Interior Minister calls for national unity to consolidate gains in economy, security

NEW YORK: Pakistan has accomplished significant economic gains and security successes over the past four years, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal has said, while asserting that civilian and military leaders were working hand-in-hand for the country’s advancement in all spheres.

Addressing office-bearers and workers of Pakistan Muslim League-N, he underscored the need for national unity as Pakistan still faced some challenges, and told the gathering, which also included some New York-based Pakistani journalists, that there was no rift between the national institutions.

Ahsan Iqbal, who also holds the portfolio for Planning, Development and Reform, deplored the activities of those trying to create a discord between the civilian and military leaderships, saying they would not succeed in their designs. “There was no threat to democracy,” said the minister, who made a brief stopover in New York on Saturday on his way back home from Washington.

Referring to recent statements on economy, the minister said the matter had been sorted out and he had no intention to offend anyone. He spoke out as a statement on the state of economy had been reported that was at variance with what he was telling World Bank and I.M.F. officials during his Washington meetings, he added. Ahsan Iqbal said he had great respect for security agencies who were making enormous sacrifices while defending the homeland.

The minister told the audience that relations between Pakistan and the United States were warming up, especially after Pakistani troops rescued an American woman, Caitlan Cole, and her Canadian husband, Joshua Boyle, from the captivity of the militants. He described President Donald Trump’s statement on Friday in which he expressed his desire to build a much better relationship with Pakistan as a “breath of fresh air”.

The United States and Pakistan, he said, will have a detailed discussion on all relevant issues when US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visits Islamabad later this month.

Replying to a reporter’s question, the minister said US Defence Secretary James Mattis’ concerns about over $50 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) were unfounded.

He said Mattis’ view that CPEC passes through “disputed territory” came as a surprise because there was no US reaction when the Karakoram Highway was built in 1980. In this regard, he urged the United States to use its influence and resolve the decades-old India-Pakistan dispute over Kashmir where the people were suffering worst possible atrocities at the hands of Indian occupation forces.

He also urged Mattis not to look at the CPEC from an Indian perspective but as an economic plan to bring peace and stability in South Asia. The CPEC does not pose any threat to any one and all countries could derive benefits from the mega project. In his remarks, the minister said Pakistan’s economy is on the upswing as it pursues the most investor-friendly policies in the region. Through PML-N Government’ efforts, Pakistan is now rated as the 5th fastest growing economy in the world.

The minister said that remarkable progress had been made by Pakistan in the macroeconomic sector through prudent fiscal policies which have resulted in high economic growth rate. Major economic projects were under way, such as CPEC, that would generate business opportunities for foreign investors in upcoming years, he added.

He said the security situation has improved considerably after successful military operations in the tribal areas as well as other parts of the country. Through the valiant efforts of Pakistan’s security forces and the determination of the entire nation, the country had reversed the tide of terrorism which had gripped it five years ago, he added.

Earlier Ruhail Dar, President of PML-N USA President, welcomed the minister and laud the achievements of the government.