Pakistan: Army chief Gen Munir steps in to address economic crisis in cash-strapped Pakistan


KARACHI: Signalling the powerful military’s key role in Pakistan, army chief General Asim Munir has held a series of meetings with the business community, promising all-out efforts to bring in foreign investment worth billions of dollars to the cash-strapped country. Gen Munir held a marathon four-hour meeting on Saturday with 50-odd prominent businessmen, including Zubair Motiwala, chairman, Businessmen Group (BMG), Tariq Yousuf, president, Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Irfan Iqbal Sheikh, president of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FPCCI).
The meeting came on the back of a traders’ strike on Saturday protesting the soaring cost of living, including higher fuel and utility bills and record depreciation of the Pakistan rupee against the US dollar.
The army chief updated the business community about his recent visit to Saudi Arabia and said Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman assured him of investing USD 25 billion in Pakistan under the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC), the Dawn newspaper reported on Tuesday.
In the same meeting, Gen Munir also “assured businessmen of bringing USD 25-30 billion investment from Qatar and Kuwait in his next visit.”
In another report by the Geo News website, FPCCI president Sheikh said that the army chief had told the business community that Saudi Arabia had assured Pakistan of investment in IT, minerals, agriculture and defence.
“COAS Munir requested for USD 10 billion to be kept in the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP). This will be returned in the form of the Pakistani rupee or goods so that the foreign exchange could increase,” Sheikh was quoted as saying.
The army chief said he was banking on the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) “to do away with the bureaucratic hurdles”, which were identified by the Saudi Crown Prince as obstacles to investment.
Motiwala was reported as saying that even when every new Pakistan Army chief holds meetings with traders, “the body language of the army chief was different this time as compared to the traders’ meetings held with his predecessors. Gen Munir went to Saudi Arabia and the UAE for the revival of the economy, and now he plans to go to Qatar and Kuwait.”
Interestingly, quoting sources, the media also reported that Gen Munir had also hinted at not going towards the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for any new programme as “the fund does not give any permission to work freely and an increase in power rates was also a part of the programme.”
The powerful military, commonly known as the establishment, has run Pakistan directly for almost half of its history since partition in 1947. For the rest of the half, it called the shots from behind the curtains, controlling the politics of the country.
Though Pakistan’s military has repeatedly said it would not interfere in the country’s politics, its influence in affairs of the state is still evident. Lately, it has been taking part in the financial decision-making process and dealing directly with the IMF and other key allies of Pakistan.
Meanwhile, on Sunday, the army chief assured the business community in Lahore of fostering transparency in dollar exchange and interbank rates, another report in the Dawn newspaper said.
“The money exchanges would be brought under the purview of taxation, fostering transparency in dollar exchange and interbank rates,” the COAS said at the meeting held at the Lahore Corps headquarters.
The Dawn report quoted a spokesman for the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) president Kashif Anwar, who, by recognising the pivotal role of exchange rates in Pakistan’s economic landscape, called for “greater control over the rates of the US dollar in both interbank and open markets.”
In response, General Munir assured the business community of bringing money exchanges under the purview of taxation, fostering transparency in dollar exchange and interbank rates, the media report said.

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