KARACHI – Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif yesterday reiterated his government’s commitment to development of Pakistan at a fast pace and said the nation must question those who were trying to push the country to the ages of darkness.

Addressing the awards-distribution ceremony for the companies that showed outstanding performance at the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSE) here, the prime minister said the PSE had emerged among the top 10 best performing stock exchanges in the world. He said when his government came into power the stock exchange index was around 19,000 points, but now it had gone up to 41,000 points, which reflected the robust economy of the country.

He said boosting exports was his top priority and the government would give short, medium and long-term relief to the exporters so that no segment could miss to achieve the growth targets.

Premier Nawaz Sharif said the government revenues had increased by 60 percent, while the foreign exchange reserves were at their highest level due to the government’s successful economic policies.

He said international financial institutions had repeatedly confirmed the positive economic indicators owing to the political and economic stability.

Nawaz said his government was committed to ridding the country of loadshedding by 2018, adding today the industrial units were getting electricity and natural gas.

He said efforts were afoot not only to generate more electricity, but also to lower its tariff so as to make its products more competitive in international markets.

The PM said Pakistan Railways needed to be upgraded urgently to facilitate the industrial and business consumers and added his government was working on a comprehensive plan to enhance the country’s air, road and rail network. He said the landmark CPEC project would further complement the benefits of improved railway infrastructure. He said under the CPEC, special economic zones were being established and said it would serve as an ideal platform for facilitating the country’s exporters.

He averred special measures had been taken to revive the national flag carrier and to make it one of the best airlines in the world.

The prime minister said work on Lahore-Karachi motorway was going ahead at a fast pace, announcing he would soon lay the foundation stone of Hyderabad-Sukkur motorway. He affirmed work on Sukkur-Multan and Multan-Lahore sections was in progress at a fast pace. He said inter-connecting roads were being built across the country to help boost trade and business. He recalled the nationalisation process in the 70s and said it had slowed the country’s pace of progress. He said all these units managed to earn profits once they were privatised. Earlier, Pakistan Stock Exchange Chairman Munir Kamal said it was Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s second visit for the annual awards ceremony in two years, showed his commitment to this vital sector.

Later, talking to a group of leading industrial exporters of the country at the residence of Board of Investment Chairman Dr Miftah Ismail, the prime minister said economic growth and exports were interlinked. “We cannot afford to ignore our exports,” he added. The prime minister directed the Ministry of Commerce to make arrangements for duty-free import of additional five million bales of cotton in the wake of low cotton yield of the country.  He also sought a proposal in this regard to be presented immediately before the cabinet for approval.The exporters lauded the economic turnaround achieved under the leadership of the prime minister and said historic foreign exchange reserves, coupled with improved security situation in the country, had reinforced confidence of the exporters, a statement from the PM’s media office said.

The economic turnaround achieved due to the prudent and investors-friendly policies of the present government was indeed commendable, the exporters said.

They apprised the prime minister that they were making all-out efforts to increase the country’s exports in the wake of robust economic growth and support of the government. The exporters, during the meeting, highlighted certain proposals on rationalisation of cost of doing business.

Premier Nawaz Sharif said exports were the future of the economy. “Our vision is to spread dividends of economic turnaround among all the stakeholders in an equitable manner.”He said increase in economic activities and ease of doing business would result in reduction of unemployment and alleviation of poverty from the country.

Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad Khan and Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah were also present on the occasion.

Earlier, on his arrival on a daylong visit to the metropolis, the prime minister was welcomed by Sindh Governor Ishratul Ebad and Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah at Jinnah International Airport. He was accompanied by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and Senator Nihal Hashmi.

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