Energy Minister Khurram Dastgir Thursday said the coalition government’s commitment to stabilize economy and prevent the effects of an international energy crisis from manifesting in the country was clear as petroleum product reserves were at a ‘record level’. Addressing a press conference in Islamabad alongside State Minister for Petroleum Musadik Malik, he drew a comparison between Pakistan and a country in the region facing economic difficulties. Though he did not name the country, the comparison was an apparent reference to Sri Lanka. “A comparison is necessary,” he said, adding that the biggest indication of economic turmoil in the country was that it ran out of petroleum products. “People had to stand in queues for four days to get petrol. But here, we have diesel stocks that will last for two months and those of petrol for 34 days,” Dastgir said. ” So it should be clear that this broad-based government is [working] to stabilise the economy … [and] protect the people from the effects of an ongoing international energy crisis as much as possible.” He added that the government was also monitoring other resources of energy production so that the “economy is not affected”. Dastgir assured that the government had started taking measures to stabilise the economy and the inflows and outflows of foreign exchange were now “balanced”. Moreover, he added that circular debt had been reduced by Rs214 billion over the last three months. He said inflows were expected in the coming days as a staff-level agreement had been reached with the International Monetary Fund that would eventually stabilise the rupee and bring the balance-of-payments crisis to an end. “And by September or October, Pakistanis will also see that inflation will start decreasing,” he said. Musadik Malik said imports of petroleum products between June 2021 and June 2022 had reduced by around 9pc. “This has significantly reduced our import bill,” he said, adding that the government was expecting further improvement on this front in the current month. He said his ministry was managing the matters on a daily basis and were not allowing any unnecessary imports. The minister, too, said that there was no risk of a shortage of petroleum products as the country had “record-high” petrol and diesel reserves. Dastgir further said that progress had been made in talks between an informal delegation from Pakistan and the Afghan authorities regarding a new coal venture. “It was discussed that if a supply chain is built for this venture and if this happens, doors will open for trade with Central Asia,” he said. The minister also said that after power tariff rebasing, subsidies will be provided to “protected classes” so that they did not have to bear the impact of the increase in rates. Moreover, he said an “attractive” solar policy would be announced at the start of August to provide relief to the salaried and middle class. The shift to solar energy under this policy would also decrease the country’s reliance on foreign fuel, he said, adding that an export tariff for gas and electricity would also be announced in the coming days. At the start of his press conference, Dastgir reiterated the government’s stance that general elections would be held in October next year. “And political upheaval before that is part of democracy,” he added. The minister also spoke about the recently held Punjab by-polls, in which the PTI had a resounding victory after bagging 15 of the 20 seats for which the elections were held, says a news report. “We respect the public mandate but it should also be put before the people that political forecasts cannot be made on the basis of by-elections on just five per cent seats of the Punjab Assembly,” he said, adding that representatives on 95pc seats in the provincial assembly were those elected in the 2018 general elections. Moreover, he continued, it was also important to “remind people that the PML-N is the party in the majority in the Punjab Assembly after the 2018 elections”. To reduce the PML-N’s majority, tactics such as “horse-trading and influencing independent lawmakers” were employed and the PTI came to power in Punjab, he alleged, adding that the by-elections of July 17 could not undermine the “destruction of 2018, stealing of the mandate and cutting the roots of democracy by Imran Khan”. He also asserted that no violence and rigging took place during the by-polls. The energy minister held the PTI responsible for the economic chaos in the country. “Whenever Imran’s ‘fitna’ rears its head, Pakistan’s economy begins to destabilise,” he remarked.