ISLAMABAD: Prime Minis­ter Imran Khan’s meeting with the International Monetary Fund chief has set off alarm bells, with the opposition demanding that the government disclose details of the conditions attached to the bailout package negotiated with the IMF.

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) secretary general Syed Nayyar Hussain Bokhari on Monday asked the government to share with parliament details of the agreements with the IMF and other financial institutions, besides revealing what transpired during Prime Minister Khan’s meeting with IMF Managing Director Christine Largarde.

In a statement, the PPP leader described the meeting as another U-turn, saying it was a reflection of contradiction in words and deeds. He said that dropping price-hike bombs on people appeared to be a move to meet the IMF conditions. Mr Bokhari feared privatisation of profit-making state-owned enterprises and massive retrenchments before the signing of a bailout package deal.

PPP accuses PTI government of borrowing heavily in seven months

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz spokesperson Marriyum Aurengzeb criticised the government for putting the entire burden of its incompetence on the people of the country.

In a statement, she said the PML-N government had done away with the IMF programme in 2015 to bring economic stability to the country. She said Imran Khan was the first prime minister to personally meet the IMF authorities. “How can the people trust members of the PM’s team when he himself does not have confidence in it?” she asked.

Mr Aurengzeb alleged that the PTI government had already finalised a package deal with the IMF through backdoor. “Why is the incompetent and anti-people government concealing the terms of agreement with the IMF?” she asked.

PPP parliamentary leader in the Senate Sherry Rehman criticised the government for what she called its lack of transparency. “After seven months of dithering and false promises, we are now hearing that the government is after all going for a bailout package. This unnecessary back and forth is hurting our already ailing economy. PTI ran its campaign promising that Pakistan will be self-sufficient under their leadership. However, all the economic steps they have taken so far have contradicted the core of their economic vision,” she said in a statement.

Ms Rehman said the government had borrowed an unprecedented amount of Rs3.77 trillion in just seven months. “We are now borrowing just to pay interest on loans taken. Our foreign exchange reserves are at an all-time low and are only surviving on loans taken at the last minute, of which the terms we still do not know to this day. They have not presented a solution to the circular debt that now stands at a staggering Rs2tr, neither have they properly addressed the worsening budget deficit,” the PPP senator said.

When contacted, Hafiz Hussain Ahmad of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam said the government must take parliament into confidence on all important decisions it had taken. “Elected representatives of the people have a right to know what assurances have been held out to the IMF to get the bailout package,” he remarked.

Published in Dawn, February 12th, 2019