A worker at the Imilorskoye oil field operated by Lukoil in Kogalym, Russia. Image Credit: Reuters

Islamabad: Faced with a severe economic crisis, Pakistan has now clarified that it is still considering buying cheaper oil and wheat from Russia if no US sanctions are imposed.

“If Russia were to offer us oil at a cheaper rate and if there were no sanctions on Pakistan to buy Russian oil then we would consider that,” Pakistan’s Finance Minister Miftah Ismail said in an interview with CNN.

However, he also said Moscow had not offered any such discounted deals to Pakistan so far, rebuffing claims by the previous Imran Khan government that Russia had proposed Pakistan a 30 per cent discount on oil and wheat imports.

Ismail said that the previous government had written a letter to Moscow offering to buy cheaper oil but Moscow had never responded. He also stated that he did not think it was possible for Pakistani banks to make arrangements to buy Russian oil at this point. The minister said that with Russia being under sanctions, it was “very difficult” for him to imagine buying oil from there.

Biggest one-time petrol price hike

Petrol and diesel prices have reached a record high in Pakistan after the government announced a 20 per cent increase last week. The Sharif government said they had no other option but to raise the prices by ending the subsidies on petroleum products to address the economic issues and revive the International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme. With the fresh hike, the new price of petrol is Rs179.88 per litre (Dh3.34).

Pakistani urge government to take bold decision

Pakistanis who are struggling with the record-high petrol prices and decades-high inflation, have raised their concerns that while neighbouring India and Sri Lanka are allowed to import oil from Russia, why Pakistan is facing the threat of US sanctions. Experts have expressed concerns that “India continues to buy cheap oil from Russia” but the Pakistan government remains indecisive about alternative sources.

“As Pakistan is going through a severe economic crisis, the new government should take a bold decision to import cheaper oil from any country to meet immediate needs” and prevent the economic meltdown and chaos recently witnessed in Sri Lanka, said Tariq Shadab, a political analyst, while talking to Gulf News.

Former prime minister Imran Khan has criticized the Shehbaz government for not pursuing his administration’s “deal with Russia for 30 per cent cheaper oil” and cited the example of India, a strategic ally of the US, which he said bought cheaper oil from Russia to give relief to their people.

India has received about 34 million barrels of discounted Russian oil since Moscow launched its attack on February 24. Sri Lanka is also receiving Russian crude oil as the bankrupt nation faces crippling shortages of fuel and food. The current US sanctions against Russia do not prevent other countries from buying Russian oil.