“We will remain committed to help Pakistan’s civilian government as well as security forces in dealing with terrorism”
Jahangir’s World Times (JWT): You have been serving here in Pakistan for over four years. Now that your tenure is ending soon, what are your observations on Pakistan?
Adam Thomson (AT): I have a privilege to serve in this country. It’s a great country but I think Pakistan is facing many challenges; nevertheless, the foundations have been laid to a much better future. Today, it’s a difficult time, but if Pakistani government successfully overcomes the extremism problem, betters its relations with neighbouring countries, and delivers to the masses, I am confident that Pakistan has a bright future.
JWT: You have relentlessly worked to enhance bilateral trade between Pakistan and the UK. How do you see the potential in this regard?
AT: Trade is crucial to our relationship. This is the tool to develop good, stronger and deeper relations. In trade realm, the Prime Ministers of both UK and Pakistan have set very ambitious targets. The key challenge is to change Pakistan’s image in the minds of British businessmen, who are not inclined to investing in Pakistan at present. We are striving to make them aware on huge opportunities and great potential in Pakistan.
JWT: How do you see the state of Pakistan’s economy?
AT: There is a lot to do about the economy of Pakistan. The incumbent government has taken some steps on economic reforms that bode well for the future. The government has adopted a serious approach regarding the energy sector which should attract foreign investors to Pakistan. In my opinion, one area where the reforms are inevitable is tax revenue. You know, Pakistan, with only 9% tax-to-GDP ratio, is one of the countries with lowest tax collection. This leaves the government with little money for public expenditures. Let alone the matter of increasing taxes, people do not even pay the taxes already approved by the country’s parliament. Can you imagine that out of a population of 180 million, only 0.75 million people are regular taxpayers.
JWT: But every Pakistani is paying taxes in the form of indirect taxation?
AT: The indirect tax taxation is an important way to raising revenue. In Pakistan, it seems to me that the most important job is to net the taxpayers in direct taxation. If the rich can afford holidays abroad, can have big cars and luxury houses, then they must also pay taxes.
It’s a question for country’s leadership and businessmen, wealthy individuals and politicians; they all need to take a lead in the country by showing that they actually pay their taxes. Here, I would mention an instance in recent years when in the UK the politicians, who stretched the limits of their allowances and did not pay their taxes, were prosecuted and some of them were convicted too. It is widely believed that in Pakistan politicians do not pay their taxes. However, quite encouragingly Prime Minister of Pakistan is working well for the bright future of the country.
Democracy has seen a transition in Pakistan for the very first time, and the UK does support democracy in Pakistan. But, elections are not the whole story of democracy; one most important part of this is a contract between the government and the people. If people pay their taxes, the government must deliver.
JWT: You are pressing for more taxes but the government is also supposed to provide relief, especially in the wake of high inflation?
AT: One of the reasons why ordinary people of Pakistan are suffering is the rising inflation. This is because Pakistan spends its 60% revenue on debt retirement. This leaves the government with only 40% to provide basic amenities to the people.
JWT: Pakistan has appointed a new army chief. How do you see this development?
AT: I wish Gen Sharif well. I hope he will succeed in his military duties and continue his support to strengthening democracy. The UK will remain committed to help Pakistan’s civilian government as well as security forces in dealing with terrorism. We are providing practical support to protect peoples’ lives in Pakistan by providing help in countering Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). We aspire to work together to counter the threat of terrorism.
JWT: Pakistan and the UK are partners in War on Terror. During your stay here in Pakistan, how did you find Gen Kayani in said respect?
AT: Yes, we are partners and we do support all authorities including Pakistan army. I had the opportunity to work quite closely with Gen Kayani. I feel for him as I feel for any leader in Pakistan. They had faced exceptional difficulties against war on terror. I feel he has done as much he has been able to do.
JWT: What are your views on Pakistan’s efforts to normalize relations with Afghanistan?
AT: I admire the efforts Pakistan has made under the civilian government over the last few years to reach out with his neighbours especially Afghanistan. I hope soon the two countries will be holding joint economic commission meetings. The two countries will accelerate their economic relationship as Pakistan needs trading relationships with its neighbours like Afghanistan, Iran and also with India. It is good for both the countries, especially for Pakistan.
JWT: How do you take PM Sharif’s stance to have trade with India?
AT: It is a good omen and important for Pakistan’s future as well. This country needs economic growth for the growing population. Trade liberalization with India can give a huge boost to Pakistan’s economy. I hope the Nawaz government will not wait for the upcoming Indian elections to proceed for trade ties with India.
I feel hopeful for better Pak India relationship and I think Pakistan needs to change its security paradigm. Pakistan security now rests on economic prosperity and the ability to combat extremism and terrorism in this country.
JWT: You are going to leave Pakistan soon, would you like to give any message to the people of Pakistan?
AT: I would say that please pay your taxes and make the politicians pay their taxes for the sake of country’s economic growth. It is also important for the government of Pakistan to implement its writ on every inch of its territory to make good atmosphere.