Dar rules out any compromise on Nuclear, Missile programmes

-Responding to questions raised by PPP Senator Raza Rabbani, Finance Minister assures nation over full protection of Pakistan’s Nuclear programme
-PM says misleading speculations about Pakistan’s Nuclear and Missile programme are unfortunate
-Reiterates Nuclear programme ‘jealously’ guarded by State
-Documentation for second disbursement of $1.3 billion ICBC loan completed, confirms Finance Minister

Staff Report

ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Thursday asserted there would be “no compromise” on the country’s nuclear and missile programmes as he responded to questions raised by PPP Senator Raza Rabbani.
Speaking during the Senate’s session today, Dar said: “Let me assure you that nobody is going to compromise anything on the nuclear or the missile program of Pakistan — no way.”
Senator Rabbani had raised some questions on the reasons behind the delay in the agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which would offer a critical lifeline to tame a balance-of-payments crisis.
The PPP leader lamented that the Senate had “neither before nor today been taken into confidence on what are the conditionalities of the IMF”.
Terming the delay “absolutely out of the ordinary — extraordinary”, Senator Rabbani said: “The question arises if the delay is being made because of some sort of pressure to be exerted on Pakistan’s nuclear [programme].” Responding to him, Dar assured of no compromise on Pakistan’s nuclear prowess and promised that the “moment the staff-level agreement and the EFFP (Extended Fund Facility programme) would be finalised it will be put up on the website of the finance ministry”.

He added: “Nobody has any right to tell Pakistan that what range of missiles it can have and what nuclear weapons it can have. We have to have our own deterrence. “We represent the people of Pakistan and we have to guard our national interests”.

Responding to the questions raised on the delay, Dar said the delay was “not on the part of the government”. Indirectly blaming the PTI’s government that signed the agreement in 2019, he said that “it seems as if the arrangements of 2019 with the IMF has been a different and [a] new program”.

He added: “It looks like that each time, the review is a new program which is very uncustomary with the IMF. “It has been an extensive engagement — unusual, too lengthy, too long, too demanding — but we have completed everything.”

Asserting that the program “should have been over by 2022”, the PML-N leader said that the law amendments were passed by “this very parliament, after which the monetary policy has become too independent, in my opinion”.

Revealing one of the reasons behind the delay in the IMF agreement, Dar said: “At the time of previous reviews, certain friendly countries have made commitments to bilaterally support Pakistan.

“But [the] IMF is now asking that they should actually complete and materialise those commitments. That’s the only delay,” the finance minister told the Senate.

On March 9, Dar had blamed the delay on the previous government, whose “failure to meet commitments” created a trust deficit that had continued to bite.

However, he had once again assured the nation that the country was “very close” to signing the agreement, which would release $1.1 billion that is part of a $6.5bn bailout package the IMF approved in 2019.

Separately, Prime Minister Shehbaz said that Pakistan’s nuclear programme was being “jealously guarded by the state”.

A statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office later today noted that press releases, queries and various assertions regarding Pakistan’s nuclear and missile programme were being circulated on social and print media.

It said that even a “traditional routine visit” of International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi was portrayed in a “negative spotlight”.

“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 PMO statement said.

“It continues to fully serve the purpose for which this capability was developed,” it added. In a tweet later in the day, PM Shehbaz said “misleading speculations about Pakistan’s nuclear and missile programme are unfortunate”.

“The stringent, foolproof and multi-layered security safeguards, duly testified by the International Atomic Energy Agency are in place. Our nuclear programme represents the unwavering consensus of the nation and is for deterrence,” he said.

Besides, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Thursday announced that documentation for the second disbursement of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China’s (ICBC) loan worth $500 million was completed.

Earlier this month, the Chinese lender had approved a rollover of a $1.3 billion loan for Pakistan. The loan would shore up Pakistan’s dwindling foreign exchange reserves.

Following the announcement, the Chinese bank deposited $500 million — the first disbursement — on March 4 which helped the foreign exchange reserves surpass the $4 billion mark.

“Out of Chinese ICBC’s approved rollover facility of $1.3 billion (which was earlier repaid by Pakistan to ICBC in recent months), documentation for the second disbursement of $500 million has been completed by Finance Ministry for the release of funds to the State Bank of Pakistan,” the finance minister announced Thursday.