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ISLAMABAD: Renowned economic, energy and business leadership came together for highlighting and exploring trade and strategic ties with the regional countries for boosting national and regional economies, through the development of infrastructure of roads and rail links, energy corridors, and digital connectivity.

Speaking at the Thought Leaders Dialogue – The Next Great Infrastructure Connector’’ organised at a local hotel recently by Nutshell Group and CORPORATE GROUP PAKISTAN, they emphasised the need for a national consensus of all political parties on the core issue of the continuity and consistency of long-term policies. The roadmap of economic recovery is only possible under a comprehensive charter of the economy which is honoured by all stakeholders.

Muhammad Azfar Ahsan, Founder &CEO, Nutshell Group and CORPORATE PAKISTAN GROUP and former minister of state and Chairman Board of Investment, opened the session with his brief overview of the necessity to address the concern for regional connectivity as a pillar for the economic development of Pakistan. He stated the need for a strong policy structure that should be long-term. He hoped to have this session become an effective platform for highlighting the same.

Senator Dr Musadik Malik, Minister of State (Petroleum Division), shared his affirmation of the same by stating that “Countries do not grow in isolation, rather regions grow, together like Asean, Nafta, and GCC.” He said the economic growth of the region can only be sustainable with ties and development of projects of trade and energy infrastructure regionally.

Lack of consistency and sustainability has already impacted the GDP negatively, up to 2 to 2.5 percent per the World Bank’s study. A small example of LNG can go a long way. Pakistan can import and become an exporter to the landlocked Central Asian States through Gwadar. He mentioned that TAPI and IP gas pipeline projects are very good projects but the regional instability remains the hindrance. Pakistan has to mitigate the security risk and diversify its energy mix.

Dr Moeed W Yusuf, the former national security adviser of Pakistan, commented on the 92 percent of border sharing with three important countries, India, Iran, and Afghanistan yet due to geopolitical challenges the trade has potentially suffered. Geo economy is the combination of regional connectivity, partnership, and collaboration.

Most Pakistan maintains fences with Iran and Afghanistan and the movement of the trade should be streamlined in a way that the fence should be a facilitation rather than a hindrance to the regional trade.

Ali J Siddiqui, former ambassador of Pakistan to USA, said Pakistan could be the major connector with the Central Asian countries as well as China, Iran, and Afghanistan through various projects. To begin with small projects of energy, logistics, and optical fiber can will pave the way toward the sustainability of cooperation.

He mentioned the sudden change after peace in Afghanistan as a catalyst for putting the plans into action; hence Pakistan needs to transform it into opportunities. This is the best time for formulated discussions and subsequent decisions.

Ghias Khan, President Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce & Industry (OICCI), confirmed that Pakistan enjoys a complimentary relationship with Central Asian states and has much to gain given a solid infrastructure.

Dr Shamshad Akhtar, Chairperson, Pakistan Stock Exchange, SSGC & Karandaaz former federal minister for finance, former governor of State Bank of Pakistan, joined online to share her expertise with Asean projects. She stressed the availability of a dedicated fund for the development of regional connectivity.

Aamir Ibrahim, CEO Jazz (VEON) and Chairman, Mobilink Microfinance Bank, added that commerce is evolving and we are under-investing in a jaundiced way. We must recognise the value that Pakistan has to gain in the future.

Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman (retd), Chief Executive Strategic Engagements, Nutshell Group, and Pakistan’s Chief of Air Staff (2015-2018), in his closing address, shared hope and a way forward for the wonderful discussion and insisted on this thought to be carried forward.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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