Finance Minister Asad Umar on Monday said that differences between Pakistan and the IMF had decreased following Prime Minister Imran Khan's meeting with International Monetary Fund (IMF) Chairperson Christine Lagarde on the sidelines of the World Government Summit yesterday.
"IMF has changed its position," Umar said in an address at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Peshawar. "It seems like we have come closer to reaching an agreement with the IMF."
The prime minister had described his meeting with Lagarde as a "convergence of views", while the latter assured him that the "IMF stands ready to support Pakistan".
The finance minister added that Pakistan's economic situation would only improve if the local business community and policymakers worked hard and made the right decisions.
Earlier today, senior PPP leader Sherry Rehman urged the government to address the reservations of the opposition over the IMF bailout package, and to disclose the terms of the agreement in Parliament.
"Why are the terms of the agreement being kept secret?" she asked. "How much of a loan will the government be taking from the IMF and what are the terms?"
"This agreement means the budget for the coming year will be coming from IMF headquarters," Rehman alleged.
"Are funds for the provinces being decreased at the IMF's behest?" Rehman asked.
"Details of the agreement should be presented in Parliament," the PPP leader asserted. "The government should maintain transparency and remove our reservations before the agreement is reached."
'Pakistan needs to improve trade with eastern and western neighbours'
Umar, while addressing the Peshawar Chamber, also stressed the need to increase regional trade and improve relations with neighbouring countries in order to boost the economy.
The finance minister said that while it is a good thing that Islamabad's relationship with Beijing is progressing and work on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is underway, there is "a need to improve relations and boost trade with [countries in] both the west and east of the region we live in".
He insisted that Pakistan needed to "increase trade with Iran and Afghanistan with complete focus". He also noted that officials from Western countries often say that regional trade is important and that Pakistan should improve trade relations with India.
"They are not wrong [...] but I ask them why doesn't this principle apply to Iran?"
"As far as the east is concerned, it seems that [there can be no progress] until elections are over in India. Half of their election campaigns are based on anti-Pakistan rhetoric, so right now they are busy with that. Once the elections are over, we hope that their behaviour will be better," he said.
The finance minister also commented on the Afghan peace process and said that "Pakistan should play whatever role it can" in ensuring peace in the neighbouring country.
"It is clear to the people living in Peshawar and the rest of KP [that there should be peace in Afghanistan]. It should be clear to everyone that there can be no peace in Pakistan unless there is peace in Afghanistan."
He acknowledged that trade had slowed down due to the closure of Torkham border and pointed out that the prime minister had already announced that the crossing should remain open 24 hours. However, he said, due to the slackness of government departments, progress was slow.
He also revealed that during Prime Minister Imran Khan's visit to Turkey earlier this year, Islamabad and Istanbul had agreed on working on a strategic economic framework. Pakistan will hand over the first draft of the framework to Turkey in February, he said. The Turkish delegation, that is working on the framework, is being led by the Turkish vice president, while the Pakistani side is being led by the finance minister himself.
"I said to the Turkish vice president that this [framework] should not just be limited to us. Our vision for the next 10, 20 years should be for Iran to become a part of this [economic framework] as well," he said. "Iran, Pakistan and Turkey should obviously be a part of it. [Through this framework] Pakistan should become a gateway for Turkey so they can trade with India and China. And Turkey should become a gateway for Pakistan so we can trade with Europe and Central Asia states."
He said that the geographical location of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was important in terms of establishing trade routes and it should be recognised in the national economic policy.
The finance minister also emphasised on the importance of developing the tourism industry in Pakistan. He said that mountainous areas could not be industrialised anywhere in the world, but they could be developed to boost tourism.