We have to throw away begging bowl: COAS

Chief of Army Staff General Asim Munir hands over the inaugural scroll to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif during the inaugural ceremony of the Green Pakistan Initiative in Islamabad on July 10, 2023. — PID.

ISLAMABAD: Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Asim Munir on Monday expressed his determination to steer Pakistan out of the prevailing problems, saying that all Pakistanis have to throw away the begging bowl.

General Munir inaugurated the Khanewal Model Agricultural Farm at an event seeking to bolster the agricultural sector and promote national prosperity. The model farm is the first project under the Green Pakistan Initiative. The latest agriculture techniques will be used in this completely automatic farm. The event witnessed the participation of distinguished dignitaries, local farmers and officials from various sectors.

“Pakistan Army takes pride in serving its nation,” stated the Army Chief, highlighting the military’s dedication to the welfare of people and the country. “The Army belongs to the people, and the people belong to the Army,” the COAS said, emphasising the strong bond between the armed forces and civilians.

Addressing the nation’s qualities, he praised the Pakistanis for their pride, self-respect, and competence, recognising the nation’s potential to overcome challenges.

Grateful for the country’s blessings, COAS Munir remarked, “Allah has bestowed Pakistan with numerous gifts.” Drawing attention to Pakistan’s potential for progress, the Army Chief asserted, “No external force can hinder our journey towards advancement.” He reaffirmed his belief in the nation’s capability to achieve greatness in all domains.

COAS Munir hailed the government’s plans for an agricultural uplift, expressing his confidence in the transformation of the agricultural landscape of Pakistan, saying, “Pakistan will witness an agricultural revolution, Insha’Allah.” He said that security and the economy go hand in hand, adding that both are vital to each other.

The Khanewal Model Agricultural Farm is designed to benefit small-scale farmers and promote sustainable practices. The army chief announced that similar modern farms would be established across Pakistan, aiming to uplift the livelihoods of farmers and contribute to the nation’s economic growth.

During the ceremony, the army chief invoked the poetic wisdom of Allama Iqbal, underscoring the significance of his words in guiding the nation’s trajectory. “In the hands of individuals lie the destinies of nations; every individual is a star of the nation’s fate,” he recited, reminding all present of their collective responsibility towards the nation’s progress.

Meanwhile, Commander United States Centcom General Michael Erik Kurilla called on COAS General Syed Asim Munir.

During the meeting, matters of mutual interest, regional security situation and defence cooperation were discussed. Both reiterated the desire to further enhance bilateral relations in all fields. The visiting dignitary acknowledged and appreciated Pakistan Army’s successes in the fight against terrorism and Pakistan’s continued efforts for bringing peace and stability to the region.

In a related development, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif announced that 63 percent of domestic consumers using up to 200 units per month would be exempted from the recent increase in power tariff. A partial subsidy was also being given to those consuming up to 300 units per month, who were around 31 percent of the total domestic consumers, he added.

“Due to the toughest conditions from the International Monetary Fund, the government had to raise the electricity prices but I stressed that the burden should not be passed on to protected segments of the society,” he said after witnessing the signing of a framework agreement between the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic (Socar) Trading and Pakistan LNG Limited (PLL).

The framework agreement was signed by PLL Managing Director Masood Nabi and Chief Executive Officer of SOCAR Trading Mariam Almaszade. Minister of State for Petroleum Musadik Malik, Punjab Governor Baleegh Ur Rehman, diplomats and government officials were also present on the occasion.

Under the framework agreement, Socar Trading has offered to supply one cargo per month of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Pakistan on flexible terms and with a credit line for 30 days after delivery of the cargo, in one year contract which is extendable by another year.

Shehbaz said it was really a great day as “we are standing here as brothers from two brotherly countries — Pakistan and Azerbaijan”.

He expressed good wishes for President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev whom he met in Baku a few weeks ago and thanked him for finalising the agreement.

“We had an extremely productive and very fruitful discussion over there as to how to promote economic relations between the two friendly countries,” he said, adding, immediately on his return home, the Government of Pakistan accorded approval to the Azerbaijan Airline to land at Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi. “This is a big step forward to promote tourism and investment, and the exchange of delegations between the two countries.”

The prime minister also appreciated and thanked Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Dr Musadik Malik, secretary petroleum, Pakistan’s ambassador to Azerbaijan, Socar Trading CEO and PLL MD for their efforts to conclude the framework agreement.

The ambassador of Azerbaijan in Islamabad, on the occasion, said the framework agreement would help further strengthen bilateral economic relations. He said the cooperation between the two countries remained sustainable since the start of diplomatic ties.

He said approval of giving airspace to Azerbaijan Airlines would increase the number of visitors and business delegations between the two counties.

A team of horticulture experts from Azerbaijan was arriving in Pakistan to share their first-hand experience in the sector with the Pakistani authorities, he added.

Later, the prime minister thanked Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev for his support in the finalization of the LNG agreement on favourable terms to Pakistan. In a tweet, he said, “Today marks a major development in the bilateral relations of Pakistan & Azerbaijan. Our respective ministries signed an LNG Agreement today to procure one LNG cargo per month for a period of one year. This agreement will help ease the gas shortage in the country & provide relief to the people & industry.

“I am grateful to H.E President of Azerbaijan, for his support in the finalisation of this agreement on favourable terms to Pakistan. My appreciation is also due to Minister of Finance Ishaq Dar, Minister of State for Petroleum Dr Musadik Malik & their teams for their hard work. Without their commitment to public service, this agreement would not have been possible in the shortest span of time.”

Separately, addressing the soft launching of Ombre Special Economic Zone, Sundar Green Special Economic Zone and Smart Special Economic Zone, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said the utilisation of modern technology and alternative energy by the industrial sector was inevitable to make exports competitive in the international market.

He said owing to surging oil prices, the only option was to exploit the potential of solar, wind and hydel energy for cost-effectiveness of local products. He said the issue of circular debt was required to be addressed on a war-footing basis.

Shehbaz Sharif appreciated the private sector for chalking out a plan to establish the three special economic zones and assured all-out support from the federal and Punjab governments. He said the commitment by the private sector to attract investment worth billions of rupees was also laudable, besides their plans to set up a three-megawatt solar power plant and other allied facilities like the vocational training centre.

He hoped that the interim government would also take all possible measures to keep the national economy on track of progress, as the incumbent one was already making necessary legislation to pave the way for future course of action.

The prime minister said the private sector should also sign deals with Qatar to import LNG for industrial use “not for sale in the market” and assured that the federal government would facilitate them at the Karachi Port.

Shehbaz also called for spreading the network of SEZs across the country. He said during Nawaz Sharif’s last government, the SEZs were planned across the country under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor but, despite complete mapping and other formalities, all the projects faced unnecessary delay, except Rashakai.

He said the agreement with the International Monetary Fund was signed to ebb away the risk of default and put the country on the course toward progress.

The prime minister said as far as the SEZs by the public sector were concerned, the government would provide land free of charge to the investors, as it had done for the Bahawalpur Solar Park.

However, he said the use of SEZs’ land for non-industrial use would not be tolerated and recalled similar “misconduct” by some parties in Faisalabad and other SEZs where people had been minting money by selling out the land.

Meanwhile, Punjab Governor Baligh Ur Rehman called on the prime minister. During the meeting, the current situation in the country, particularly the administrative matters and law and order situation in Punjab province were discussed, the PM Office Media Wing said in a press release.

Separately, a delegation of renowned political personalities led by Rana Mashood, a former provincial minister, also called on the prime minister. They discussed the current political situation in the country.