Pakistan stands for peace: PM

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Says country has suffered being partner in conflicts Cites peace, stability key to economic growth Highlights role in easing Saudi, Iran, US tension Invites investors to tap opportunities in Pakistan Terms relations with India gone from bad to worst after annexing Occupied Kashmir.

DAVOS: 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.” To further that policy, he said Pakistan has tried to ease tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia as well as Iran and the United States. In addition “it is the nearest we are to some sort of a peaceful solution in Afghanistan”, the prime minister said. Recalling that his government had inherited the “worst economic crisis” in the country’s history, Prime Minister Imran said he has never had to face the kind of “public attitude” that he encountered in the last one year due to the tough economic decisions taken by the government. “People are hurting. We have gone through this very tough period,” he said, adding that the economy has now been stabilised. “This year we are looking towards economic growth.” He said Pakistan’s top advantage is its youthful population but regretted that “we have neglected this young population because we did not concentrate on skill development [and] equipping them to become entrepreneurs.” He noted that the government has now launched a programme for skills development and made funds available for startups. Another advantage that Pakistan has is its “untapped” mineral wealth, Prime Minister Imran said, adding that the government’s attention is now on developing these resources. Talking about Pakistan’s strategic location, the premier highlighted the trade potential among the regional countries. “The moment Pakistan and India’s relationship becomes normal and trade starts between the two countries”, immense opportunities for growth will emerge, he said. Prime Minister Imran said Pakistan has not been able to fulfil its potential because of the way governance deteriorated in the country. “From now on my government’s biggest challenge is how we can improve our state institutions so we can improve our governance so we can tap our potential,” he told the audience. ‘No Pakistan-India conflict imminent’ 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. PM Imran Khan speaks during an interview with the International Media Council in Davos. — DawnNewsTV 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. Prime Minister Imran Khan, in his address to corporate leaders at the Pakistan Strategy Dialogue at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, asserted that his government has “tried to remove all the hurdles in the way of investors”. The premier referred to Pakistan’s position in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index 2020 after jumping 28 places and attaining 108th rank from the earlier 136, and stated: “Pakistan was one of the top countries […] we jumped 28 places, off course a long way to go but this is the direction the country is headed.” (Pakistan secured a place among top ten global business climate improvers) PM Imran recalled the “heavy cost to Pakistan and damage to society” after participating in the war on terror after 9/11, and 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 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.” “In terms of tourism, Pakistan is perhaps one of the most undiscovered countries in the world. It has one of the oldest civilisations, the Indus Valley [civilization] which is 5,000 years old, and has sacred places for four religions, (including) Hinduism, Budhism, Sikhism and then of course Sufism” he said. “All of this potential was untapped that it has the one of the most undiscovered mountain areas, half of the world peaks over 24000 ft are in Pakistan.” “So, the first impact was that tourism doubled in one year,” PM Khan said. “We are one of the most tourism friendly countries and all this potential was untapped, especially the mountain areas,” he said. “The first impact was that tourism recovered in a year […] we believe Pakistan can collect a lot of revenue from tourism.” Yesterday, PM Imran held bilateral meetings with the leaders of Singapore and Azerbaijan on the sidelines of the WEF. According to an official statement issued by the Foreign Office, Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev and PM Imran discussed a whole spectrum of bilateral relations that are “marked by mutual trust and support”. The prime minister will deliver a keynote address at the WEF special session today (Wednesday) at 7.45pm (PST). According to the Foreign Office, the prime minister will 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. Addressing the strategic situation in South Asia, PM Imran said a full-fledged conflict between two nuclear-armed states should not even be thought of considering the possible devastation it would create across the world. He said that Pakistan wishes to resolve all the conflicts with India peacefully but that Kashmir was an internationally-recognised disputed region between Islamabad and New Delhi. Conflicts between both nations need to be resolved according to the United Nations’ resolutions, he said. Noting that tensions between the two countries ratcheted up after the February 2019 Pulwama attack, the premier said Pakistan had responded befittingly to the Indian aggression that followed, which included downing two Indian fighter jets on February 27 leading to the capture and eventual release of IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman and persistent violations along the Line of Control (LoC).