Pakistan’s Shehbaz Sharif-led Cabinet has approved the appointment of Qamar Zaman Kaira as Trade Minister in its High Commission in New Delhi, said sources.

With Pakistan battling financial crisis, Kaira will work closely to restore trade ties with India.

Qamar Zaman Kaira is a Pakistan’s People’s Party (PPP) leader and adviser to Prime Minister Sharif on Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan.

Before the abrogation of Article 370 from Kashmir, the Pakistan High Commission had the post of Trade Minister. Irfan Tarad, husband of former Health Minister, was appointed to this post in the previous government. But after the end of his term and in protest against the removal of Article 370, the Imran government did not send anyone to this post.

THE TIES WITH INDIA

The ties between India and Pakistan came under severe strain after India’s warplanes pounded a Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist training camp in Balakot in Pakistan in February 2019 in response to the Pulwama terror attack.

The relations further deteriorated after India in August 2019 announced withdrawing special powers of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcation of the state into two union territories.

In August 2019, Pakistan announced the suspension of bilateral trade with India. Pakistan partially relaxed its ban on trade with India in September 2019, permitting trade in certain pharmaceutical products.

FINANCIAL CRISIS

News18 has reported how Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves have dropped to a 28-month low in Pakistan to below $11bn, barely enough to cover imports for the next two months. The last time forex reserves were below this level was in December 2019, Al Jazeera reported.

In the first nine months of the current financial year that started in July, Pakistan accrued a negative trade deficit in goods and services of $33.28bn, government data show. The current account deficit for the period had jumped to $13.17bn, up from $275m for the same period of last year.

This has jacked up the dollar rate which, at 190 Pakistani rupee to the dollar in the open market earlier this month, has touched a new high in the country.

However, Pakistan, too, is confident of tiding over the crisis and says it will not be in dire straits like neighbouring Sri Lanka.

In an interview to Al Jazeera, Pakistan’s finance minister Miftah Ismail said the country had a “strategy” to increase reserves and “you will see that they will start to increase”.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has agreed to provide Pakistan with a ”sizeable package” of around USD 8 billion to help the cash-starved country bolster dwindling forex reserves and revive its ailing economy, a media report said.

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