Giving a cricket analogy from the past to bolster his case about his country’s resource richness and growth potential, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday said they once used to thrash seven-times bigger India and were seen as a force to reckon with.
He said Pakistan was a big force in hockey and so many other sports, while it has always been a rich country in terms of human and natural resources, but an entrenched corruption derailed the growth story over the last few decades.
“In the 1960s, Pakistan was shining and it was like an Asian role model. I grew up with that hope but we let ourselves down because unfortunately democracy couldn’t get grounded in Pakistan. When democracy faltered, army came in,” Khan said here at a breakfast session on the sidelines of the WEF 2020.
Khan said he realised that if Pakistan had good governance it would rise.
“The founding fathers of Pakistan were brilliant and men of complete integrity. They wanted Pakistan to be humane, just society for welfare. But we deviated from that vision. We have to restore the vision for which this country was founded.
“When I was playing cricket, India was seven times our size but we regularly thrashed them. In hockey and so many other games also. We were great,” he said.
At the Pakistan breakfast session hosted by Pathfinder Group and Martin Dow Group, Khan also recalled his childhood days and his struggle during initial years in politics.
Khan said he learnt from his initial days in cricket that there is no prize for coming second in the professional world of sports. “There is no sympathy for losers,” he said.
“When my mother died of cancer I realised there was no cancer hospital and when I was building the hospital I was told ‘you can’t give the treatment free’.
“But I ensured 70 per cent got it free. It cost seven billion rupees to build it and the annual loss was Rs 10 billion. People laughed at me but I was happy 70 per cent were getting free treatment,” he said.
Khan said when he entered politics, again people laughed at him for years, but he never deviated from his goal.
Seeking to showcase Pakistan’s economic growth potential, Khan said the country had huge natural resources such as copper and gold.
“I was told the profit of just two blocks was two billion dollars. We have huge coal reserves. But we falter on productivity.
“When I went to China, I saw their productivity is huge. We have larger number of cows and buffaloes but China has much higher milk productivity,” he said.
Terming overseas Pakistanis as one of the greatest resources, Khan said he wanted them to come back to work for their country. “They are best of the minds. We are trying to get them back and some have already come. I feel the highest amount of investment can come from overseas Pakistanis,” he said.
On suggestions for the government taking the bill for international conferences, Khan said global expos are productive but he felt there is a need to save money as the government is going through an austerity programme.
“My own visit here is at a fraction of money spent earlier by the governments. I’m cancelling junkets of my ministers and allow them to go only after being totally convinced about productivity,” he said.
On gender inequality, Khan said no country could prosper with a skewed development so they needed to work towards raising the level of income for women, especially the women at the bottom of the social ladder.
He said a majority of children in Pakistan were not going to English-medium schools and that needed to change.
“We want to promote investment, that will create wealth and that would be used for all sections of society. If we can concentrate on the bottom of our society it will help a lot,” he said.
Outlining his vision, Khan said his focus is on improving ease-of-doing business and to provide better governance.
“We are up against the corrupt entrenched status quo that ruled Pakistan for 30 years. They are spreading gloom and doom because they don’t want us to succeed.
“We also face deteriorating institutions. It takes time to restore them but we are doing that slowly and steadily. In the first year, two-thirds of our tax collection went for debt servicing. We are also looking at export-oriented growth,” he said.