ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari on Saturday brushed aside all bleak economic scenarios being made by international donor organisations and opposition parties, asserting instead that the country’s economy had “stabilised”.
“The government took difficult and unpopular decisions to put economy back on track. As a result of those decisions the economy has stabilised,” the President said while speaking to participants of a management course at the Aiwan-i-Sadr.
According to a spokesman for the Presidency, Mr Zardari highlighted the government’s “achievements”, saying the rural economy had been strengthened as never before, foreign exchange reserves had increased to over $17 billion and foreign remittances, which were $6.4 billion when the government took over, would cross the $11 billion mark this year.
In a similarly vein, he added that exports this year were expected to cross a record $24 billion. “And bear in mind that the government achieved all this despite the fact that it inherited a very poor economy. It is fighting a war against militants and the unprecedented floods last year caused a loss of over $10 billion,” Mr Zardari told participants of the National Management Course.
The President said democracy was the only way for taking the country forward, claiming that “political minds have attained maturity”.
Democracy was passing through an evolutionary process and the time was not far off when Pakistan would become a strong democracy, Mr Zardari said.
In reply to a question, he said there was no clash of institutions in the country. “There is a friendly atmosphere in which every institution is working smoothly.”
He disagreed with the term “judicial activism” and said this situation had actually strengthened democracy. He said the government had raised the salary of judges “manifold” to attract bright minds to the profession.
Political forces would have to work with full ownership to strengthen democracy, the President observed.
“You cannot stop anything by force. Democracy can ensure containment of provincialism,” he said, adding: “We all have to work for removing the sense of deprivation and the government has already initiated a process in this regard by launching the Aghaz-i-Huqooq Balochistan programme.”
In reply to a question about extending the Political Parties Act to Fata, the President said all political parties agreed on bringingtribal areas into the political mainstream system and added: “We now need a right time for doing it.”
He said the People’s party had already initiated this process by awarding tickets to candidates in Fata.
About the demand for setting up new provinces, the President said that based on his experience he had opposed this, but wishes of the people could not be ignored.
Giving his perspective on the slow rate of growth since the country’s inception, President Zardari said the absence of continuity of policies was a major reason for lack of economic progress in the country. “Private sector must give ownership to policies regardless of the fact which political government gave that policy,” he said.
Meanwhile, during a meeting with Fathimath Dhiyana Saeed, the first woman secretary general of Saarc, President Zardari stressed the need for regional cooperation and establishment of transnational linkages to fight terrorism effectively.
Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar told reporters that matters relating to terrorism, drug-trafficking and socio-economic cooperation among the member states came under discussion.