DAVOS: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday said his is probably the first government that has been totally supported by the Army and that there are no differences between the civilian and military leaderships.
"The reason why the previous clashes used to take place was that the civilian leadership always wanted to control the military because they were scared and vulnerable because the military always knew the extent of corruption that was being done,” the prime minister said at an interview with the International Media Council on the sidelines of World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos.
"My foreign policy which I am following is completely supported by all institutions, including the military, simply because they believe that we are in the right direction," the prime minister said. Imran Khan said that although Pakistan and India are currently not close to engaging in an all-out conflict, international powers, including the United Nations and the United States, must act to prevent tensions between the two nuclear-armed countries from reaching a point of no return.
Imran Khan said that under the influence of German Nazis’ mindset, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in India was relentlessly implementing the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) supremacist ideology against its minorities and moving on a path littered with disastrous consequences for the entire region. “The ideology of Hindutva, which had direct inspiration from the German Nazis, believed in the Hindus’ racial superiority over other communities residing inside India, especially the Muslims and the Christians,” he said. “India, a nuclear-armed country of about two billion people, was moving on a path of disaster,” he warned.
The prime minister, to a question regarding the Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) dispute, said when he formed the government, from the day first, he was a firm believer that military was no solution to any conflict as it could have unintended consequences. “The only way forward was bringing about a peace settlement in Afghanistan, mend border issues with Iran and ties with India,” he added. Mentioning his cricketing experience of playing in the neighbouring country and friendships, he said his government tried to reach out to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but strangely the reaction from the other side was quite weird. The whole region, he said, faced the issue of poverty, and peace and trade were the way forward to overcome the challenges, but the events, which proceeded after the Pulwama attack, were strange. After the incident, he said he offered the Indian government to provide actionable evidence and Pakistan would take action, but instead they bombed inside Pakistan. In response, their planes were brought down, but Pakistan in a goodwill gesture had returned the captured Indian pilot.
To a query, Imran Khan said the two nuclear armed countries cannot afford a conflict. “Kashmir is a disputed territory under the United Nations resolutions. Things went from bad to worse after India revoked its special status and did away the Article 370 of its constitution with the unilateral steps,” he said. The prime minister warned that what was happening in India would be a disaster for the people of India and the Occupied Kashmir. He said about 900,000 Indian troops had turned the occupied valley into a prison. He said efforts were afoot to change the demography of IOK, which was indeed worrisome. He said he had talked to US President Donald Trump over the issue.
To another question, the premier once again urged the United Nations and the US that they must act over the worsening situation in IOK. Imran Khan said Pakistan had fears that what happened in Pulwama, New Delhi once again could stage such an act to attack the Line of Control to divert the world’s attention from the things happening inside IOK and India, including the strong protests over the controversial citizenship act. Imran said his worry was about the BJP’s election campaign based upon jingoism, which led to the protests being held across India over the controversial citizenship laws.
Earlier, during his keynote address at the WEF, Imran Khan said his government's biggest challenge now was to improve state institutions so that the country could be better governed. The prime minister began his address by talking about how his government had undertaken the Billion Tree Tsunami project in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, referring to it as "one of the most successful campaigns across the country." Imran Khan said his provincial government in 2013 had taken the initiative to involve local communities in the campaign to plant more trees. "We made people understand that Pakistan was vulnerable to climate change," said the prime minister. "Women in the mountainous regions took part in planting nurseries," he said.
The premier said one of the biggest challenges that Pakistan had faced throughout its history was getting involved in conflicts. He said the Soviet war in Afghanistan and then the Afghanistan invasion had disastrous effects on Pakistan. "Since our government got elected, we decided Pakistan will never become part of anyone's war now," he said.
Imran Khan said his government had decided to resolve conflicts between other countries but never to become part of any war. He said keeping in mind this policy, Islamabad had played its part in helping defuse tensions between the US and Iran as well as "easing tensions" between Iran and Saudi Arabia. PM Imran said Pakistan was playing its part to ensure peace prevailed in Afghanistan and that it was the "nearest we are to some sort of peace in Afghanistan." He said the US has accepted Pakistan’s stance on Afghanistan. The prime minister said his government inherited the biggest fiscal deficit when it came to power a year-and-a-half ago. "We only had reserves that could last a month. I have been in the public eye for 40 years but I have never faced the sort of attitude from the public that came because of the tough economic decisions we had to take," he added. He said he also faced severe criticism from media for taking difficult decisions to bring the economy back on track.
Imran Khan said Pakistan's economy had improved as the rupee, which was falling, had gained strength in the past few weeks. He said investment in the country had gone up by 200 per cent, year-to-year and Pakistan had gone up 28 places in the 'Ease of Doing Business Index'. "We are heading in the right direction, though I have to say, we have to do a lot of hard work," he said. "This year now, the focus is on increasing investment and providing employment to more people," he said. He said one of the biggest advantages that Pakistan had was its population. "We are a nation of 210 million people and more than 60 per cent of our population is below the age of 30," he said.
Imran Khan said it was unfortunate how the previous governments had neglected the population and not trained them to become the country's assets. He said Pakistan had partnered with the WEF to start a programme that seeks to eliminate the skills gap in the population. He said Pakistan's strategic location lent great importance to it. PM Imran said Pakistan was sitting on mineral resources which if extracted, could repay its entire foreign debt. Before concluding his speech, the prime minister said that Pakistan had been gifted with a young population and a strategic location. He said his government's "biggest challenge" now was to improve state institutions which would, in turn, refine governance.
Meanwhile, addressing a session on Pakistan Country Strategy Dialogue at World Economic Congress Centre, the prime minister recalled that both the Afghan jihad and the war against terrorism after 9/11 cost Pakistan heavily and inflicted a lot of damage to society. Imran Khan pointed out that the war on terrorism caused 70,000 deaths in Pakistan but Pakistan has now dismantled the terrorist groups. The prime minister said Pakistan has played its part in trying to avert the conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran. He said there is a chance of ceasefire in Afghanistan which will help us reach the Central Asian countries through the economic corridor. The prime minister said Pakistan is hoping to attract investments in different sectors including agriculture, minerals and information technology.
Highlighting the tourism potential of Pakistan including its centuries’ old civilisation, the prime minister said Pakistan is one of the most undiscovered countries in the world. “We can strengthen our economy by tapping the true potential of tourism. Several world institutions have declared Pakistan as one of the most exciting tourism destinations. Tourism doubled in one year as a result of steps taken by the government,” he said.
Meanwhile, Chairperson Telenor Ms Gunn Waersted and CEO Telenor Sigve Brekke called on Imran Khan on the sidelines of WEF Annual Meeting 2020. Advisor on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, SAPM Syed Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari, Ambassador at Large on Investments Ali Jehangir Siddiqui and Governor State Bank Reza Baqir were also present in the meeting.
The prime minister appreciated Telenor's confidence in Pakistan due to its presence in the country since 2005 with an investment of around $3.5 billion. He also emphasised the government’s focus on investment in the training and development of youth for skills enhancement. Discussions were held on enhancing the application of digital solutions for good governance, poverty alleviation through use of connectivity and increased economic transactions through mobile.
The Chief Operating Officer of Facebook Ms Sheryl Sandberg also called on Imran Khan at Davos. Prime Minister of Jordan Omar Razzaz and daughter of US President, Ivanka Trump also called on the prime minister. Chairman of the Board of Marubeni Corporation, Japan Fumiya Kokubu also met Imran Khan.
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