Through a statement circulated by his public relations officer, Interior Minister Asan Iqbal on Friday said that the Director General of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, should refrain from commenting on the country’s economic situation, DawnNews reported.
The response seems to have been directed at an interview the military’s spokesman gave to a private TV channel the day earlier, in which he had said that: “If the economy is not bad, it is not doing so well either.”
The remarks followed an address by army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, given to leaders of Karachi’s business community earlier this week, in which he had stressed that economy stability was tied deeply to Pakistan’s security concerns.
Gen Bajwa had said that Pakistan needs to expand its tax base, bring in financial discipline and ensure continuity of economic policies to be able to break the begging bowl, military’s media wing had reported.
“The economy is showing mixed indicators,” he had said before an audience of businessmen and the military leadership of Karachi at a daylong event organised by the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) and ISPR at the DHA Golf Club on Wednesday.
“Growth has picked up but the debts are sky high. [The situation regarding] infrastructure and energy have improved considerably but the current account balance is not in our favour,” Bajwa was quoted as saying.
The closest Gen Bajwa came to identifying economic priorities was when he stressed the need for widening the tax base, bringing in fiscal discipline and ensuring continuity of economic policies.
“Pakistan’s economy is stable,” Ahsan Iqbal asserted in response to those statements. “Irresponsible statements will bring disrepute to the country,” Iqbal added, claiming that the economy today was doing a lot better than it was in 2013.
It is pertinent to mention that the World Bank has also warned that macroeconomic risks in Pakistan have increased substantially during fiscal year 2017, as the external balance is particularly vulnerable given the persistent current account deficit, affecting the country’s reserve position.
Pakistan’s weaker macroeconomic discipline has led to vulnerabilities in the balance of payments. Since the International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme came to an end, external indicators of the economy have deteriorated, says ‘The South Asia Economic Focus Fall 2017’ released earlier this month, ahead of the World Bank and IMF annual meetings.