Miftah’s victory

Published August 31, 2022

BLOODIED, but unbowed. That perhaps best describes how Finance Minister Miftah Ismail must feel as he emerges triumphant from the challenge he undertook when he signed on to arguably the most radioactive job in Pakistan.

Throughout that troubled journey, he fought friend and foe to deliver on his one critical task: avert a default. Thanks to his dogged efforts, the IMF has finally decided to loosen its purse strings and release around $1.1bn.

Pakistan desperately needed the funds to shore up dwindling foreign exchange reserves and unlock other avenues for borrowing. It is true that the people have and will pay heavily for the price of the IMF’s acquiescence. However, there was little choice in the matter, as Pakistan was on the brink of disaster just months ago, and drastic measures were needed to get the economy back on track. One hopes that they are not for nought.

Editorial: IMF agreement

The fight for the IMF’s approval also brought out another ugly side of the PTI. It was disappointing to see the party stoop to the level it did in its attempt to allegedly torpedo the IMF deal. By acting as a spoiler in the closely watched process, the PTI earned the contempt of many.

The party, which, directly or through its allies, controls two major provinces, enjoys significant leverage in matters of national import. It was unfortunate to see that leverage being used for self-centred sabotage rather than in the service of the people. Once again, the question of the PTI leadership’s fitness for office must have arisen in many minds.

It was doubly disappointing that the former finance minister allegedly played a central role in this conspiracy. Surely, he knew better than those not as financially inclined what the ramifications of the IMF’s refusal to release the needed funds would be. It is understandable that the party has been miffed at the government’s overboard efforts to subdue Imran Khan, but was securing legal relief for him worth putting the country’s economic well-being on the line?

The PDM and the PTI do not need each other. They are their own worst enemies. They have both proven themselves exceptionally capable of shooting themselves in the foot right when their star seems about to shine. How long their wearisome political farce will continue, no one knows. However, the public will soon tire of the constant cycle of elation and outrage and start demanding real answers to real problems.

Meanwhile, the advice for the finance minister is straightforward: he should not dwell too long on this victory. An IMF loan is not all that his legacy should be about. If, with his grit, he can start setting some of the economy’s fundamentals on the right track in whatever time he still has in office, the nation will have something to be genuinely grateful to him for.

Published in Dawn, August 31st, 2022

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