After the PTI’s recent drubbing in its stronghold -- Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday directed the Punjab government to immediately complete its homework for holding the local government elections in the province, saying that he himself would supervise its strategy.
“We want the transfer of power to the lower level. Strong local government system has been provided to solve the problems of the people at the grassroots level,” the premier said while addressing the inauguration ceremony of the Lahore Technopolis, a special technology zone (STZ).
PM Imran said, “The candidates should be selected by taking the workers and local leaders into confidence and all the reservations of PTI workers and the people should be removed.”
PM Imran said that preparations for the local body elections in Punjab must be completed at the earliest, directing the top leadership of Punjab to formulate a plan of action in consultation with the senior leaders.
On the economic situation, he said the biggest problem is that when inflation eases and economy normalises, dollar starts to shoot up due to which “we are compelled to approach the IMF”.
He stressed that Pakistan cannot move forward unless the country’s exports witnessed a surge and noted that the main cause of inflation was the rise in imports.
“When the value of dollar rises the debts go up and the government has to make payments. As soon as [country’s] economy stabilises dollar witnesses an upward trend.”
Hailing the Chinese model of development, PM Imran noted that Beijing had steered 700 million people out of poverty by eliminating corruption in 40 years and jailing over 450 ministerial-level people and enhancing exports.
He held corruption as the root cause of all problems and regretted that the nation’s wealth was transferred abroad due to this malpractice.
PM Imran observed that the tech industry could help overcome Pakistan’s current account deficit by boosting exports as well as addressing the issue of unemployment if the sector was incentivised and facilitated.
“The project will help provide incentives to the tech industry and bring ease to businessmen, in accordance with the government’s vision,” he said.
The STZs, being developed all across the country, would be home to Science and Technology Parks, manufacturing units, research and development centres of global tech companies and software houses. They would also feature universities, incubators, accelerators and other ecosystem players.
“The IT sector will also address the issue of unemployment of the youth, particularly the women, besides boosting the country’s exports,” the PM stated.
He lauded Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and other relevant ministers for allocating 800 acres of land for the purpose.
The premier added that all businesses faced a slump amid the Covid-19 outbreak, but profits of tech companies like Google, Amazon and others multiplied during the pandemic.
“Unfortunately, Pakistan lagged behind in the sector despite having ideal conditions, including a huge population of young people,” he said, adding that within 15 to 20 years, Indian tech exports boomed to $150 billion while Pakistan's could reach only $2 billion.”
He said the country had started achieving economic growth but the current account got disturbed owing to the import of machinery that ultimately devalued the local currency and compelled the government to approach the IMF for loans.
“The country can only come out of this cycle by boosting its exports and allowing wealth creation,” he said.
PM Imran called for redirecting the orientation of the government as well as the population towards enhancing exports and wealth creation.
He said that taking advantage of its 12 climatic zones, the country could reduce its import bill of commodities like edible oil through indigenous production of palm oil.
Calling them the biggest asset, the premier emphasised the involvement of overseas Pakistanis towards investment and wealth creation in the country.
“China and India had also first attracted their own firms operating abroad to invest at home,” he said. “Pakistani individuals, as well as the firms operating abroad including the Silicon Valley, were interested to invest in Pakistan which necessitated incentives and ease of doing business.”
The premier further stressed that the objective behind establishing the Technopolis projects in Lahore, Karachi and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa was to make the country join the tech race and provide employment to the people.
Earlier, the premier distributed licences among the companies which would be operating in the Technopolis.
The event also marked the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding for an investment of $300 million for the establishment of another three technology zones in different parts of the country.
Speaking on the occasion, CM Buzdar said Lahore had been selected as the Technopolis considering the existence of universities and other tech institutes as well as companies in the city.
“The project would help carry out technology-based researches and studies,” the provincial chief executive said.
In order to attract investment to Technopolis, the government had given a 10-year tax exemption to companies operating there. Companies from various countries like the US, Canada, China and Australia were approaching to invest here, the CM said.
Separately, PM Imran inaugurated Sheikh Abul Hassan Al-Shadhili Research Center on Sufism, Science and Technology at Government College University, Lahore.
He laid the foundation stone of the research center building, which would to be constructed at a cost of Rs140 million.
The institution is aimed at promoting societal reform, mutual harmony, respect of diversity, research on Sufism, science and technology, providing a single platform to local and international researchers and disbursing educational scholarships to students for research in the faculty.
Besides, the centre will also promote research and education about Sufism in existing faculties like history, Islamic teachings, political science, literature and others.
The research centre, which is providing education courses on Sufism at BS and MPhil levels, will also offer postdoctoral and research fellowship. Besides, it will also provide scholarships for doctorate to promote research on Sufism.
(With input from APP)
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