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.