KARACHI: Former prime minister Imran Khan believes that Pakistan cannot shun the idea of reaching out to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for an economic bailout any sooner and says his party, if it returns to power, will “have no choice” but to depend on support from the lender, Dawn.com reported on Thursday.

In an interview with Bloomberg, the former premier also said he suspected that the next general elections could be rigged to keep him out of power.

“We know exactly who was responsible for the regime change [that dislodged the PTI from power last year],” he said.

On the economic front, Mr Khan minced no words while sharing his “radical plan” to shore up the ailing national economy, with the IMF also having a part to play.

“If we come into power, we won’t have much time,” Mr Khan said.

When asked if his plan would involve sticking with the IMF, the PTI chief replied: “We have no choice now.”

The incumbent government — PTI’s opponents — has been making hectic efforts to convince the IMF to complete the review, pending since Sept 2022 — which will be followed by the release of funds.

PTI chief fears next elections could be rigged to keep him out of power

However, the strings attached to the move have been a sticking point between the global lender and Pakistan.

The conditions include the withdrawal of electricity subsidies, rationalising of gas tariffs in line with prices in the international market, market-determined exchange rate and removal of the ban on the opening of LCs.

As it enters an election year, the ruling coalition is wary of implementing the demands as it would lead to a further surge in inflation. The government blames Mr Khan’s PTI regime for violating an agreement with the lender that allegedly aggravated the economic crisis in the country.

In the Bloomberg interview, the former premier said his government will have to make unprecedented policies in the country. “We fear a Sri Lanka-type situation,” he said in reference to the default that Pakistan faces.

He also said he would reappoint Shaukat Tarin as finance minister.

The ex-premier reiterated his government would pursue an independent foreign policy “that doesn’t lean on any single country such as the US or China”.

He recalled that the previous government had an “excellent relationship” with former President Donald Trump, but the relations took a hit after Joe Biden was elected.

“It’s only when Joe Biden came along that for some reason I found that there was reluctance there,” he said.

According to Mr Khan, the Pak-US ties soured because Washington needed someone to blame for its exit from Afghanistan.

Commenting on his rivalry with different political parties in the country, Imran said the entire political status quo was against him. “Right now I’m afraid, I have powerful enemies.”

Published in Dawn, January 27th, 2023

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