Miftah says ‘difficult to imagine buying Russian oil’

Russia is under sanctions and has not responded to the letter written to it by the previous government, but we have asked either Ukraine or Russia, whichever country can sell us wheat, we would be happy to buy wheat from them,” said Ismail in an interview with CNN.

Ismail said the previous PTI government wrote a letter to the Russian Federation, “which was never responded to”.

“Russia has also not offered us any oil. I mean it is difficult for me to imagine buying Russian oil.”

If Russia offers Pakistan oil at cheaper rates and there are no sanctions on the country to buy that oil, “sure, we’d consider that”, he added.

“However, at this point it would be not possible for Pakistani banks to open LCs or arrange to buy Russian oil and nor has for that matter Russian Federation offered to sell us any oil.”

Refuting former prime minister Imran Khan’s claims, Ismail said, “First of all Russia has not offered a 30 percent discount on oil or wheat”. “Let’s be clear. I don’t know where Khan gets these numbers from.”

“Khan just makes it up as he goes along. He is the guy who was saying we (PDM) were brought in through an American conspiracy. And now he has come up with this new thing. If Russia was selling him cheap wheat and oil then why didn’t he buy it. He did not.”

“Our government is at least trying to initiate talks to buy wheat because food is not under sanctions; however, oil is under sanctions. Russia has not even responded to the letter written to it by Khan’s government. I don’t know where he got these numbers from, but I know it’s not true.”

To a query regarding Pakistan’s negotiations with IMF, Ismail said, the government just finished a round of talks with the IMF in Doha.

“In particular, the IMF is looking to the budget I am going to present before the parliament in the early part of June. After that I am hoping we will reach a staff-level agreement,” he added

“What the IMF is looking for us to do is reverse the subsidies on oil, petrol and diesel in particular, that the previous government had given. It’s also looking for me to reverse some power sector or electricity tariff subsidies. These subsidies were introduced by the previous government in contravention with its own agreement with the IMF. I am pretty confident we should be able to sign an agreement with the fund, but there would be some austerity measures and some increase in taxation.”

He said the previous government in its waning days did a few things to violate agreements with the IMF, including giving unsustainably high subsidies on petrol and diesel and also on power.

“Khan knew it could not be sustained. And when we came to power he started going from city to city trying to rally the people and coming up with these theories, conspiracies and all the stuff and building a political pressure on us. That’s why it was difficult, but we finally took the plunge,” Ismail said.

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