Transcript of the speech:
What I’ve loved Pakistan is its wilderness, it’s mountains. Over my lifetime I have seen this disappearing and I always resolved that if I ever got the opportunity I would make sure that we preserve this God given beauty of our country.
In 2013 my party won the election in Khyber Pashktunkhwa. And that’s where we launched the ambitious project to plant a billion trees in 4 years. No one thought it was possible but we did it. We involved local communities; women to grow nurseries. We made people understand the importance of trees and the environment.
When I became the PM, we resolved that we would plant 10 billion trees in the next 4 years. The experience we learned from in KP, we are applying across Pakistan now. Engaging local communities, especially woman who have nurtured these nurseries so well. One reason why we are doing this is to counter global warming. Secondly; our cities have become extremely polluted. Lahore, Like Delhi.. our planners removed 70 percent of our tree cover from our cities.
We also realised that you can not make your economy grow unless there is peace and security. Form the 1980’s when Pakistan allied with the US to fight the Soviets, we had militant groups trained in Pakistan to fight guerilla battles. When the Soviet’s left, we were left with the militant groups. That became a watershed in Pakistan with the rise of gun culture, armed militias and drug trade. This became an impediment to our growth as a nation. Come 9/11, the US came back and we were engaged to fight these same groups. 70,000 people were killed in the process. This is why at this point we have decided that we will not be part of any conflict and will play our part in peace. We have tried to play our part in easing tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran. We are part of facilitating talks in the peace process in Afghanistan. This is the closest the region stands to a peace process.
We inherited the biggest economic deficit, the biggest fiscal deficit. We were left with reserves that would only last a month. For this I give credit to our economic team. We had to take such tough economic decisions; I’ve been in the public eye for 40 years and I’ve never face a public backlash like I have in the past year. We took tough decisions and we know people are hurting. But things are in the right direction. Our investment percentage has grown 200 percent, our ease of doing business rankings have gone up by 20 points.
This coming year we are focusing on growth and employment. Our biggest advantage is our population; 60 percent of our 200 million-plus people are under the age of 30 and this is the biggest asset our country has. We want to focus on skill development, on empowering our youth with skills, encouraging young startups and entrepreneurship. We are encouraging apprenticeships. This is our big resource which will one day lift Pakistan.
The other advantage Pakistan has is mineral wealth; sadly untapped. Pakistan is sitting on big gold and copper reserves. We have enough reserves to pay off our foreign debt. We have unexplored gas reserves. Our whole focus is to develop these resources.
We also have very fertile agricultural land. We’ve got help from China under the CPEC corridor; we have got China to help us in developing the productivity of our agricultural sector. This is one area where Pakistan can make strides quickly.
And finally; my vision of Pakistan stems from a strategic location. Pakistan is strategically placed in one of the most fortunate locations in Pakistan. On one side there is China, one of the world’s biggest markets. On the other side Central Asia with its resources and markets to open up once there is peace in Afghanistan. We are hoping that peace with Iran will also open it up as a market. Even with India in the region, the moment our relations become normal, the trade potential for the region will grow exponentially.
I am someone who believes that if we get our governance right, we will resolve a lot of issues. The way our governance deteriorated is one of the main reasons why we have not been able to realize our potential. With our strategic location and a young population, If we improve our governance and our institutions, nothing can stop us from realizing our potential. Thank you.
Let me just make a statement; I do not understand why countries go to resolve difference via military conflict. In our lifetime we have seen this; the moment you start a military conflict, you don’t know when it will finish. And it has unintended consequences. I was always against Pakistan’s involvement in the war on terror. No Pakistanis were involved in 9/11. AL qaeda was in Afghanistan. At the time, then President Musharraf told us it was a matter of weeks. And almost 20 years later, 70,000 people killed and we realised it was wrong. A conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran will be a disaster and will cause poverty in the word. We in Pakistan have tried our best; I spoke to president trump and said this would be a disaster of this starts. I think he understood; in my opinion it will be insanity. Afghanistan is still not resolved and Iran would be an even bigger problem.
The tragedy of my country, we were the fastest-growing country in Asia in the 1960’s. Our industrial production was more than the 4 Asian tigers put together. But we lost our way. One was ill conceived nationalisation which stunted this national growth. We could have done what China did with wealth creation to lift the bottom tier. We shouldn’t have stopped growth; we should have had more equitable growth.
And we just did not pay attention to our education system. There was the English medium system for the elite, the Urdu medium system and then the religious schools, the madrasahs. So what we are trying to do now is to create a more equal education system. The education system should
I’ve never been lacerated by the media so much because of the stabilization program. But this year, 2020 is when we work towards growth inclusive for our young population.