PAKISTAN HAS BECOME A CHOICE DESTINATION FOR GLOBAL INVESTMENTS

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MUHAMMAD SALMAN IQBAL FOUNDER & PRESIDENT ARY DIGITAL NETWORK

INTERVIEW by Amanullah Khan
Arranged by Khurram Jaffrani
Photo: Syed Rizwan Ali

It is the blessing of Allah that today Pakistan has become the choice destination of investment both for the domestic and foreign investors.
You in the current scenario there is an economic crisis elsewhere in the world even Saudi Arabia has recently imposed Value Added Tax for the first time and this new trend of taxation may also reach other countries in the Diddle East. Recently, USA has put an entry ban in the US on seven countries, said Salman Iqbal President ARY Digital Communications in an interview.

Under the situation Pakistan is the best option for global investors making the economic outlook of country on an extremely positive side.
You will be happy to note that earlier there was a trend of capital flight from Pakistan which has been reversed recently and the out flown investment coming back to Pakistan especially in the real estate sector where huge development projects are coming up on the ground.
The external flow of investment in energy sector, telecom and other big business houses is quite visible, however all this inflow of investment is not because of the economic policies of the country but due to impact of economic crisis in other countries. It is said that a huge amount of funds belonging to Pakistanis is lying abroad, there is a need of bold decisions by giving exemptions from enquiries and questions with a five to ten percent charges on the funds returned to Pakistan, and I strongly believe that this will open a flood gate of investment in Pakistan

PO: Having an extensive international exposure and being the head of a big media group how would you describe the current economic growth in the country and specially after the arrival of a major economic program of CPEC what is your judgment of economic outcome of the current momentum of economic growth in Pakistan?

SALMAN: The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) program is a lifetime opportunity for Pakistan to catch up the economic growth even to leave behind other countries in the region. It may be described as an economic boon for Pakistan, if it is handled wisely it has the potential to completely change economic scenario of the country.

PAKISTAN SUPERIOR LEAGUE (PSL)

PO: What was in your mind before joining Pakistan superior League and to offer highest bid to own Karachi Kings squad?

SALMAN: Cricket has been a passion of my family and for whole of my life, you may recall that my father and his elder brother were first to boost cricket in Sharjah in 80s and since then we are promoting cricket within and outside Pakistan.

The League matches under the flagship of Pakistan Superior League (PSL) was an opportunity for us to sponsor a team and in the current tournament were determined to invest in Karachi Kings despite a cutthroat competition from major business houses of Karachi.

Paying rich tributes to Arif Habib who was also one of the contenders for owning a PSL team. The bidding was started from $20 million which went up to $25 million and when I offered $26 million Arif Saheb while realizing our passion and zeal for owning Karachi Kings he appreciated our bid of $26 million with his remarks “I cannot discourage this young man by increasing the bid let him relish in joy and happiness of having Karachi Kings team on his plate. He is however joined our panel as our sponsor which is certainly great of him.

PO: Why did you prefer to buy Karachi team?

SALMAN: Karachi which is mini Pakistan which represents not only to the people from all the federating units of Pakistan but being the commercial, economic, industrial and social hub of the country this metropolitan city presents a real cosmopolitan image as you can see people from all corners of the world are living in this city. However unfortunately the persistent law and order situation and rising crime rate has distorted the image of loving city of Karachi and it is our endeavor to restore the image of the country in general and of Karachi in particular through the most popular game of cricket. “I am confident that the day not at distant when the world cricket teams would be arriving Pakistan and Karachi.

PO: What is the strategy in your mind to uplift the image of Karachi through sports?

SALMAN: It is our endeavor to organize matches at the National Stadium of Karachi and if we are succeeded in puling a crowd of 25000-30000 this would be a great initiative to attract international teams that big sports events can be organized at the National Stadium which may also evaporate the false concept about the city as a dangerous place for sports or social events.

Signifying the importance of sports for promoting peace and harmony among different factions of the society, we decided to use cricket as a tool for creating a national spirit which is apparently visible whenever Pakistan team contests matches against foreign teams which is a positive sign that the national spirit still very much alive in the blood of the people despite all socio-economic odds faced by the people.

In fact we were determined to an attempt for sponsorship of all the five teaming participating in the PSL however since the first bidding was invited for Karachi Kings and with blessings of Allah Almighty we succeeded in availing the opportunity of owning Karachi Kings.

PO: Would you like to share whether investing $26 million is to accomplish you love for cricket and passion to promote sports or economic interest is also attached with this venture?

SALMAN: there is no second thought regarding our passion to lift the image of the country and restore sports activity in Karachi yet economic part of this project is also important. Although there was an economic loss in the previous tournament yet this time we are hopeful to reach close to a breakeven.

PO: Would you like to share your decision of making Kris Gail a member of the squad what was in your mind, are you depending on him as a match winning player?

SALMAN: In fact we were considering to invite Kris Gail in the previous tournament but in the previous set up it was not possible but this time we were determined include him in the team yet beside Kris Gail we have a strong batting line-up of at least ten players and we are confident and expectations to reach the final of the tournament.

PO: There are reports that the results of the Indian Premier League (IPL) are designed and manipulated what about PSL is there any possibility of manipulation in our case?

SALMAN: Actually the level of strictness for a fair play adopted by the PCB was never witnessed before.

There is a monitoring system to watch the activity of the team from entry points to elsewhere we go abroad there is foolproof watch of the team so there is no chance of manipulation in PSL. We are not India; we cannot afford even a small spot on our team under the current situation. If there is an allegation on Indian team they change the team but in our case we are not in a position to change teams as it would hurt the entire PSL set up, so there are frequent meetings and interactive discussions to ensure a clean and fair game in the tournament.

PO: Do you satisfied with the law and order situation in Karachi and is the situation is conducive to hold international matches in Karachi

SALMAN: Karachi is one of the biggest cities of the world and the citizens of Karachi have witnessed horrible and hair raising law and order situation, so the current law and order situation can be described well under control and in a huge city of Karachi the
occasional street crimes should be taken with ease as such happenings are occurred in all major cities of the world, As far as international sports events are concerned we talked to Chief Minister, DG Rangers and other high ups they are all supportive and offered all kind of security arrangements whenever big sports events are organized in Karachi.

PROFILE OF SALMAN IQBAL

Muhammad Salman Iqbal is a Pakistani Media leader and Film Producer for ARY Films. As a businessman, he is known as the founder of 24-hour news cycle network in Pakistan, ARY Digital Network, which he founded in 2000 . He is also its chief executive officer of the ARY Group, that was started by his late uncle Abdul Razzak Yaqoob who died in 2014,[2 and publisher of the Newsweek Middle East magazine.

In Pakistan, Salman Iqbal is recognized as a voice of independent media and as one of the most influential media personalities. In
recognition of the remarkable achievements of Mr Iqbal, he was placed among the most distinguished Muslim figures from around the globe.
“Mr Salman Iqbal owns the largest media network in Pakistan called ARY Digital Network available in Pakistan, the Middle East, Europe, North America, and many other regions of the world,” stated the website.
“He is recognized as a voice of independent media in Pakistan and one of the most powerful and influential media personalities in the Muslim World.”