherited the worst economic crisis in the country’s history, the biggest fiscal deficit and the balance of payment crisis, and it had to take very tough decisions.

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He said he had faced the public attitude in the last one year. The people were hurting and that was natural when tough decisions were taken for economic stabilization. Now the country was heading towards stabilization, the rupee had stabilized, the stock market had gone up, imports had been curtailed while exports witnessed some increase. The country was now moving in the right direction, however, still a lot of hard work had to be done.

The prime minister said during the current year, his government had planned to provide employment to the people and bring foreign investment in Pakistan. East of doing business had been introduced by the government and it was also appreciated by the World Bank, he added.

He said the young population was an advantage for Pakistan. About 60 percent of the country’s population was young, who unfortunately were neglected in the past and no efforts were made to make them skilled, he added.

But now, he said, the present government had started a skills development programme for the youth, who were being encouraged to start their own businesses. They were the big resource, which would lift Pakistan upward, he added.

Secondly, the prime minister said Pakistan was sitting on one of the most precious gold and copper resources along with rare mineral and gas reserves. The country had enough natural resources and if properly exploited the country could pay its foreign debts.

The government was now developing those resources, he added.

He said agriculture was also one of big sources of income and employment, but it was not exploited to its true potential. Now after the CPEC, the government was also getting help from China in developing the agriculture sector.

Imran Khan said Pakistan was strategically placed probably at one of the most fortunate positions in the world. “One side is China, our close ally, then we have energy resources in Central Asian states. And the moment there is peace in Afghanistan there is access to the big market of CARs (Central Asian Republics).”

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He said the second biggest neighbour of Pakistan was India, but unfortunately the relationships between the two neighbours were not good. The moment their ties became normal and trade started then one could imagine the strategic location of Pakistan –one side China, one side India with access to energy on the western side.

Prime Minister Imran Khan said Pakistan had tremendous resources, young population and strategic location. Now the government’s biggest challenge was how to improve the state institutions, “so we can improve our governance to tap our potential,” he added.

To a question about increase in foreign direct investment, the prime minister said 2019 was the safest year in Pakistan since the 9/11 when the security situation was deteriorated with Pakistan joining the US war on terror and there was no question of foreign investment coming in.

He said the year 2019 was reflected in tourism, which doubled and that was the country’s real potential. Pakistan had a rich religious and scenic tourism. Sikhism, Budhism, Gandhara civilization and mountain tourism were the country’s real assets, which were untouched. To exploit the true potential of the tourism sector, the country needed investment, he added.

About coming back of Pakistani Taliban, the prime minister said now there were no terror incidents in Pakistan and the credit went to its security forces. “Now we need peace and stability in Afghanistan and that is why peace process in Afghanistan is important.”

Once peace returned to Afghanistan it would open up new avenues for Pakistan with the CARs, he added.

About the US-Taliban deal, the prime minister said the first thing was that there had to be peace. The Taliban and the Afghan government set together. Unlike 2001, it would be a completely different scenario.” Dialogue is the only way forward as there is no military solution to Afghan issue,” he added.