KARACHI: Days after the premier and finance minister seemed to blame international meddling in the country’s nuclear programme for an inordinate delay in finalising a deal with IMF, the federal government has had to ‘walk back’ this stance and clarify that misgivings over the country’s missile programme should not be linked with the ongoing talks with the lender.
In a press release issued by the Ministry of Finance on Monday, Mr Dar said his statement on the floor of the Senate, in response to a query regarding reasons for delay in IMF programme, was being “quoted out of context”.
“My comments with regards to Pakistan’s nuclear programme were in response to a colleague senator’s specific question, wherein, I emphasised that Pakistan has sovereign right to develop its nuclear programme, as it best suits our national interests. without any external dictation, which, by no means should in any way whatsoever be linked with the ongoing negotiations with the IMF,” he said.
“It is clarified that neither the IMF nor any country has attached any conditionality or made any demand from Pakistan with regard to our nuclear capability and the delay in IMF staff-level agreement is purely due to technical reasons, for which we are continuously engaged with the IMF in order to conclude it at the earliest,” he said.
The statement follows remarks by Esther Perez Ruiz, the Fund’s resident representative in Pakistan, who told journalists in response to a query that their discussions focused exclusively on “Pakistan’s economic and balance of payments problems” and there was no truth to any insinuated link between IMF programme and government decisions on its nuclear programme.
IMF sources Dawn spoke to echoed this view, saying that the Fund’s mandate did not allow for such discussions.
Meanwhile, at a recent think tank meeting in Washington, several US scholars wanted to know why Pakistan had suddenly started talking about an issue that nobody else was discussing, i.e. its nuclear programme.
Pakistani diplomats present at the occasion had to acknowledge that neither the IMF or the World Bank nor the US government had raised the issue with them. The issue, they added, was not raised in communications with Islamabad either.
Criticising the minister’s ‘change of stance’, analyst and columnist Mosharraf Zaidi claimed that Mr Dar had first “promoted the fiction about the IMF relating its programme with missile capability” and was now walking it back, terming it “an utterly embarrassing fiasco”.
‘No compromise’ rhetoric
Last week, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar had told the Senate that there would be “no compromise” on the country’s nuclear and missile programme.
His remarks came after Senator Raza Rabbani had raised questions on the reasons behind the delay in the finalising an agreement with the IMF.
The senator had sought to know if the delay was being made because of some sort of pressure on the country’s nuclear programme, or its strategic relationship with China or, because an imperialist power wanted its presence in the region.
In response, Mr Dar had assured him there would be no compromise on Pakistan’s nuclear prowess and promised that the moment the staff-level agreement was finalised, it would be placed on the website of the finance ministry.
Additionally, a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office on the same day had noted that press releases, queries and various assertions regarding Pakistan’s nuclear and missile programme were being circulated on social and print media.
“It is emphasised that Pakistan’s nuclear and missile programme is a national asset, which is jealously guarded by the state. The complete programme is totally secure, foolproof and under no stress or pressure whatsoever,” the statement said.
Published in Dawn, March 21st, 2023
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