ISLAMABAD: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) came under fire in the Senate on Monday for “attempts to dictate foreign policy” to Pakistan, with opposition lawmakers urging the government to disclose what had been agreed with the fund’s team which recently visited the country.
Speaking on an adjournment motion, Senator Javed Abbasi of the PML-N said news reports published when the government-IMF talks were under way revealed that the IMF team asked Pakistan to cut trade and commerce reliance on China.
“After getting prices of essential commodities and tariffs of gas and electricity, will the IMF also dictate Pakistan what should be the nature of its relations with other countries,” he said.
He asked the PTI government to explain what transpired in the talks, what pressures were being exerted and what assurances had been held out to the IMF behind the scene.
He said China had invested at a time when nobody was ready to do it and Pakistan was faced with problem of acute power shortage. He said energy and motorway projects were being undertaken and work on Gwadar port was also under way. He sought an explanation from the government if it surrendered on foreign policy before the IMF.
Ask govt for FIA’s report on wheat crisis
Mushahid Hussain Sayed, who was also a mover of the motion, pointed out that the government had not formally contradicted or denied the media reports. “It’s an infringement on sovereignty of Pakistan and a blatant interference by an international organisation based in Washington,” he said.
He regretted that some irresponsible and immature ministers tried to bring in question efficacy, quality and success of the CPEC. “CPEC is about the future of Pakistan. It’s not linked with any person, party, province or government. It’s a national strategic project on which there is a broad national consensus,” he remarked.
PPP leader Raza Rabbani said soon after the PTI government came into power, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood talked about putting the CPEC project on the backburner for one year.
He recalled that in July 2018 US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had cautioned the IMF against a fresh bailout package for Pakistan’s new government to pay off Chinese lenders who have invested in the CPEC.
He regretted that the conditionalities agreed upon with the IMF had not been brought to parliament and claimed that details of CPEC projects had been shared with the IMF.
Nauman Wazir of the PTI said there was no doubt that China has provided $11 billion to Pakistan in two years and agreed that looking at your neighbour for investment was the best option. He, however, said some loans under the CPEC had been poorly negotiated. He claimed that the mark-up on some of the loans was as high as 22 per cent.
Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Azam Swati, while winding up the discussion, did not directly deny the reports about IMF’s demand concerning ties with China but said no conspiracy was being hatched against China. He said the IMF hailed the current policy and called for continuity of fiscal discipline.
After the minister’s remarks, the opposition staged a walkout from the house as a mark of protest against the absence in the house of the adviser to the PM on finance to clarify the report about IMF’s demand.
The quorum was pointed out after opposition’s second walkout of the day. Quorum bells were rung but to no avail and the house was prorogued sine die.
Earlier, the opposition had also staged a walkout to protest government’s failure to bring the FIA report on wheat flour and sugar crisis in the house as directed on Friday by Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani.
Minister Swati told the house that the report submitted by the FIA had been sent back by Prime Minister Imran Khan with queries and observations. He promised that the revised and comprehensive report will be shared with the house during the next session.
The Senate passed a resolution asking the government to immediately place the FIA inquiry report about the wheat crisis before the house, so that people of Pakistan are able to identify the main culprits responsible for creating the crisis.
“This house condemns the recent wheat and flour crisis, this unprecedented rise in the prices of both commodities and the resultant record inflationary trend in the country has broken the back of masses which clearly shows the non-serious attitude, incompetence and negligence of the incumbent government and its inability to provide relief to the people,” the resolution reads.
Published in Dawn, February 18th, 2020