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National security and economy are interlinked: Qamar Bajwa

12 October, 2017

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ISLAMABAD: Expressing concern over the country’s ‘sky-high’ debt, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa said on Wednesday that national security and economy were interlinked, as he called for broadening the tax base and bringing in financial discipline to break the ‘begging bowl’.

Addressing a seminar on ‘Interplay of Economy and Security’ in Karachi, Bajwa said Pakistan had a much improved security situation on the internal front as the security forces had defeated the challenges to the writ of the state, but warned that there was apparent fragility at places.

General Bajwa spoke as the keynote speaker at the seminar organised by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) in collaboration with the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

The army chief said that in today’s world, security and economy were interlinked and that the nations were reviewing the old dilemma of ‘guns versus butter’ ie how to achieve a balance between economic viability and national security.

However, he added that Pakistan never had the luxury of such a review in the wake of the crises one after another in the last four decades. “We have to continuously ensure a viable balance between economy and security. Only then will we arrive at a future that ensures sustained peace,” he stressed.

The army chief said Pakistan’s economy was showing mixed indicators as “the growth has picked up, but the debts are also sky high”. Infrastructure and energy, he added, had improved considerably, but the current account balance remained not in Pakistan’s favour.

“The common man across Pakistan needs reassurance of benevolent and equal treatment from the state,” he said, adding that it was high time for the country to place economic growth and sustainability at the highest priority.

Gen Bajwa remarked that Pakistan was capable of creating sufficient fiscal space to address structural problems through tax reforms, documenting economy, diversifying the export base and encouraging savings to finance a level of investment that could sustain growth rate higher than the rate of rise in population.

“For a secure future, we must be ready to take difficult decisions. We have to increase our tax base, bring in fiscal discipline and ensure continuity of economic policies,” he said. “We have to ensure that Balochistan, interior Sindh, FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas), southern Punjab and Gilgit-Baltistan also join us on the trajectory of growth and then move forward.”

He warned that at present, Pakistan was a strategically challenged state and external actors were attempting to assert control and dictate the country’s security priorities, “which have strong linkages to its economic future”.

He continued, “In today’s world, security does not come cheap. It is dependent upon economic prowess. It is here that our entrepreneurs must contribute by producing and exporting more. We have done our part on the security front, now it’s up to you (entrepreneurs) to take initiative and turn the economy around.”

The task at hand was difficult, the army chief noted, but added that the Pakistani nation had done it before. “We are just finding our feet with improved security,” he said. “If any nation can survive what we went through, it can also make its mark when the going is relatively easier.”

Gen Bajwa told the audience that Pakistan had a much improved security situation on the internal front. “The challenges to the state’s writ have been defeated, though residual threat still resides. The situation is stable but there is apparent fragility at places,” he noted.

He underscored the need for a comprehensive effort to pursue the anti-terror National Action Plan (NAP) and remove vulnerabilities before those could turn into threats.

“Many of the planned measures, if implemented timely, will contribute directly to the economic and even political stability of the country,” he said, emphasising that police and judicial reforms were the ‘obvious examples’.

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