Consulate General of Pakistan in Toronto and Canada-Pakistan Business Council (CPBC), the apex trade promoting body, facilitated Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar luncheon with the Canadian dignitaries and businessmen on 6 April. The Minister, who was transiting Toronto, took time out to grace the occasion and address a high level gathering.
The event was attended by the political elites, dignitaries from the Canadian and Pakistani
governments, leading business owners and Directors and members of the CPBC. Among
notables were Senator Salma Ataullahjan, MP Brad Butt, MP John McCallum, Ontario Minister
Dr. Reza Moridi, MPP Dr. Shafiq Qaadri, High Commissioner of Pakistan Akbar Zeb, Consul
General Nafees Zakaria, Deputy CG Mr. Asghar Golo, Officials from MEDTE and OMAF and
CPBC Chairman Bryon Wilfert, to name a few.
Minister Dar started off by thanking Mr. Samir Dossal for turning his transit into a fruitful
opportunity and appreciated the strategic role which CPBC has played in building business
relationship between Canada and Pakistan for 3 decades. He then presented a comprehensive
overview of the state of economy of Pakistan and the policy direction that the democratically
elected government of Pakistan Muslim League (N) was giving to the country.
He outlined the bold steps taken by the government to address the challenges of economy,
energy crisis and security, which resulted in a promising outcome. He said that the impressive
macro-economic indicators, as monitored and assessed by international financial institutions,
present a picture of sustainable growth and economic stability. He stated that the IMF gave a
clean chit to Pakistan’s economic health, which led to engagement with major financial
institutions. This positive economic performance has enabled Pakistan to enter the
international bond market after seven years of absence. He said that he was in touch with
international bond managers for expression of interest, who would revert in a couple of days.
Senator Dar shared the good news about significant enhancement in foreign investments due
to the restoration of investors’ confidence on the back of the strengthening of rupee vis-à-vis
the US dollar and other currencies, and high and speedy returns for venture capitalists.
On tackling security, the Minister said that the Government was determined to deal with the
issue of extremism decisively and to eradicate the menace. Pakistan wants to give peace a
chance. He regretted that despite Pakistan’s sacrifices, colossal economic losses and sincere
efforts, some were playing the blame game. He stressed that Pakistan was fighting the common
enemy.
He assured the Canadian and Pakistani community that Pakistan was on path to economic
progress and cited economist Jim O’Neil’s prediction that by 2050 Pakistan would be the 18th
largest economy of the world. He was confident that with exploitation of hydrocarbon reserves 2
and other natural resources, it could be achieved even earlier. Minister Dar mentioned that the
Government was committed to the 4Es of the election manifesto that is Economy, Energy,
Education and Eradication of Extremism.
MP John McCallum, the former Chief Economist for RBC, lauded Senator Dar’s briefing and
expressed understanding that Pakistan indeed was full of potential. In an expression of
solidarity with Pakistan, he criticized the recent controversial remarks by Citizenship &
Immigration Minister Chris Alexander on Pakistan and wondered if it was his mandate.
Senator Salma Ataullahjan praised the Pakistani community’s contributions to the development
and progress of Canada. Also referring to Mr Alexander’s remarks, she assured the gathering
that the minister’s words were his personal views. She also confirmed that Canada wished to
work closely with Pakistan in diverse areas.
Conservative MP Brad Butt also praised Pakistan and its diaspora, and recounted his positive
experiences during his recent visit to Pakistan. The impact of this trip and his recent
engagements with the Pakistani community spurred him to pledge his support.
Minister Reza Moridi, while mentioning Canadian achievements in bio-science, ICT and the
health sector, said that from their political goodwill and cordial relations, Pakistan and Canada
can touch new heights in their relationship. He said that trade between the two countries was
far below the true potential. He also presented Premier Kathleen Wynne’s greetings to the
Finance Minister Dar in which she expressed her confidence that the minister’s visit would pave
the way for increased prospects for bilateral trade and investment.
CPBC President Mr. Samir Dossal, who was moderating the event, also moderated the Q&A
session at the end. Acknowledging the continued strong relationship between Canada and
Pakistan, Mr Dossal also announced that Premier Wynne has formally invited the Chief Minister
of Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif, to visit Ontario. In November 2013, during a visit to Pakistan, Mr
Dossal also extended a personal invitation to Mr Sharif to be the chief guest at the upcoming
CPBC gala in June 2014.
In the end, the CPBC Chairman Bryon Wilfert presented a vote of thanks and said that the
Minister Dar’s presentations were hugely informative and reassuring. He urged the audience to
spread the word to counter the often one-sided negative media coverage that prevails about
Pakistan.