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Pakistan should focus on complete restructuring of its economy to achieve the sustained growth and enhance global standing amid peace efforts in neighbouring Afghanistan that would ultimately help Islamabad benefit from trade and transit networks in the region.

Chairperson of the Institute for Policy Reforms Humayun Akhtar Khan said this on Thursday at a seminar, "Crisis or Peace: Pakistan, India and Afghanistan," held here by his institute. "We must completely restructure the economy so that the country can achieve sustained growth that empowers the people and builds a strong society," he said.

Khan said that Pakistan's weak economy and dependence on loans have reduced its global standing, adding that peace in Afghanistan holds great promise for regional prosperity and Pakistan would benefit from the trade and transit networks and energy corridors.

About recent tensions with India, he lauded the wisdom of Prime Minister Imran Khan in averting the situation to escalate further with the nuclear-armed neighbour. "The international community has also appreciated our role," he said, adding that India cannot hide its atrocities against innocent Kashmiris from the world.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr Moeed Yusuf said that Indian and Pakistani behaviour in the recent border tensions was influenced by the Uri incident of 2016, as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi dared pressure Pakistan through violation of airspace.

"Modi miscalculated Pakistan's response threshold," he said, who is also author of Brokering Peace in Nuclear Environments, a book that studies India-Pakistan crises.

He suggested that the next crisis would be even more difficult to manage, adding that Pulwama crisis did not go according to plan for Modi, next time he would go even further.

"A repeat crisis, especially before elections, could push things towards all-out war. Anger among Kashmiri youth makes another crisis entirely possible," he said.

General Ishfaq Nadeem, former Chief of General Staff, said that the endgame in Afghanistan held considerable promise for Pakistan and the region.

"Peace in Afghanistan is possible if the US negotiations with the Taliban are successful," he said, adding if diplomatic efforts fail and USA withdraws unilaterally, the Afghan conflict will prolong indefinitely.

Nadeem, however, warned that without much-needed socio-economic development, reconciliation will falter as Afghanistan has become a ground for proxy wars, especially between India and Pakistan.

Expressing hope that all US agencies would work together to successfully conclude the endgame in Afghanistan, he said that US must also support reconstruction of Afghanistan to sustain peace.

Ahmed Rashid, renowned author and expert on Afghan Taliban, said that for many years Pakistan has failed to take advantage of the enormous benefits to be gained from connectivity and communications in its near neighbourhood.

Afghanistan, Iran and Central Asia are already reaping the benefits of a constructive connectivity policy whether it is in terms of trade, water, or electricity, he said, adding that with the possible winding down of the war in Afghanistan, Pakistan which is at the crossroads of the region now has a huge opportunity to benefit from its neighbours, but it will have to be more flexible with India.

Rahimullah Yousufzai, author and analyst, discussed the implication of the new Pakistan-India crisis.

Also focusing on Afghan peace negotiations, General Asif Yasin, former Corps Commander Peshawar, said that many regions around the globe have been in turmoil since WW-II. The South Asia especially has been in constant turmoil since 1948.

None of the South Asian countries have successfully improved the well being of their people or realised their potential. World powers have armed these countries and also have manipulated their policies. As a consequence, these countries remain in poverty and in dismal social state. "It is critical that not only we play our cards well but also ensure an outcome most suited to the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan," he added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019

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