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Wednesday, July 17, 2024  
10 Muharram 1446  

Army’s role is not to conduct business, says ex-PM Abbasi

Cites defence budget should be discussed before people
Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi during an interview with Spotlight with Munizae Jahangir aired on Aaj News on June 19, 2024. Screengrab via Aaj News
Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi during an interview with Spotlight with Munizae Jahangir aired on Aaj News on June 19, 2024. Screengrab via Aaj News

The army’s job is not to do business, as involvement in commercial activities can lead to more issues and distractions, former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has said.

“Principally, the army’s job is not to do business. The institution should stay away from it as it leads to issues,” he said in an interview with Spotlight with Munizae Jahangir aired on Aaj News on Tuesday.

He was about the country’s defence budget and different businesses operated by the institution.

In February, Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa spoke on the same wavelength while hearing a case scrutinising the use of military lands for business purposes. He had called for a commitment from the federal government to ensure the armed forces exclusively focus on defence-related matters rather than commercial activities.

The federal government has earmarked more than Rs2,100 billion for defence in its annual budget for fiscal year 2024-25. Pakistan’s defence budget has been in discussion amid the country’s weak economy.

Abbasi agreed with the belief that the country needed a stable economy to support its security. He also highlighted that the area needed to be strengthened in view of the major terrorism threat.

When asked, he suggested that the government has to make defence expenses and they should be discussed before people. “There should be a debate on the budget, at least on a committee level. Something cannot be publicly stated and that can be discussed in the National Security Council. At least parliamentarians should be taken into confidence as to where we are investing this Rs2,100 amount.”

At one point, the former prime minister said that the country’s main problem was debt servicing which has soared to around Rs10,000 from Rs1,500 in 2018.

“If you make the economy strong then you will be able to keep guns and run the government. Your every step should be focused on boosting the economy,” Abbasi said.

Who should run Pakistan?

When asked about the “hybrid model” of government, he said that such a form of rule should not continue if the Constitution does not allow it.

He was of the view that such situations arise after the failure of the political system

Abbasi stressed the need for reconciling, adding that there should be a discussion on the form of the system. “Give three free and fair elections to the country and your system will be fine.”

He called for “correcting the history” to secure the future and added that politicians, judiciary and establishment should sit together to run the state of affairs.

The former prime minister rejected the perception that the ‘hybrid model’ started when was the prime minister after Nawaz Sharif.

In response to a question about the government, he said: “The solution is capability. If you don’t have it then you will have to give space.”

While speaking about his upcoming party, Abbasi said that the party was based on “Pakistan and the Constitution” as the two things connected people to bring reforms, deliver, and resolve issues.

“We will approach people after launching our party. Those who are credible and can do anything for the party can join us.”

To further understand his ideology, he was asked whether the government should have talks with the banned terrorist group TTP. “You have to fight Pakistan’s enemies. If negotiations can resolve matters then it’s good or else you have to fight as you cannot allow terrorism.”

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