Army chief sparks hope for economic revival in the business community

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LAHORE: The four-hour meeting on Saturday between Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Asim Munir, and representatives of the business community has begun to influence the nation’s economic landscape.

The Pakistani Rupee posted gains earlier in the day, and the Stock Market showed hopes of recovery before both these metrics fell into the economic deterioration unfolding in real time. Nevertheless, the economic corners of the country are brimming with hope after Saturday’s conclave.

It is not uncommon for the Army Chief to hold meetings with representatives of the corporate sector. However, these meetings have emerged as a potential turning point for the nation’s economic future.

In a glimmer of optimism, the COAS has hinted at the potential infusion of substantial investments into the country, offering a possible lifeline to steer the economy towards recovery.

While the specifics of the closed-door meeting remained undisclosed through official channels, insights shared by attendees afterward suggest that General Asim is resolute and confident in his vision to resuscitate the nation’s economy amid trying times.

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President of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FPCCI), Irfan Iqbal Sheikh, a participant in the meeting, revealed on a Geo News programme that General Asim aspires to attract nearly $100 billion in investments from Saudi Arabia and other UAE nations.

Sheikh disclosed that the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammad Bin Salman, had committed to sending $25 billion to Pakistan, with $10 billion earmarked for the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to fortify Pakistan’s reserves. General Asim purportedly conveyed that this amount would be repaid to Saudi Arabia in Pakistani Rupees or goods, boosting foreign exchange reserves.

Central to the discussion was the creation of the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC), designed to eliminate bureaucratic impediments to investment, as relayed by attendees. In a noteworthy departure from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), General Asim reportedly also mentioned potential investments of $25 billion each from Qatar and Kuwait.

Muhammad Zubair Motiwala, CEO of the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP), who attended the meeting, observed that General Asim displayed composure, confidence, and a notable change in demeanour compared to previous encounters. General Asim’s commitment to curbing Iranian oil smuggling into Karachi and addressing corruption issues was shared by Motiwala.

While acknowledging the financial strain caused by inefficient State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs), General Asim expressed doubt that political governments would opt for wholesale privatisation.

The meeting touched on multiple critical issues, including curtailing dollarisation, power sector reforms, and addressing the repatriation of illegal immigrants, as reported by attendees.

All eyes are now eagerly fixed on the forthcoming visit of Mohammad Bin Salman, with expectations running high for concrete developments on the horizon.

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