Partnering with peace boosted Pakistan's tourism potential, says PM Imran at Davos

Updated 22 Jan 2020

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Prime Minister Imran Khan speaking at the Pakistan Strategy Dialogue at Davos, Switzerland on Wednesday. – Photo by DawnNewsTv
Prime Minister Imran Khan speaking at the Pakistan Strategy Dialogue at Davos, Switzerland on Wednesday. – Photo by DawnNewsTv

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday spoke at the Pakistan Strategy Dialogue at Davos, Switzerland, where he said Pakistan was considered one of the most dangerous places in the world when his government took over but that "we had decided to partner with peace".

"The first conflict, after the Soviets left Afghanistan, cost us heavily […] it left us with brittle roots and a culture of Kalashnikovs and drugs that were used to pay for the war [and] sectarian groups that did a lot of damage to society.

"Then there was the 'war on terror' which left 70,000 people dead. Pakistan was considered one of the most dangerous places in the world," the prime minister said.

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"Therefore, when my government came into power we made a conscious decision to only partner with people in peace. We decided to not become part of any conflict.

"Secondly, the legacy of the 80s, where we were left with these militant groups still operating in Pakistan, this was the first government that has now disarmed them and tried to rehabilitate them."

As a result of this, the PM said, the first benefit Pakistan saw was in the field of tourism.

"In terms of tourism, Pakistan is perhaps one of the most undiscovered countries in the world. It has one of the oldest civilisations, the Indus Valley [civilisation] which is 5,000 years old, and has sacred places for four religions," Imran said.

"We are one of the most tourism friendly countries and all this potential was untapped, especially the mountain areas," he said.

The first impact was that tourism recovered in a year, he said. Referring to Pakistan topping the list of tourist destinations in 2020, the prime minister said: "We believe Pakistan can collect a lot of revenue from tourism."

Read more: Pakistan tops Condé Nast Traveller's list of best 2020 holiday destinations

The second step was investment, said Imran, adding that the government is doing everything possible to attract investment and to give incentives to industries.

"In the 60s, Pakistan was one of the fastest growing countries in terms of industrialisation. Unfortunately, we lost our way in the 70s which hampered our industrial growth," he explained.

"Now the government is actively incentivising industries and investment, and has tried to remove all the hurdles in the way of investors."

Talking about the jump in Pakistan's Ease of Doing Business rankings, the prime minister said: "We have a long way to go but this is the direction in which the country is headed."

He added that foreign investment in Pakistan has jumped 200 per cent over the span of a year.

He reiterated that Pakistan has played a part in trying to resolve the conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

“We are also working actively with the Americans for peace in Afghanistan [where] there are good signs and a chance for a ceasefire. That is important as it will open an economic corridor for us to central Asia.

"We are looking to attract investors in agriculture and mining."

In addition, we are now moving towards a digital Pakistan and are inviting companies to invest in this endeavor. Tania Aidrus is leading this initiative, he maintained.

"Our first year was spent in stabilising the country as we had inherited a huge current account deficit. This year is the year we want our economy to grow."

PM meets leaders from Singapore, Azerbaijan

Earlier on Tuesday, Prime Minister Imran Khan held bilateral meetings with the leaders of Singapore and Azerbaijan on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland.

According to an official statement issued by the Foreign Office, Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev and PM Imran discussed a whole spectrum of bilateral relations that are "marked by mutual trust and support".

The prime minister appreciated Azerbaijan’s valuable contributions, the statement read, including those as a member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation Contact Group on Jammu and Kashmir. The premier reiterated Pakistan’s support to Azerbaijan on the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh, the statement added.

Imran also briefed the president on the human rights violations in occupied Kashmir as well as the impact of the Indian government's unilateral actions of stripping the region of its special autonomous status.

The two sides reiterated their mutual support for each other's national causes and resolved to further deepen cooperation in all fields, the statement read.

The meeting ended with the president inviting Imran to visit Azerbaijan.

Meanwhile, during a meeting with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Imran invited Singaporean businessmen and investors to "increase their footprint in Pakistan" by referring to an improvement in Pakistan's business rankings.

According to the statement, both the leaders expressed the desire to further deepen bilateral ties with a focus on increasing trade and investment.

Imran also informed his counterpart on the human rights violations in occupied Kashmir.

The prime minister will deliver a keynote address at the WEF special session today (Wednesday).

According to the Foreign Office, the prime minister will speak to senior international media persons and editors during a session with the Forum’s international media council.

The premier is accompanied in Davos by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Adviser on Commerce Abdul Razaq Dawood, Special Assistant on National Security Mooed Yusuf, Special Assistant on Overseas Pakistanis Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari, Adviser on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh and Ambassador at large for Investments Ali Jehangir Siddiqui.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the WEF where political leaders, business executives, heads of international organisations and civil society representatives will deliberate on contemporary economic, geopolitical, social and environmental issues.