Stressing the need for a cooperative Pak-US effort in the fight against militancy, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Monday said that anything that degrades Pakistan’s effort would be counter-productive.
“We are fighting the war against terror, anything that degrades our effort will only hurt the US effort,” Reuters news agency quoted the prime minister as saying in an interview. Prime Minister Abbasi said that Washington would not achieve its counter-terrorism aims by starving Pakistan of funds.
“If the military aid cuts degrade our effort to fight war on terror, who does it help,” he asked. “Whatever needs to be done here, it needs to be a cooperative effort.” The news agency further quoted the prime minister as saying that one practical side effect of military aid cuts and the US Congress blocking the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan would be to force Islamabad to buy weapons from China and Russia.
“We’ve had to look at other options to maintain our national defensive forces,” he said. According to Reuters’ report, the Trump administration’s tougher stance is seen as pushing Islamabad closer to Beijing, which has pledged about $60 billion in roads, rail and power infrastructure in Pakistan as part of its ambitious Belt and Road initiative to build vast land and sea trade routes linking Asia with Europe and Africa.
“We have a major economic relationship with (China), we have a major military relationship since the 1960s, so that’s definitely one of our options,” the prime minister said. Abbasi said it was unfair to blame Pakistan for all the troubles in Afghanistan, saying Washington should show more appreciation for Pakistan’s losses from militancy and its role in hosting 3.5 million Afghan refugees.
He added that Afghan-based militants have also launched cross-border attacks on civilians and military in Pakistan, prompting Pakistan to begin investing “several billion dollars” to fence the disputed and porous 2,500 km border. “We intend to fence the whole border to control that situation,” he added.
About Pakistan’s economic situation, the news agency quoted Prime Minister Abbasi as saying that Islamabad was looking at a raft of measures to alleviate current account pressures to avoid going back to the IMF, including reducing imports of luxury goods, boosting exports, and possibly devaluing its currency.
“There are pros and cons to devaluation, but that could be a decision we take,” he said. However, he added, “today, it’s not on the table yet.” To a question about tax reforms, the Prime Minister said radical changes would require an integrated approach, including building confidence among tax payers,
reducing income taxes and making it less attractive to invest in the real
“You not only need to have a stick, you need to have a carrot also,” he said.