Last Updated: September 04, 2023, 07:44 IST
Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Asim Munir, held an important meeting with top businessmen in Karachi on Saturday, during which he outlined key economic policies and assured a stable business environment for the troubled country.
This development came as Pakistani traders went on strike last week against the soaring cost of living, including higher fuel and utility bills and record depreciation of the rupee against the dollar. The traders pulled their shutters down across Pakistani, while protesters burned tires on roads to express their anger.
During the meeting with nearly 60 prominent businessmen representing top business groups, General Munir began by addressing concerns over smuggling activities originating from Iran and Afghanistan, assuring the attendees that immediate measures would be taken to curb such illicit trade.
He promised to stop the dollarisation of the country and strengthen the Pakistani currency. The Pak army chief committed to reforming the parallel economy and bringing individuals who are not filing taxes into the taxation system. He also announced plans for the privatisation of state-owned enterprises, with sick units set to be transferred to private entities for efficient management.
General Munir emphasised the keen interest of Saudi Arabia and China in investing in the cash-strapped country once stability is ensured. This meeting comes at a critical juncture for the terror-prone country, as it seeks to foster its economic growth.
It also marks a significant departure from past practices, as it was the first time that the Pakistan Army Chief did not address issues related to India and Kashmir. CNN News18 had previously reported that the caretaker government’s tenure would be extended, with the COAS expected to play a pivotal role in governance.
Return of the Zia-ul-Haq Period
General Asim Munir’s recent engagement with top businessmen in Karachi reflects a parallel with the period of former military dictator, Zia-ul-Haq. During his rule from 1978 to 1988, Zia-ul-Haq dabbled in all non-military domains, including attempts to sway the economic policies of the country.
The infamous Pak dictator had a similar meeting with a group of businessmen in Karachi in 1986 to discuss ways to boost the Pakistani economy. He also met with a group of industrialists in Lahore in 1987 to discuss the country’s energy crisis.
Similar to the current dismal economic situation, Pakistan’s foreign debt levels were a concern during this period. Social and political unrest was also a key feature of that. Moreover, political parties faced significant restrictions under the dreaded military rule, just like Imran Khan’s PTI has been smothered under General Munir.