Pakistan faces serious economic and political challenges within and outside its borders that call for urgent action at a time of international uncertainty and turmoil, the country’s new prime minister has said.
Shehbaz Sharif, who succeeded Imran Khan four months ago following a bitter stalemate, spoke about steps his government was taking to ease problems at home while urging foreign powers to engage with the regime Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan to ensure stability in the country. Region.
Speaking on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of Pakistan’s independence, Mr. Sharif described the problems facing his country, including rising energy prices following the war in Ukraine, and the how he wants to move forward.
We must learn from past mistakes and move on, vowing not to repeat them, he told The Independent.
Mr Khan has been accused of attempting to carry out a constitutional coup after he orchestrated the rejection of a no-confidence motion against him in the National Assembly. He claimed that a series of enemies, from the country’s military to the US administration, had conspired to effect regime change.
The National Assembly eventually passed the motion, making Mr Khan the first Prime Minister of Pakistan to be removed from office by a vote of no confidence. The former cricketer said he accepted the result but would continue the fight until the last ball.
Since then, Mr. Khan has continued his accusations of foreign interference and domestic collusion.
Pakistani army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and the Biden administration have vehemently denied playing a role in Mr Khan’s downfall. Russia, confronting America and the West over Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, has accused Washington of complicity in its own selfish ends.
Mr Sharif, the opposition leader who became prime minister after a vote in the National Assembly, said Mr Khan’s actions constituted a harmful distortion of the political process on the basis of frivolous accusations which were dismissed by the Supreme Court.
Imran Khan claimed a series of enemies had conspired to effect regime change
He told The Independent: You have to look at Imran Khan’s politics to make sense of what he has said since he was elected. The distortion of the facts on his part is regrettable. Issues like national interest and security require political savvy and rise above narrow self-interest which, unfortunately, is not demonstrated by it.
The National Security Committee strongly rejected his accusations, not once but twice. Pakistan’s Supreme Court refused to buy his arguments, calling them vague and baseless. All political forces in Pakistan have been unanimous in asserting that there is absolutely no basis to his frivolous accusations.
He continued: I am confident that we will be able to bring political and economic stability to the country very soon to put it back on the path of sustainable development which is vital for the socio-economic empowerment of our people. Things have already started to improve.
Sharif said the country’s stability depended on free and fair elections. But, he added, before the elections are held, it is important that the economic threats facing the country are overcome.
It is absolutely necessary to go beyond the limits of humanitarian aid and help the Afghan people to build a viable economy.
… The current crisis in Europe and rising energy prices have put a strain on our limited resources. Since the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine, Pakistan has been emphasizing a diplomatic solution in accordance with relevant multilateral agreements, international law and the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations. When it comes to trade with Russia, we engage with them with our best interests in mind.
His government, the Prime Minister said, inherited a crisis economy characterized by challenges such as shrinking fiscal space, inflationary pressure, growing current account deficit, rising needs for financing, exchange rate pressure and the crisis in the energy sector.
Measures taken include the imposition of a progressive oil tax, targeted subsidies for those most vulnerable to rising energy and commodity prices, an import ban on more than three dozen non-essential luxuries and rates as high as 15%.
Longer-term measures, including the creation of special economic zones and the promotion of exports, import substitution and youth development, would aim to raise GDP to 6-7%.
Pakistan’s Independence Day, August 14, is the eve of the first anniversary of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.
Elements of Pakistan’s military and intelligence service, ISI, have allegedly had long-standing ties to the Taliban and the Haqqani network, which has a strong presence in the new administration in Kabul.
Mr. Sharif said: We believe that the international community must continue its concrete and continuous engagement with Afghanistan. It is absolutely necessary to go beyond the limits of humanitarian aid and help the Afghan people to build a viable economy.
The unfreezing of Afghan assets and the re-establishment of functional banking circuits are aspects on which the international community must seriously reflect, without prejudice to aid to the Afghan population.
A year after the Taliban takeover, about $7 billion in Afghan assets in the United States and $2 billion in Europe remain frozen.
Joe Biden announced in February that $3.5 billion of Money in America would be kept for potential claims by victims and bereaved families of the 9/11 attacks and $3.5 billion for humanitarian aid to the Afghanistan. Talks are underway in Qatar between the Americans and the Taliban on how humanitarian aid would be distributed.
Reopening secondary education for girls…is critical for Afghanistan’s long-term societal development
Despite promises made on women’s rights, the Taliban imposed draconian restrictions on women’s education. Afghanistan remains the only country in the world where girls are banned from secondary school.
At the same time, fears that the country could once again become fertile ground for international jihad grew after the United States tracked down and killed Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s successor as leader of al- Qaeda in Kabul last month.
Pakistani Prime Minister said: It is important for the Afghan interim government [the Taliban] to fulfill the commitments it made after August 15, 2021 in guaranteeing human rights, in particular women’s education, and inclusive governance. The reopening of secondary education for girls across Afghanistan would not only bode well for international engagement…but, in our view, is also essential for Afghanistan’s long-term societal development. .
The Afghan caretaker government had made a firm commitment to the international community not to allow its soil to be used against any other country. Therefore, the international community must remain engaged with the Afghan caretaker government to find ways and means to strengthen collaboration in the area of counter-terrorism. Pakistan’s principled position is that continued and practical engagement with the Afghan caretaker government is the only way forward.
By surprise, India, Pakistan’s traditional adversary, opened a legation in Kabul at the invitation of the Taliban. The new Afghan leadership also wants Delhi to continue its massive aid projects in the country.
Islamabad has in the past accused India of carrying out anti-Pakistani activities from Afghanistan.
Mr. Sharif said: We do not see our bilateral relations with Afghanistan through the prism of a third country. That said, our views on India’s detrimental role in the use of Afghan soil are well known.
India has also been a mess when it comes to peacemaking and reconciliation efforts in Afghanistan. We hope that the Afghan interim government will remain firm in its commitment not to allow its soil to be used against any other country.
Pakistani Prime Minister’s brother Nawaz Sharif was overthrown in a military coup while in office in 1993. Asked about the disappearance of opportunities for military takeovers, Shehbaz Sharif said: What s happened in the past is documented in history. There is no point in regretting the past. We as a nation have made many mistakes. We must learn from them and move on, swearing not to repeat them.
…. South Asia is a dynamic region, full of enormous potentials and endless opportunities. Pakistan is playing its role as a factor of stability in the region and beyond. The time has come for the countries of South Asia to break with the past and look to the future, a future that promises prosperity for the peoples. This alone should be the basis of interstate relations.
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