Davos - Acknowledging that people in Pakistan are ‘hurting’ under his government’s economic stabilisation programme, Prime Minister Imran Khan yesterday said that their country is on path to growth and hoped that the year 2020 will bring economic stability and job opportunities.

Imran said this while addressing the World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos.

“People are hurting. We have gone through this very tough period,” he told the audience, adding that the economy has now been stabilised. “This year we are looking towards economic growth.”

Recalling that his government had inherited the “worst economic crisis” in the country’s history, the premier 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.

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 that his government had decided upon coming into power that, “From now onwards, Pakistan will only partner with another country in peace. We will not become part of any other conflict.”

In line with 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.

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.

The premier explained 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.

‘US-IRAN WAR WOULD BE A DISASTER’

During a question-answer session with WEF President Borge Brende following his speech, Prime Minister Imran said the year 2019 was the safest year for Pakistan since the 9/11 attacks and that was reflected in the country’s tourism, which he said doubled between 2018 and 2019.

“Whatever terrorism now comes into Pakistan every now and then is from Afghanistan,” he said, stressing the importance of the Afghan peace process.

In response to a question, he reiterated that a conflict between Iran and the US and its allies will be a “disaster” for Pakistan and the developing world. Prime Minister Imran said he had expressed the same fear during his meeting with US President Donald Trump as well.

When asked by Brende whether Trump had agreed with his concern, the prime minister responded: “He didn’t say anything.”

Prime Minister Imran also highlighted his government’s efforts to synthesise the various education systems that exist in the country, saying the disparity had created “economic differences” among people.

‘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.

In an interview with the International Media Council on the sidelines of WEF in Davos, the prime minister once again sharing his concerns said under the influence of German Nazis’ mindset, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in India was relentlessly implementing the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s (RSS) supremacist ideology against its minorities and moving on a path littered with disastrous consequences for the entire region.

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.

“Kashmir is a disputed territory under the United Nations resolutions. The things went bad to (the) worst after India revoked its special status, did away the Article 370 of its constitution with the unilateral steps,” he added.

The prime minister warned that what was happening in India would be a disaster for the people of India and the Occupied Kashmir. About 900,000 Indian troops had turned the occupied valley into an open prison.

Efforts were afoot to change the demography of Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, which was indeed worrisome, he maintained.

He said he had talked to US President Donald Trump over the issue. To another question, he once again urged the United Nations and the US that they must act over the worsening situation in IOJK.

About peace and reconciliation efforts in Afghanistan, the prime minister said war was no solution to conflicts as the military actions in the neighbouring country had given rise to terrorism, adversely affecting Pakistan. It had created more chaos and more people joined militants, he said, adding due to his stance over the issue in the past, he was often considered as anti-US.

Now finally, President Trump had adopted a policy of holding dialogue, he said.

Terming the US-Pak ties ‘the decent ones’ in the recent times, the prime minister said both the leadership had been on the same page and that cooperation was based upon common objectives.

The past governments in Pakistan, he said, had made big mistakes by joining the US-led war on terrorism, in which the country lost about 70,000 people and was also blamed for the failure of US in Afghanistan.

But, now the US and Pakistan, he said, shared the common objective of bringing about a lasting peace in Afghanistan through the peace initiatives. That transactional relationship had now turned into a proper relationship, he added.

The prime minister also spoke at the Pakistan Strategy Dialogue here.

He said Pakistan was considered one of the most dangerous places in the world when his government took over but that “we had decided to partner with peace”.

He said, the first benefit Pakistan saw after his coming to power 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 [civilisation] which is 5,000 years old, and has sacred places for four religions,” Imran 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, he said. Referring to Pakistan topping the list of tourist destinations in 2020, the prime minister said: “We believe Pakistan can collect a lot of revenue from tourism.”

During the day, Prime Minister Imran Khan held a series of meetings with world leaders.

He met with Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Hsien Loong at Davos.

He also met with President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and thanked for his country’s support as a member of the OIC Contact Group on Jammu and Kashmir.

Imran Khan expressed these views in his meeting with President Aliyev on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting at Davos, Switzerland, a PM Office statement said issued here on Wednesday.

Imran Khan reiterated Pakistan’s support to Azerbaijan on the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Meanwhile, IMF President Ms. Kristalina Georgieva on Wednesday called on Prime Minister Imran Khan in Davos, Switzerland on the sidelines of the annual meeting of World Economic Forum (WEF) 2020.

Advisor to the Prime Minister on Finance Dr. Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, Special Assistant to PM Syed Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari, Ambassador at Large on Investments Ali Jehangir Siddiqui, Governor State Bank of Pakistan Raza Baqir were also present.