Finance Minister Ishaq Dar speaks during a press conference in Islamabad on February 10, 2023. — AFP

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said Monday that his statement regarding the nation’s nuclear programme was taken out of context and that reason behind the delay in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme’s revival was “technical” and not strings being attached to the nuclear capacity.

In a statement, the minister said his comments on the Senate’s floor were in response to a colleague senator’s specific question, wherein, he emphasised that Pakistan has a 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 — who assumed office in September last year — said.

FinMin Dar clarified that neither IMF nor any other country has attached any conditionality or made any demand from Pakistan with regards to the nation’s nuclear capability.

The finance minister added that 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”.

Pakistan has been hosting an IMF mission since early February to negotiate the terms of the deal, including the adoption of policy measures to manage its fiscal deficit ahead of the annual budget due around June.

The funds are part of a $6.5 billion bailout package the IMF approved in 2019, which analysts say is critical if Pakistan is to avoid defaulting on external debt obligations.

Veteran politician Senator Raza Rabbani had raised concerns about whether the delay in the staff-level agreement with the Fund has anything to do with the country’s strategic assets, including the nuclear and missile programmes.

In response to Rabbani’s concerns, Dar had on the floor of the Senate stated that the coalition government would not compromise on its nuclear programme for reviving the stalled IMF loan facility.

But this prompted further speculation and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Vice Chairman and former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi also demanded an explanation from the government — forcing Dar to issue the statement.

In response to a query, IMF resident representative in Islamabad Esther Perez Ruiz rubbished claims and denied attaching any strings to the External Fund Facility (EFF).

“I want to be categoric that there is absolutely no truth to this or any insinuated link between the past or current IMF supported programme and decision by any Pakistani government over its nuclear programme,” the official said.

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