ISLAMABAD: A National Assembly panel was informed on Thursday that because of the International Monetary Fund’s loans and the absence of a proper banking channel, Pakistan cannot import oil from Iran, as the country may also face $ 18 billion as a fine if it fails to complete Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline project by 2024.
The National Assembly Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, which met with MNA Mohsin Dawar in the chair, asked the government to eliminate obstacles to the successful completion of the IP gas pipeline.
The chairman of the committee expressed concerns that despite sanctions on Iran, some of the regional countries have been granted waivers vis-a-vis oil trade with Iran, but Pakistan could not secure such waivers to engage in a beneficial oil trade relation with Iran.
Emphasising the need for robust diplomacy, he urged the Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Foreign Affairs to aggressively pursue options to secure waivers on oil trade with Iran like India and China.
Senior officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Commerce briefed the committee on Pakistan-Iran political and bilateral trade relations. The committee was informed that Pak-Iran relations were deep rooted in cultural, historical, and religious linkages.
They said that Iran was the first country that diplomatically recognised Pakistan and subsequently both countries evolved institutional cooperation under the umbrella of SEATO, CENTO, and RCD. Iran has always supported Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir and Palestine. It was highlighted that sanctions on Iran precluded significant expansion in Pak-Iran’s trade and economic relations.
On the import of oil from Iran, senior officials of the Foreign Office told the committee that Pakistan cannot avail the opportunity to get Iranian oil, “simply because of the IMF loans”.
They said that India, Japan, and China are importing the Iranian oil because they do not get loans from the IMF.
They identified the absence of a proper banking channel as the major obstacle in enhancing trade with Iran, adding that the ministry, has on many occasions, suggested to the government to open a separate bank which can trade in Rial and Toman, the way India has dedicated a bank in Kolkata for trade with Iran.
On queries by the members, the officials said that Pakistan’s refineries have agreements with Gulf States and they also give waivers to the country’s refineries.
Dawar questioned if Pakistan’s refineries can reach agreements with Saudi Arabia and the UAE then why not with Iran?
In his response, Additional Secretary Ministry of Foreign Affairs Syed Ahsan Raza said that some matters are “sensitive” and cannot be discussed in presence of the media, adding that they could only respond to such questions in an in-camera session.
“You call this a sensitive matter and if you try to keep things in secrecy from the people then how will they get to know how the policies are made? I believe that people should get to know how our policies are made.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023