KARACHI: Chief of Army Staff, gen Qamar Javed Bajwa has said that security and economy are interlinked in today’s world as both cannot survive without each other.

“ We have to continuously ensure a viable balance between economy and security.

Only then will we arrive at a future that ensures sustained peace and happiness for our people”, Gen Bajwa observed while delivering his keynote address at a seminar billed as  “Interplay of economy and security” jointly organized by the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), and Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FPCCI) here on Wednesday.

Gen Bajwa further said that at the end of the cold war, it became fashionable to say that human civilization had come to a point where the cold logic of economic interests alone would dictate national security.

“Unfortunately, that is no more relevant now, as in the last two decades or so, we have seen reappearance of age old fault lines and reassertion of ancient parochial passions of race, language, religion and identity hence security has once again, become the foremost business and task of the state”, he went on to say.

“Today, security and economy are interlinked. Erstwhile USSR had no dearth of armored divisions but it broke up due to weak economic base. Similarly, rich countries without corresponding security apparatus, may invite aggression from others, Kuwait is a good example”, he maintained.

The army chief said that the country had a much improved security situation on internal; front today as the challenges to the state’s writ had been defeated, though residual threat still resides.  “ The situation is stable but there is apparent fragility at places”, he added.

Due to dedication and sustained hard work of Army and other law enforcing agencies, he said,  slowly and gradually, the improvements in security environment had started to pay off. “ But there’s still a long way to go”.

Emphasizing the need for  comprehensively pursuing the National Action Plan, Gen Bajwa said that many of the planned measures, if implemented timely, would contribute directly to the economic and even political stability of the country.

Police and judicial reforms are obvious examples. Madrassah reforms are also vital – We cannot afford to leave a large segment of our youth with limited options – Madrassahs must enable their students to become useful members of the society who are not left behind in any field of life, he added.

On external front, the army chief said,  the region remains captive due to historical baggage and negative competition with a belligerent India in the East and an unstable Afghanistan in the West.

“ But on our part, we are making a deliberate and concerted effort to pacify the western border through a multitude of diplomatic, military and economic initiative, not to mention the phenomenal boost to human security that we have provided in FATA and surrounding areas”, he said and added “We have also expressed and demonstrated our genuine desire to have normal and and peaceful relations with India, however, it takes two to tango”.

Talking about the country’s current economic situation, Gen Bajwa said “he economy is showing mixed indicators. Growth has picked up but the debts are sky high.

Infrastructure and energy have improved considerably but the current account balance is not in our favour. Our tax to GDP ratio is abysmally low and this needs to change if we are to break the begging bowl. At the same time, the common man across Pakistan needs reassurance of benevolent and equal treatment from the State in return.

“ If I were a statesman or an economist, I would say that this is high time for us to place economic growth and sustainability at the highest priority. Let me share with you that during National Security Council meetings, economy remains one of our highest concerns. But in order to secure our 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 maintained.

Dwelling upon multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Gen Bajwa said “ This is the future of our people, a vital national interest on which we will never compromise, regardless of the loudness of opposing voices. It is also an example of regional cooperation and a break from politics of confrontation – we want all to benefit from this project”.

“Today, Pakistan is a strategically challenged state. External actors are attempting to assert control and dictate our security priorities that have strong linkages with our economic future.  The centrepiece of this effort is CPEC”, he noted.

He said that the CPEC was not just a collection of infrastructure and power projects – it is in fact a complete development platform that has the potential to act as a powerful springboard for shared development in the entire CASA (Central Asia-South Asia) region

However, the completion of the project and, more importantly, optimization of its socio-economic dividend for Pakistan and the region hinges on one word: “security”, he opined.

About law and order in Karachi, the army chief said that when “ our enemies” wanted to choke Pakistan, they try to destabilize Karachi because “when Karachi bleeds, Pakistan bleeds”.

“It is because of this sensitivity, that peace in Karachi has been our top priority. We have worked very hard to restore peace and now hope that economic activity would return at a fast pace, Insha Allah”, he said.

“We have to rise together. We have to ensure that Bln, Interior Sindh, FATA, Southern Punjab and GB also join us on the trajectory of growth and then move forward. It is with this integrated approach, that we will fulfill the vision of Quaid-I-Azam”, he concluded.

Speaking on the occasion, Senator Mushahid Hussain syed ” said that crafting a new narrative is a way forward.  “We need a collective approach. There should be zero tolerance for corruption”, he added,

Dr  Ishrat Hussain ,former president state bank of Pakistan delivered a talk on ” economy of Pakistan past and future” . He discussed three possible scenarios which are optimistic, pessimistic and emerging through. He highlighted the wastage of civil resources. Anything new is glamorous and attractive but because of poor maintenance and indifference operation of existing policies bring lots of losses in the country. “CPEC is a good strategic option for progress”, he added.

Former adviser on finance, Dr Salman Shah  while talking on the importance of CPEC and making Pakistan as a global powerhouse said that  an economic corridor generally connects regional economic centers in the most efficient and convenient manner. He said that software of CPEC is more important than hardware China is now the world’s largest economy. China can be a big source of investment capital, technology and knowhow for Pakistan economic progress. “we should learn from China how to manage and maintain economy. CPEC creates economic and trade connectivity within Pakistan”, he added.

Lt Gen Muhammad Afzal, Director General Frontier Works Organization (FWO) highlighted the geo -strategic and geo-economic significance of the CPEC and Gwadar Port, which is the corner stone of whole concept. He said Pakistan is blessed with precious minerals and coal resources and we must exploit this potential. He said First time we kept open Khunjrab pass during last winter to keep the CPEC functional. He said the FWO has also undertaken in collaboration with Pak Railway to improve the railway infrastructure and most important among them is dedicated freight corridor along ML-2. FWO is also planning oil refinery in KPK in collaboration with KP government. A project for cement manufacturing plant of 5000 MT per day is also being planned.

Others who spokes were Director General Inter Services Public Relations, Major Gen Asif Ghafoor, former adviser to finance ministry,  Dr Ashfaq Hasan, Dr Farrukh Saleem, and Dr Ainul Hassan.