Finance minister warns of ‘shocks’ that Pakistan can’t absorb

Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez SheikhISLAMABAD: Pakistan may face international isolation on the economic front if drastic steps are taken during the reviewing of bilateral terms with the United States, the country’s finance minister cautioned on Thursday.

The warning from Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Sheikh came at a meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security, which on Thursday finalised its draft recommendations for its review of ties with the US.“There are some shocks Pakistan can absorb but there are others it can’t,” Sheikh was quoted as saying at the parliamentary committee meeting.

The review was ordered by the government following the November 26 Nato airstrikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in Mohmand Agency and led to a new low in relations between the allies.“A single incident must not determine our relations with the US,” Sheikh said in an apparent reference to the steps taken by the government following the Nato airstrikes.“Any decision should be taken while keeping in mind the multidimensional paradigm of security, prosperity of the country and economic diplomacy,” he added.

The minister, while spelling out alternatives, argued that the country should adopt a ‘balanced’ approach towards its relations with the US.Briefing the 17-member all-party bicameral parliamentary panel, Sheikh was quoted as saying that Washington might use its influence over international financial institutions to hurt the country’s economic interests.

The minister went on to give a detailed briefing about the likely implications the country may face in the event of a move to pull out of the US alliance.A committee member, who asked to remain anonymous, said that, according to the finance minister, the country’s fragile economy would face a daunting task if the relationship between Pakistan and the US deteriorated further.“It is not about American aid but its clout over the IMF, World Bank and other financial institutions that can pose a real challenge for us,” said the committee member referring to the elaborate briefing given by the finance minister.

However, some of the members present questioned the finance minister’s wisdom, arguing that in the past Pakistan’s economy had survived ‘crippling sanctions’ imposed by the US – referring to sanctions placed on Pakistan after it tested nuclear devices in 1998 in a tit-for-tat response to tests carried out in India.“Pakistan survived then and can survive now,” said an opposition lawmaker, who drafted his own proposals for the review of ties with the US.The committee headed by Senator Mian Raza Rabbani has finalised the draft recommendations and forwarded them to the defence and foreign ministries for their input.

Rabbani told reporters that the committee will meet next Tuesday to fine-tune the final recommendations before they are handed over to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani.The government will then present the committee’s proposals before a joint session of Parliament to seek its approval. The joint sitting is expected to be convened in mid-January.The review is being eagerly awaited and closely watched by local and international observers since it is meant to reshape and herald a new era in Pakistan’s relations with the US and more significantly have a major impact on the Afghan endgame. – Thetribune