(VNS) To commemorate the 73rd anniversary of the National Day of Pakistan (March 23), Viet Nam News presents an article by Charge d'Affaires to Viet Nam Aizaz Khan
On the occasion of the 73rd anniversary of the National Day of Pakistan, preparations are underway in Pakistan for General Elections. Hopefully three months from now, a new democratically elected parliament will be in place – setting an important precedent in the history of our country.
In the last five years Pakistan has come a long way. We faced many problems and challenges like the great floods of 2010, the extraordinary rains of 2011 and a sharp increase in the price of imported oil, but the Pakistani nation stood fast and persevered even the toughest times.
During the last five years, Pakistan achieved many milestones, like the abolishing of the Concurrent List, transferring eighteen ministries to the provinces, enhancing provincial autonomy and making the Council of Common Interests fully functional.
This showcases the complete unity of our nation in adopting legislation to make our country strong and democracy more inclusive.
Our country has faced the threat of militancy and extremism. Our forces and police and civilians have been attacked and martyred. Our bases, police stations, pipelines, railways, hotels and schools have been targeted. Even our mosques, churches and religious shrines have not been spared. Our country's image has been negatively projected. Our economy has had to bear extra burdens. Even the good name of our great religion – a religion of peace and harmony and love – has been exploited. To deal with the mind-set of a small minority, we mobilised our society and tried to generate a national consensus.
Where necessary the Pakistani government has used force to ensure that the writ of the state is not challenged. Pakistan will continue to show resolve on this issue. Our efforts have begun to pay off and the situation has improved. The nation recognises the sacrifices of our Armed Forces, Civil Armed Forces, Police and all the innocent men and women who have suffered or embraced martyrdom.
Also the 20th amendment in our constitution ensures the independence of the Election Commission and the selection of an impartial Care Taker Government through a process of consultation in the parliament. This extraordinary legislation will guarantee credible elections, increase confidence in democracy and enhance the image of our country in the world.
To fight against corruption, Pakistan gave the Leader of the Opposition the role of Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee. The PAC is the nation's foremost body for keeping the government departments in check and ensuring accountability at the highest level. There is perhaps no parallel to this measure of transparency in parliamentary democracies.
Over the last five years Pakistan made difficult decisions to maintain economic stability. Despite difficult circumstances, the economy grew by three per cent on average in the last five years. Exports crossed a historic benchmark of US$25 billion last year. Remittances were $11.2 billion last year.
Our foreign exchange reserves reached their highest level ever at over $18 billion at the end of June 2012. In spite of global increases in the prices of oil and food, our rate of inflation has been coming down. Pakistan has worked hard to bring inflation from its peak of 25 per cent in 2008 to 7 per cent now. We have taken steps to raise revenues. Last year, tax growth was the highest ever at 26 per cent. The stock market has begun to improve. Dependence on food imports has been reduced.
Our wheat crop has touched 25 million tons and cotton crop 13 million bales despite losses of 2 million bales in floods in Sindh.
Foreign direct investment, which reached $5 billion in 2008, is now a little over $1 billion (as of the end of 2012). Now investors are again eyeing Pakistan.
Just over 10 days ago, Pakistan's Bahria Town and a US investment group signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for a $15-20 billion investment. Under the project, prominent US investor Thomas Kramer would construct the world's tallest building and a number of other projects about 3km off the Karachi shore. This may very well be a sign that things are moving in the right direction.
Pakistan also recently conducted a ground-breaking ceremony for the Iran-Pakistan gas pipe-line, which will enable Pakistan to end the energy crisis in a few years' time.
Pakistan's relations with Viet Nam are most certainly moving in the right direction.
By the end of December 2012, bilateral trade figures touched at $400 million. Both countries are endeavouring to institutionalise bilateral ties.
To this end, four MoUs are ready to be signed while another five are under consideration. An important achievement of 2012 was holding the Second Session of Joint Trade Commission (JTC) in Islamabad in August, whereby both sides discussed ways to boost bilateral trade through the mechanisms of the Joint Working Group. It is important to note that the First Session of the JTC was held in Ha Noi in July 2011.
The 40th anniversary of the establishment of formal ties was also held in a befitting manner, illustrating the ever-flourishing bilateral ties between Pakistan and Viet Nam.
The Pakistan Embassy is also actively engaged in all charitable events. I am sure that the way Pakistan-Viet Nam relations are progressing, we will soon achieve the target of $1 billion in bilateral trade, thus ushering in a new era of friendship and prosperity for the peoples of both Viet Nam and Pakistan. — VNS