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According to Miftah Ismail, Iran can meet Pakistan’s gas and energy needs.

Miftah Ismail, Federal Minister for Finance and Revenue, welcomed Pak-Iran cooperation in the energy and trade sectors on Wednesday, saying the government was determined to strengthen ties with the Islamic republic in all areas.

Miftah Ismail, in an exclusive interview with an Iranian news agency, stated that the Pakistani government, led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, was eager to improve relations with Iran in all areas, particularly bilateral trade. He claimed that the previous administration proposed increasing bilateral trade volume to $500 million or euros by trading in local currencies.

“I have asked the governor of the State Bank of Pakistan to speak with my Iranian counterpart as soon as possible to materialise the proposal,” the minister added.

Miftah proposed expanding travel routes between the two countries to facilitate trade. He emphasised the importance of providing more facilities for passengers in Balochistan, as well as increased people-to-people exchange to promote trade.

He claimed that Pakistan was in desperate need of gas and energy, which Iran could easily supply.

“The Pakistani government had already taken a significant step in increasing electricity imports from Iran.” Our minister, Khurram Dastegir, travelled to Iran to increase Iranian electricity imports, which is a positive development.”

The minister stated that the gas pipeline project was complicated because it was sanctioned soon after it was signed.

“Although sanctions were lifted following a nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 in 2015, the US unilaterally withdrew from the agreement and reimposed sanctions on Iran.” Our petroleum minister, Dr. Musadik Malik, is attempting to import gas, and the Iranian option remains an option,” he said.

Miftah lamented the low volume of bilateral trade between Pakistan and Iran, despite the fact that both countries shared a border and could trade using a barter system or cash.

He stated that the two countries have strong brotherly and friendly ties. Their trade ties, however, were weak in comparison to their cultural, political, and religious ties.

“Iran produces many goods that Pakistan buys or could buy, and vice versa.” The upcoming Joint Economic Commission meeting will focus on increasing bilateral trade between the two friendly countries.”

According to the minister, the main impediment to bilateral trade is the lack of banking relations. “We are unable to open LCs (Letters of Credit) in US dollars in trade with Iran, which is a major challenge.” Now, the governors of the central banks have devised a mechanism, which will be formalised at the JEC meeting to facilitate trade.”

He stated that trade between Pakistan and Iran should be doubled in two years, implying that resumption of banking channels for payments could help achieve the goal.

“There is no pressure on Pakistani banks, and we can do business with Iran in local currency,” he said.

Miftah Ismail stated that Iran is one of the world’s largest energy exporters, and that it could also meet China’s energy needs through Pakistan. “We believe that Iran should be included in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project.” “We welcome Iranian investment in Gwadar or any other CPEC energy project,” the minister said.

Pakistan, he said, would go to any length to remove any barriers to trade with Iran. It had created border markets because Balochistan’s trade was heavily reliant on Iran and Afghanistan.

“Many markets in Quetta sell Pakistani goods to Iran and Afghanistan.” There is nothing new in the fact that all countries trade with their neighbours. A person living in the Pishin district of Balochistan finds it easier to trade with Iran than with Karachi.”

He proposed that trade be established between the border towns of Iran and Pakistan. He admitted that there was a lot of unregistered trade between the two countries, claiming that Iranian products could be found in Pakistan’s local markets, particularly Karachi.

“There is no harm in formalising this trade, as countries typically prefer to trade with neighbours first.” “I look forward to the day when Iran and Pakistan have more trade,” the minister concluded.