FROM regional stability to climate crisis; from discussing the Afghan predicament to highlighting the youth of Pakistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s speech at the World Economic Forum 2020 in Davos was nothing short of exemplary. However, while words do have an impact, the actions they create make or break a situation.
It is yet to be seen to what extent his government will follow-up to the statements he made during this speech. Imran Khan specially mentioned the Afghan crisis that began when the US forces invaded this country after 9/11. The Prime Minister rightly mentioned to bring a closure to this predicament because it has been affecting Pakistan’s foreign policy. Moreover, every time a crisis hits Afghanistan, the spillover effect creates nuisance inside the borders of Pakistan. The US, Pakistan and Afghanistan must form a group whereby their leaders can state how they wish to see Afghanistan and how will they address the security concerns facing Kabul.
Perhaps Imran Khan’s decision to mention the Afghan problem at the World Economic Forum speech was the right time to invite concerned leaders to pitch in their ideas on how to tackle this dilemma. Until the Afghan crisis is not resolved, it will continue to pose a problem to Pakistan. However, while Imran Khan did mention the details of the Afghan problem and how has been affecting Pakistan-Afghanistan relations, he did not mention about the US residual force. It is imperative for Pakistan and Afghanistan that the US residual force leaves Afghanistan for good. However, when this will actually happen is yet to be seen. Perhaps the US also doesn’t want to leave Afghanistan. By retaining military bases in Afghanistan, the US can keep an eye on Iran and other regional foes. While speaking about conflicts, Imran Khan mentioned the growing escalation between the US and Iran. He said, “It will be a disaster – it will cause poverty in the world – and God knows how long it may go on. I spoke to President Trump yesterday and I told him it would be a disaster for us if this war starts. In my opinion, it will be insanity.”
Prime Minister Imran Khan also mentioned about the economic crisis Pakistan has been facing. Imran Khan said that his government inherited the worst economic crisis in Pakistan’s history. However, he was confident that based on the policies and practices his government has implemented there are chances for growth in 2020. “This year we are looking towards economic growth,” he told the audience. While referring to the governance he said, “Sadly our governance deteriorated in the past 30 years. That is one of the biggest reasons we have not been able to fill our potential as a country. From now on my biggest challenge is how we can improve our state institutions, so we can improve our governance, so we can tap our potential.”
He also addressed the problem of climate change and pollution. He cited his government’s plan to plant 10 billion trees across the country during the next four years. He referred to pollution as a silent killer and assured that the country will tackle the climate change problem. A major part of his speech at the World Economic Forum 2020 was focused on creating regional peace and stability. He highlighted how militancy was born in Pakistan during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. “You cannot make your economy grow unless and until there is peace and stability,” he said. The Prime Minister further said that “From now onwards, Pakistan will only partner with another country in peace. We will not become part of any other conflict.”
Prime Minister Imran Khan rightly and most aptly mentioned about the youth of Pakistan, which comprises more than 60% of Pakistan’s population. He said, “We have neglected this young population because we did not concentrate on skill development [and] equipping them to become entrepreneurs.” It is high time for the government of Pakistan to focus on the skills development of the youth. The government must launch avenues that provide the youth with opportunities to enhance their skills. Pakistan’s freelance sector has been performing well but there is a need for this sector to become the best in Asia. While the government did launch a skills development program, it must also streamline its efforts in building the youth workforce whereby they develop their skills and expertise as a content writer, computer software programmer, website developer, SEO expert, graphic designer, translator, mobile app developer among others.
— The writer is a freelance columnist based in Karachi.