KARACHI: Pakistani Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said on Monday neither the International Monetary Fund (IMF), nor any foreign country, had raised issues related to the country’s nuclear program, and a delay in signing a bailout deal with the IMF was due to "technical reasons."
Dar was addressing his own remarks from last week in the upper house of parliament when he said no country or institution had a right to tell Pakistan” what range of missiles or what nuclear weapons it can have, we have to have our own deterrence.”
The remarks were widely linked to a months-long delay in signing a staff level agreement with the International Monetary Fund for a bailout package of $1.1 billion, that has been delayed since November mainly over issues related to fiscal policy adjustments.
In a statement issued by the ministry of finance on Monday evening, Dar said his comments on Pakistan’s nuclear program were being “quoted out of context.”
“My comments with regards to Pakistan’s Nuclear Program was in response to a colleague Senator’s specific question, wherein, I emphasized that Pakistan has sovereign right to develop its nuclear program, 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,” the finance minister said.
“It is clarified that neither IMF nor any other country has attached any conditionality or made any demand from Pakistan with regard to our nuclear capability … 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.”
On Sunday, the IMF country representative also denied any link with past or current IMF supported programs and decisions by any Pakistani government over its nuclear program.
Last week, Dar said an assurance from "friendly countries" to fund a balance of payment gap was the last hurdle in securing the IMF deal, which will offer a critical lifeline to avert an economic meltdown.
The latest tranche of funds are part of a $6.5 billion bailout package the IMF approved in 2019.
The latest deal will also unlock other bilateral and multilateral financing avenues for Pakistan to shore up its foreign exchange reserves, which have fallen to four weeks worth of import cover.
The IMF wants Pakistan to get the assurance for up to $7 billion to fund this fiscal year's balance of payments gap. Dar has been saying it should be around $5 billion.