A day after International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission chief Nathan Porter commented on the country’s political situation, Minister of State for Finance and Revenue Dr Aisha Ghaus Pasha said on Wednesday that he should not “interfere in politically domestic” matters.

While the IMF usually does not comment on domestic politics, in a statement on Tuesday, Porter said the IMF hopes “a peaceful way forward is found in line with the Constitution and the rule of law”.

His comments come as the country still awaits the much-delayed signing of a staff-level agreement that would unlock $1.1 billion in financing for the cash-strapped nation as part of a $7bn IMF package.

Talking to reporters today, Dr Ghaus said, “[Firstly], Nathan Porters should not interfere in politically domestic matters. Secondly, I do not know what he has exactly said. […] Officially, we have not been communicated anything so we do not know.

“I think what the IMF has said is extraordinary. Usually, as far as I have studied the IMF or have seen its engagement with other countries, it ordinarily does not say such things.”

When asked if the IMF official’s statement will be raised with the Fund’s Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, she answered that the matter had not been deliberated upon.

While the IMF is preparing to discuss Pakistan’s budget plans for the coming financial year, Dr Ghaus said the finance ministry is preparing the budget considering that Pakistan is under an IMF programme and is “continuously engaged with it”.

“We want that we prepare the budget in such a way that we give as much relief as possible to the common person in these conditions and that no further burden is added,” she added.

The minister said that the preparations for the budget’s presentation in the National Assembly on June 9 were under way as per the budget calendar.

She dismissed speculation of a difference of opinion between Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on dialogue with the IMF, and said the “entire economic team was onboard”.

“The prime minister is representing the government at this stage. He is the head of this government. If he is saying something this clearly, then his entire team is with him, whether it is the finance or any other division,” she said.

“In our conversation with the IMF, we have said that ‘this delay [in signing the agreement] is neither good for you nor for us. This uncertainty should end — a lot of time has passed — and your programme is also ending on June 30 so whatever we have to do should be done speedily,’” she added.

Dr Ghaus emphasised that the government has made it clear to Georgieva that it wants to complete the IMF programme and added that the Fund’s managing director expressed the same that it wants progress on the matter.

“The entire nation knows our economic situation. Businessmen also know — they also know we are in an IMF programme. They also know that completing the IMF programme amicably is in the national interest so we will give relief as much as possible,” she said.

On the matter of the IMF programme expiring on June 30, she said that as the programme had already been extended once, extending it again was not being discussed as per her knowledge.

Replying to a query, the minister said it was to be pondered later whether to enter an IMF programme again or not: “First, let this programme reach its end. Then we can decide how to move forward.”

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