Employing trade as tool of security policy hurting economy: Senator Babar

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ISLAMABAD: Senator Farhatullah Babar said on Tuesday that the national economy will not become strong as long as regional trade is employed as a tool of security policy instead of promoting welfare through trade and people to people contacts.

He said this while addressing the launch of a report titled ‘Economic Agenda between Promises and Performance” by Policy Research Institute for Market Economy (PRIME) at a local hotel.

He said on the occasion that trade with Afghanistan had fallen from three billion dollars to about 1.5 billion dollars a year. Today 80 per cent of large containers entered into Afghanistan via Chahbahar port in Iran, he added.

He also said that by bypassing Pakistan, Kabul had banned Pakistani trucks altogether from entering into Afghanistan. No wonder that movements like Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) were gaining traction among the people of the deprived tribal areas, he added.

Further, he said that trade activities with India had been restricted due to political issues and called for following the Chinese model of trade. China’s trade with India had multiplied over the years and crossed over $ 100 billion despite the serious political problems between the two countries, he added.

Senator Babar said that besides the fact that local businesses were not being able to compete in price or quality with international businesses, the mindset that feared the outbreak of peace in the region also opposed regional trade to perpetuate their predominance in Pakistan.

He said the parliament’s recommendations to turn around the fate of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) had been ignored on the ground that the national carrier was a private entity and instead of restructuring it, the company was allowed to accumulate a huge debt.

He said that calls for power generation were common but no attention was given to the transmission and distribution of electricity, due to which load-shedding could not be controlled.

Moreover, Babar said that hyper judicial activism and perceived bias of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had gravely undermined the executive’s capacity to take economic decisions and called for legislation to regulate the use of suo moto powers.

Any power that was not regulated by the law or exercised excessively was a negation of the rule of law, he added.

He said that when courts use their suo moto powers, a citizen must feel that he was getting his/her right from the same courts. Suo moto must not degenerate into a hyperactivity in response to media headlines and the powers must be guided by law and not by populism, he added.

A public discussion on such issues was necessary amid talks of ‘new doctrines’ and ‘judicial martial laws’ that had spawned multiple fears, he said.

He recalled that in September 2011, a delegation of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) visited Pakistan and recommended that rules should be framed in regard to the criteria for the use of suo motu and allocation of cases to benches. The SC then issued a long rejoinder saying people appreciated the suo moto cases, he added. However it did not say anything about the law and the rules governing the criteria and allocation of suo moto cases, he concluded.