Pakistan ready to discuss trade, economy with India, says Finance Minister

Pakistan's Finance Minister Asad Umar. (AFP)
Updated 13 January 2019

Pakistan ready to discuss trade, economy with India, says Finance Minister

  • Facing trade imbalances, Pakistan is looking to increase trade with neighbor countries
  • Pakistan is in no rush for IMF bailout program, says Asad Umar

KARACHI: Pakistan’s Finance Minister, Asad Umar has extended olive branch to country’s arch rival India saying Pakistan's military fully backs government’s stance of resolving bilateral issues and that trade and economy should also be discussed among other things.

“Issues specially related to trade and economy should also be resolved which is in larger interest of India and Pakistan,” Asad Umar said while speaking to members of business community at Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) on Saturday.

Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan, after winning the general election of July 25 last year, had invited India to negotiation table but was disappointed by India's cold response including pulling out of scheduled meeting between the foreign ministers on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session in September 2018.

Khan had responded with a famous “small man tweet”: "Disappointed at the arrogant & negative response by India to my call for resumption of the peace dialogue. However, all my life I have come across small men occupying big offices who do not have the vision to see the larger picture."

Pakistan hopes that the India would respond positively after the general election slated for April and May 2019. “We believe that India did not positively respond to PM Khan’s peace offer due to internal political situation but we hope that after elections, India would return to the negotiation table,” said Umar.

Facing trade imbalances, Pakistan is looking to increase trade with neighbor countries including India and Afghanistan while substantial progress has been made with China under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).  

Prime Minister Khan recently also visited Turkey to enhance trade ties between both the countries.

Umar said “We have decided to make an integrated plan to increase the trade which should reflect our political ties in trade and economy. Recommendation are being made for Strategic Framework which would be signed by Prime Minister Imran Khan and President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.” 

The finance minister told businessmen that government is in no rush to sign a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a bailout package. “Of course there is uncertainty, people want to know what is happening [with the IMF],”  he added.

“It is the easy way out to end uncertainty by signing the program with whatever conditions are being offered by the fund but the price (of uncertainty) is less as compared to that we go and sign the IMF program with negative impact on businesses and masses," the finance minister added.

Umar said a mini-budget would be presented on January 23 with more focus on industrialization, ease of doing business and decision to make taxation policies through parliament.

“There will be good news for stock market investors in the finance bill coming on 23 January," Umar said.

Experts expect changes on advance tax. "We believe some relief is expected in capital gain and dividend taxation," financial analyst Muzamil Aslam said.

"The mini-budget will target tax efficiently with an aim to maximize tax, productivity and investments," added Aslam.

Gunmen kill journalist in northwestern Pakistan

Updated 10 min 19 sec ago

Gunmen kill journalist in northwestern Pakistan

  • Javedullah Khan was traveling with a police guard when two gunmen opened fire on his vehicle
  • Police says it was a targeted attack

PESHAWAR: A Pakistan journalist whose relatives were members of an anti-Taliban group has been gunned down, police confirmed Wednesday, the latest attack targeting media in the restive northwest of the country.
Javedullah Khan, 36, was shot dead late Tuesday in Matta, a former militant stronghold some 40-kilometers (24 miles) northwest of Pakistan’s picturesque Swat valley.
He worked as a bureau chief for the Urdu language newspaper Ausaf.
“Javed was traveling with a police guard when two gunmen opened fire on his vehicle. He died on the spot,” senior police official Muhammad Ijaz Khan told AFP.
Ali Muhammad a local police official, also confirmed the incident.
“It was a targeted attack,” Muhammad added.
“Many of his relatives, including a brother, uncles, and cousins were killed due to their involvement in anti-Taliban peace committees.”
For years, Pakistan has encouraged tribal vigilante forces, known locally as peace committees, to defend their villages against militants.
Most have been disbanded following a dramatic improvement in security across the country.
While militant networks have been severely disrupted in recent years, insurgents still retain the ability to launch attacks.
Amnesty International said Khan was an “exceptionally brave journalist” and called for an independent investigation into his killing.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but militants have long targeted pro-government tribal elders in the past.
Pakistan routinely ranks among the world’s most dangerous countries for media workers, and reporters have frequently been detained, beaten and even killed for being critical of the powerful military or Islamist militants.