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Pakistan: Business Leaders Urge PM Shahbaz Sharif To Trade With India, Make Up With Imran Khan


Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif was at a conference with business leaders in Islamabad where he was urged to open trade with India and also bury the hatchet with Imran Khan, the ousted former prime minister.

Dawn quoted Arif Habib of the Habib Group as telling Shahbaz Sharif, “I suggest you do a few more handshakes. One of them is regarding trade with India which would greatly benefit our economy. Secondly, you should also patch up with a resident of Adiala Jail (meaning Imran Khan). Try to fix things at that level as well and I believe you can do it.”

The prime minister’s response on the Imran Khan issue was not known.  Habib himself would have been well aware of the problems for Sharif to go down that road.  More to the point, Sharif had replaced Imran with the help of the army and any accommodation with him would need the army’s nod.

As for resuming trade with India, Pakistan cut off diplomatic and trade ties with India after Jammu and Kashmir’s special status was removed through a parliamentary amendment in August 2019.  Given that feelings continue to run high in Pakistan over India’s move, it is unlikely that Shahbaz Sharif would do anything in that direction. His family background in business would however, have given him a good appreciation of the sentiments of the business community.

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The meeting also touched on Bangladesh and its economic growth trajectory that has surpassed expectations.

“I was quite young when we were told that it’s a burden on our shoulders. Today you all know where that burden has reached (in terms of economic growth. And we feel ashamed when we look towards them,” Sharif said.

His comments come at a time when Pakistan is looking to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a longer-term loan to tide over its balance of payments crisis.  Sharif remains hopeful of striking a deal with the IMF as early as July. His finance minister was in Washington DC recently to kick off negotiations.