A cut of 15 per cent in the defence budget and military expenses and abandoning the Long-Range Nuclear Missile Programme are among the five ‘toughest’ conditions laid down by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for Pakistan after yet another round of talks between the two for Staff Level Agreement (SLA) remained inconclusive.
The other conditions are international or third-party audit of Chinese loans and CPEC investments, bridging the financing gap from friendly countries and assurance of political stability from opposition leaders.
Pakistan’s Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Thursday snubbed the demand for abandoning the long-range nuclear missiles and said nobody had any right to tell Pakistan what range of missiles it could have.
Pointing out the “uncustomary" attitude of the IMF, Dar — while speaking during the special Senate session in front of ambassadors of other nations — said: “Nobody has any right to tell Pakistan what range of missiles it can have and what nuclear weapons it can have. We have to have our own deterrence.”
It is for the very first time that the finance minister has brought the issue of the nuclear programme into the public sphere. In private conversations, some Pakistani authorities had said there was a long-standing demand by a Western country to abandon the programme, a source in the finance ministry claimed.
The source added that during the talks, the IMF team repeatedly asked about the cut in defence budget, talks with Opposition, audit of Chinese financial support and help from friendly countries but the Pakistani team could not satisfy the fund’s queries.
Dar has assured Parliament that “the government has fulfilled all obligations and nobody is going to compromise anything on the nuclear or missile programme of Pakistan — no way”.
Right after Dar’s statement, the Prime Minister’s Office also issued a statement to clear the air about the nuclear programme and its safety. “Pakistan’s nuclear and missile programme is a national asset, which is jealously guarded by the State,” said the PM’s Office. The entire programme is totally secure, fool-proof, and under no stress or pressure whatsoever, it added.
Speaking about the remaining hurdles, the finance minister said at the time of the previous review, certain friendly countries had made commitments to bilaterally support Pakistan.
“The fund is now asking that they should actually complete and materialise those commitments. That’s the only delay,” he told the Senate.
Pakistan needs $6 billion in new loans to bridge the financing gap, but Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar have not yet given these loans despite repeated requests by Pakistan.
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