KARACHI: Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa has said that all nations today are reviewing the old dilemma of “Guns versus Butter”, that is; how to achieve a balance between economic viability and national security.
“Countries like Pakistan never had the luxury of such a review. We live in one of the most volatile regions of the world, dealing with multiple crises since inception, but increasingly so during the last four decades,” he said while speaking at a seminar on the interplay of economy and security.
“We must be able to evolve on the way. 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,” the Army Chief said.
National security today, he said, is a wide ranging subject. Leaders across the world understand clearly that security is the product of interplay of factors that encompass the political, economic, military, social, human and environmental facets. That makes security a very complex issue. “As the Army Chief, I am primarily responsible for the military security including its external and internal dimensions. However, it would be naive of me to talk of uni-dimensional security without first understanding the effects of all the aforementioned factors,” he said.
“Today, Alhamdullilah, we have a much improved security situation on the internal front. The challenges to the state’s writ have been defeated, though residual threat still resides. The situation is stable but there is apparent fragility at places,” he said.
Therefore, we need a comprehensive effort to pursue National Action Plan and remove vulnerabilities well before they turn into threats. Many of the planned measures, if implemented timely, will contribute directly to the economic & 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 further said.
“With a belligerent India on our East and an unstable Afghansitan on our West, the region remains captive due to historical baggage and negative competition,” he said. 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.
“In fact, what we have done in FATA and started in Balochistan could easily be termed as the best example of a holistic approach to security. We have also expressed and demonstrated our genuine desire to have normal and peaceful relations with India, however, it takes two to tango,” he said
Due to dedication and sustained hard work of Army and other LEAs, slowly and gradually, the improvements in security environment have started to pay off.
“We have had mega events in the country in the fields of sports and culture this year. Recently, we not only had the most peaceful Muharram in years but the Bohra community validated our claim of improved security by selecting Pakistan for their annual gathering” he said, adding Similarly, early harvest projects, both CPEC and non CPEC, are nearing completion; with Pakistan Army providing security to our Chinese friends.
But there’s still a long way to go. The 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 favor. 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, he said. 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.
At the micro level, nothing exemplifies the linkage between economy and security better than the city of Karachi itself. “Karachi, the economic capital of Pakistan generates a significant part of our revenue,” adding when our enemies want 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
However, in order to maintain sustainable growth and progress, we must ensure law and order in the entire country
At the macro level, this relationship between security and economy is intricate, and therefore solutions are more complex. 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 centerpiece of this effort is China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), he said.
This corridor is 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”.
“Our region in general and the immediate neighborhood in particular has failed to take off due to peculiar security challenges,” he said. “I sincerely believe that the region will sink or sail together – that is how it has played out across the world.”
“I want to use this opportunity to earnestly convey to our neighbors to the East and to the West that our destinies are inextricably linked.”However, unfortunately, until the current environment of mutual distrust is eliminated, we cannot possibly imagine our nations rising together into enduring peace and socio-economic development. Peace and stability is in the interest of all and we must strive for it, he said.
“We have to ensure that Balochistan, 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,” he said. This vision of integrated economic growth across Pakistan and across the region is noble, but it also needs to be secured, he added.
On Karachi, he said, will remain safe and sound. “I assure you, so the ball is in your court now.”
“I commend efforts of the organizers for organizing this seminar on such an important topic. I must appreciate the quality of papers presented here and hope that their conclusions will resonate through all the concerned quarters in both economic as well as in security domains,” he said.
Army Chief said that the first page he sees in a newspaper after the headlines; is that of “business and economy” as economy touches almost all aspects of our life
“Economy is reflection of quality of our life. It reflects the wealth of a nation, but in doing so, it also indicates the nation’s health, including the strength of its institutions and the trust of its people,” he said.
“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 said