ISLAMABAD   -   Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Friday said that in difficult times no individual alone can succeed unless people rise as a nation.

“It’s time to be a nation,” the Army Chief urged as he vowed to overcome economic crisis in the country.

The COAS was speaking at a national seminar titled ‘Pakistan’s Economy: Challenges and Way Forward’, organised by the Institute of Strategic Studies, Research and Analysis (ISSRA) at the National Defence University (NDU) in Islamabad.

General Bajwa underlined the need for consultation between government and other stakeholders on the matters of national importance. He was of the view that there cannot be any sovereignty in the absence of economic sovereignty in a country.

He said while the country is going through a difficult economic situation, everyone needs to fulfill their responsibilities so that the initiatives taken by the government succeed.

The COAS endorsed the undeniable link between security and economy, stating both directly complement each other. He believed that fiscal mismanagement led the country to the prevailing economic situation. “The country is going through difficult economic situation due to fiscal mismanagement,” he said.

The Army Chief told the participants that the Armed Forces played their role by voluntarily foregoing annual increase in defence budget and this is not the only step they were taking for the improvement of economy. “We have been shying of taking difficult decisions. We understand that the government has gone for difficult but quintessential decisions for long-term benefits and what we are doing is playing our part. We all need to fulfill our responsibilities in this regard so that these difficult initiatives succeed,” he urged.

He said the Armed Forces have played their role in improving the economic situation by freezing their annual budget. He cited several examples of other countries which took difficult decisions to come out of economic disasters and hoped the country will soon overcome the economic crisis.

The seminar dilated on ways of overcoming budget deficit, low tax collection base, circular debt, loss-ridden public sector enterprises, fiscal indiscipline, undocumented economy, weak institutional capacity, low exports, meeting federal obligations within existing NFC arrangements and the perceptions surrounding the prevailing economic environment.

The COAS highlighted Pakistan’s efforts for restoring regional peace that will lead to better trade connectivity and reiterated the importance of regional security. “Countries cannot develop individually, it is the region which develops. For our region to develop, we need to have greater regional connectivity among all neighbours,” he stated.

The panel of speakers included Dr Salman Shah, Adviser to the Chief Minister of Punjab on Economic Affairs and Planning; Dr Farrukh Iqbal, Dean and Director IBA; Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri, Executive Director, Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI); Almas Haider, President Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Syed Muhammad Shabbar Zaidi, Chairman FBR. Dr Ashfaque Hasan Khan, Principal and Dean, School of Social Sciences & Humanities (NUST), chaired and  moderated the seminar. A large number of economy experts, think tanks and representatives of business community attended the seminar.

Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, in his keynote address, shed light on the reasons which resulted into increasing these challenges. He counted perpetual security threats, inconsistent economic policies, poor economic discipline and lack of will to take difficult decisions in the past as major contributors to the economic situation the government is facing today.

Chair in his introduction highlighted the linkage of economy and security. He quoted Paul Kennedy – a British Historian specialising in the history of international relations and economics power – as saying that “a nation’s military strength rests on its economic strength” and Robert McNamara, former President of World Bank, “Security means development and without development there is no security. Therefore, economy matters for security. If economy is weakened, the country’s national security will weaken.”

General Bajwa thanked NDU for organising the seminar and panel and attendees for their participation. He said that such types of interactions are important to enable both the government and other stakeholders in exchanging their views on issues of national importance.