We will not roll back our nuclear programme even if our debts swell to $100 trillion, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said. The comment came after the Western media suggested Islamabad could exchange its nuclear arsenal for dollars.
Dar told lawmakers, in the upper house of parliament, on Wednesday that the nuclear program had started and will not come to a halt.
He added, “It is a national responsibility to protect the programme of our security.” The ownership of the nuclear programme is shared by all political parties of Pakistan.
The finance minister discussed his policy statement on the country’s economy. He mentioned an article that said that the increasing debt will pressurise Pakistan to utilize its national security assets.
Dar dismissed the suggestion and said, “Even if our debts swell to $100 billion or $100 trillion, we will not roll back our nuclear programme.”
He referred to a 2008 article in Wall Street Journal headlined ‘Let’s Buy Pakistan’s Nukes’ in which the author asked Western donors to agree on a $100 billion economic package in exchange for eliminating Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile.
The US Secretary of State John Kerry pressed Pakistan at this week’s strategic dialogue to reduce its growing nuclear arsenal. Dar’s response came after the Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani asked Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs to brief the house on this issue.
Aziz would brief the house next Tuesday but Foreign Office has already issued a statement in which Aziz impressed upon the United States not to contribute to the strategic imbalance in South Asia by helping India. He emphasised that the convergences in the relationship outweigh the irritants.
The leader of the opposition Aitzaz Ahsan, the chair asked Aziz to brief the house on his previous statement in which he said, “Pakistan has some influence over the Afghan Taliban since their leadership lives here”. Ahsan also sought a briefing on Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s allegation that the non-state actors who carried out the Pathankot air base assault had the support of the state of Pakistan.
Earlier, the finance minister presented stats of national economy and comparison with the past conditions to point out the positive facts. He said that the economy is stable and our next target is growth with the support from the opposition.
However, Dar’s hour-long speech failed to earn him appreciation from opposition lawmakers who remained sceptical about the numbers cited by the minister.
The opposition leader was poetic in his criticism as he read a few couplets of Mirza Ghalib mocking Dar’s opinion that borrowing money would one day result in an economic turnaround. He requested the chair provide copies of Dar’s speech to lawmakers so that they could cross-check the figure before a house debate.
PTI Senator Nauman Wazair said, he wouldn’t use ‘fudging’ for Dar’s numbers but would call it ‘window dressing’. Other senators pitched in, with MQM’s Barrister Saif saying sarcastically: “We’re very happy to know that our economy is robust. We have no debt to pay – and all is well.”