IMF wants external financing commitments fulfilled to release funds, says PM Shehbaz

Published March 28, 2023
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif addresses Parliament on Tuesday.—Screengrab from National Assembly live stream
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif addresses Parliament on Tuesday.—Screengrab from National Assembly live stream

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) wants external financing commitments fulfilled from friendly countries before it releases bailout funds, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said on Tuesday.

The lender has been negotiating with Islamabad since early February to resume $1.1 billion in funding held since November, which is part of a $6.5 billion bailout agreed in 2019.

The funding is very critical for Pakistan to unlock other external financing avenues to avert a default on its obligations with its central bank reserves falling to as low as to cover hardly four weeks of imports.

“Now we are being told that the commitments from friendly countries be fulfilled and God willing we will,” Sharif told Parliament in a speech.

Several friendly countries such as Saudi Arabia, China and the United Arab Emirates, have made commitments to help Pakistan fund its balance of payments.

An agreement would be signed once a few remaining points, including a proposed fuel pricing scheme, are settled, an IMF official said on Friday.

Sharif had earlier announced the government’s plan to charge affluent consumers more for fuel, with the money raised used to subsidise prices for the poor, who have been hard-hit by inflation. In February it was running at its highest in 50 years.

The IMF’s resident representative in Pakistan, Esther Perez Ruiz, said earlier that the government had not consulted the fund about the scheme.

The lender wants Islamabad to explain the fuel scheme before any loan deal.

The IMF has not responded to Reuters request for a comment on the fuel pricing scheme.

‘Ray of hope’

Regarding Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail’s detailed dissenting note on the judgement handed down in the March 1 suo motu regarding elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab, PM Shehbaz termed it as a “ray of hope”.

He said that according to the judges, the 4-3 decision of judges in the suo motu case prevailed over the March 1 3-2 verdict.

On the other issues raised in the dissenting note, Shehbaz said it was the need of the time that “we sit in this House, do consultation and see what legislation we can enact in light of yesterday’s judgement.”

He said the parliament had the right to legislate on all matters in the country’s interest.

“After the judgement of these honourable judges, I think these voices from within the judiciary are a new ray of hope.”

The prime minister said the country would not forgive the lawmakers if they did not enact legislation after Monday’s dissenting note.

Regarding the audio leak of a conversation with an apex court judge, Shehbaz made a request to the top court for a forensic analysis of the audio.

“Politicians are put in jails in no time … but how many judges have been ousted on corruption,” he said.

“The parliamentarians need to decide if they will act as a herd of cattle or will we tread the path of rule of law and rule of Constitution. The time has come for us to decide.”

PM Shehbaz concluded that the country was facing a difficult situation even after 70 years of its establishment and only the rule of law could help to address the constitutional and political crisis.

He felicitated the nation on 50 years of the formulation of the 1973 Constitution, saying that the polity was a binding force among all federating units of the country.

Criticises PTI chief

The prime minister also criticised PTI Chairman Imran Khan at length, saying he was enjoying immunity from the “rule of law” despite his “persistent blackmailing and abuse of the judiciary”.

“We need a categorical decision if we want to give relief to the nation or to the ‘favoured one’ who does not abide by the law,” Shehbaz said.

He pointed out that Imran, who had a “habit of not appearing before courts and frequently mocks the judiciary”, was still getting extensions in bail.

Shehbaz recalled that the senior PML-N leadership faced imprisonment for fake cases registered against them but “no leniency was extended to them”.

“When the daughter of the nation visited her father in jail, she was arrested during the visit,” the premier said.

He said the three pillars of the state, including legislature, judiciary, and executive, had to play their due role, otherwise, “time will be left with regrets only.”

“We have to decide for the future of the nation and take guidance from law and Constitution,” PM Shehbaz added.

He mentioned the PTI chief’s violation of the pledges with the International Monetary Fund led to a serious economic crisis with an increase in foreign debt and inflation.

PM Shehbaz added that the government was trying to mend the relations with friendly countries that suffered damage during the PTI tenure.

“He has created a big divide among the nation and no one is questioning him,” Shehbaz said. “Law will take its course and this non-serious person would not be allowed to incur further damage to the country.”

He regretted that “Imran is openly criticising the brave armed forces, which is making the enemies of the country happy.”

During the PTI’s tenure, the prime minister said that the terrorists returned to their safe havens, adding that the matter needed an investigation.

The premier said talks with Imran were not possible until he apologised to the nation for his ills. “If he genuinely wants to sit down for negotiations, he should first seek forgiveness from the nation for his wrong-doings,” Shehbaz added.

“As a Pakistani, parliamentarian and the head of the country, I request the House to take urgent notice of the situation that Imran has created in the country. The parliament needs to take solid action, otherwise, history will not spare us. Imran is trying to bury the 1973 Constitution.”

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