Country can be ‘positive model for Islamic world’

FORTUNE GLOBAL FORUM ON PAKISTAN

PAKISTAN can be a model for the entire Islamic world, its Prime Minister, Ms Benazir Bhutto, said yesterday.

Addressing the Global Fortune Forum, she said that her government now enjoyed the confidence of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank because of its sound economic policies.

As a result of reforms to encourage greater privatisation and deregulation, Pakistan had registered better reserves, a stable currency, increased exports and foreign investments.

Its economic successes, she said, reflected private sector confidence “in a Muslim country with a philosophy”.

This philosophy included a commitment to the free market and democratic freedoms such as free elections and human rights.

She described Pakistan as a voice of moderation in the Muslim world, in which one billion Muslims are at the crossroads.

Muslims were now faced with certain choices: between progressivism and fundamentalism, education and ignorance, new technologies and old repression. Said Ms Bhutto: “The positive model Pakistan presents to the Muslim world has critical geopolitical, geoeconomic and geostrategic impact … to these nations.

“Let us not minimise the strategic importance that we can play in the Muslim world, and in the newly emerging republics of Central Asia.”

Earlier, she told The Straits Times in a written reply to questions that Pakistan wanted to be recognised as a force for “moderation and stability” in south, central and west Asia.

“We want to serve as the linchpin of a system of trade and cooperation among these adjacent regions, bringing unprecedented growth and prosperity to all its people.”

At yesterday’s forum, Ms Bhutto was asked about the escalation of violence in Karachi. She said that arms and drug smugglers were avenging a government crackdown on their activities.

But she stressed that the unrest would not deter foreign investment in Pakistan. “There is trouble in a part of Karachi, which is unfortunate. The irony is that the other part of Karachi is flourishing.”

Investments were continuing to pour into the safer parts of Karachi, she said, adding that Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) of Britain and oil companies Shell and Caltex were expanding their Karachi operations.

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