Thursday, October 6, 2022

PM Shehbaz Sharif says Pakistan in talks with Russia for gas supplies, wheat import

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NEW YORK: Prime Minister (PM) Shehbaz Sharif has asserted that Pakistan was in talks with Russia over gas supplies and wheat import as the country faces soaring inflation amid climate-induced catastrophic floods, ARY News reported on Friday.

“I have spoken to Russian President Putin about the availability of gas and he has promised me that he will most definitely will look into this,” PM Shehbaz Sharif said in an interview to Bloomberg.

However, the prime minister said, the two countries were yet to sign a deal on gas supply. Meanwhile, the premier noted that Pakistan was also looking to import wheat from Russia after heavy rains and subsequent floods damaged crops across the country.

“We are also talking to Russia to buy wheat because there was shortage of wheat last year and this year, the land is not going to be ready for wheat sowing,” PM Sharif added.

The prime minister made an urgent appeal for a “substantial” debt relief from rich nations as catastrophic floods displaced millions of people in the country. “Pakistan had high debt obligations in the next two months,” he noted.

PM Shehbaz Sharif further said his government had just signed an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) with “very tough conditionalities” that include taxes on petroleum and electricity.

In August, Pakistan secured a $1.1 billion loan from the IMF to avert default as political turmoil and the deadly flooding threatened the country’s economy.  The IMF also increased the nation’s bailout package to $6.5 billion.

“We have spoken to European leaders and other leaders to help us in the Paris Club to get us moratorium,” Sharif said, referring to the group of rich creditor nations.  “Unless we get substantial relief how can the world expect from us to stand on our own feet? It is simply impossible,” he added.

He noted a “yawning gap” between what Pakistan was asking for and what was available, warning that the nation was facing the imminent threat of epidemics and other dangers.  “God forbid this happens, all hell will break,” Sharif said.

Sharif said he had spoken to the IMF and World Bank about immediate debt relief and would begin talks with China after the Paris Club.  He urged the international community to help out Pakistan considering its damages due to climate-induced disaster.

He pointed out that Pakistan fell victim to climate change despite its less than one percent contribution to carbon emissions. “Today it is Pakistan [suffering] and tomorrow it could be any other country that could be hit by the climate change,” he said.

Read More: Flood-hit Pakistan should suspend debt repayments, says UN paper – FT

“I need to put our economy back on trail. I need to put our millions of people back in the rooms, busy again with the ordinary life in agriculture, in industry and getting jobs back,” he said, adding: “Time is running, and we’re racing against time.”

About prospects of improvement in relations with India, he said Pakistan believed that only peace could guarantee the sustainable prosperity in the South Asian region. Peace, he said, could help the countries divert their resources towards the development of their people.

The prime minister, however, linked the improvement of ties with India with negotiations regarding the resolution of the Kashmir dispute in aspirations of its people.

The floods have submerged a third of the country and killed more than 1,500 people. United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has called on the international community to help Pakistan financially as damages caused by the floods exceed $30 billion.

 

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