Pakistan’s Finance Minister Miftah Ismail on Wednesday said that the country’s textile sector had demanded lifting of a ban on the import of cotton from India, but the government has so far not taken any decision on the issue.
Addressing a press conference along with Defence Minister Khawaja Asif here, Ismail talked about the damage caused to the cotton crop due to devastating floods that have affected more than 33 million people, inundated a third of the country and caused losses of more than USD 10 billion.
Replying to a question with respect to trade with India, the minister said that the All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA) was asking the federal government to allow import of cotton from India.
“The government has not taken any decision yet,” he said, without elaborating when such a decision could be taken.
Pakistan suspended trade with India after the latter revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019. But the ban is hurting the crisis-hit country in the wake floods which caused scarcity of commodities and pushed up prices.
When the country faced shortage of onions and tomatoes due to destruction of the crops, Ismail was the first to drop a hint about the option of importing the two items from India. However, Ismail later said that the government will consult coalition partners on the issue, after criticism from the Opposition over the plan in the wake of strained ties with New Delhi over the Kashmir issue.
Pakistan allowed import of the two items from Iran and Afghanistan.
Ismail said that vegetables such as tomatoes and onion were being imported from Afghanistan and if the market gets stable with this import, the government would not need to import the commodities from India.
The issue of cotton and the demand by the powerful textile lobby is quite different from the import of onions and tomatoes because textile is the backbone country’s exporters which Pakistan has been trying to increase.
The finance minister also talked about the hike in electricity and petroleum prices for which he blamed the policies of the previous government of Imran Khan but hinted at slowing down the inflation rate from next month.
“The nation would have to bear the higher rates for one more month,” he said.
He also blamed Khan for not following the commitment made with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) especially with regards to subsidies on electricity, gas and petroleum products.
The finance minister said that the previous government had committed to the IMF that the government would not give any amnesty to the businessmen and subsidies on petroleum, gas and electricity but going against the commitment, the PTI government offered amnesty in February 2022.
“This was the reason why the rates of electricity and petroleum products have skyrocketed now,” he said.