Pakistan ‘very hopeful’ of sealing IMF deal this month: PM Shehbaz

Published June 5, 2023
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif photographed during an interview with Anadolu Agency in Ankara, Turkey. — Anadolu Agency
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif photographed during an interview with Anadolu Agency in Ankara, Turkey. — Anadolu Agency

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has said Pakistan is “very hopeful” of finalising a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) this month.

“We are still very hopeful that the IMF program will materialise. Our ninth review by the IMF will match all terms and conditions and, hopefully, we’ll have some good news this month,” he told Anadolu in an exclusive interview in the Turkish capital Ankara.

The premier was in Ankara for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s inauguration, one of dozens of heads of state and government who attended Saturday’s ceremony.

Islamabad has been negotiating with the IMF since early February for the release of $1.1 billion, part of a $6.5bn bailout package inked in 2019 by the previous government of former prime minister Imran Khan.

The staff-level agreement for the tranche’s release has been delayed since November, with more than 100 days gone since the last staff-level mission to Pakistan, the longest such delay since at least 2008.

In total, about $2.7bn are left to be disbursed from the package, which is scheduled to expire this month.

At the end of May, PM Shehbaz requested IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva to help revive the stalled facility, but asserted that Pakistan does have a backup plan in place.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said last week that Pakistan will share its budget details with the Fund. He added that he would like the IMF to clear its 9th review before the budget, which is due to be presented in early June, as all the conditions for that had already been met.

For its part, the IMF has said it remains in touch with Pakistan’s authorities in order to pave the way for a board meeting before the financing programme expires at the end of June.

Ordinarily, a board meeting on a review of the programme would require a prior staff-level agreement.

During his interview with Anadolu, PM Shehbaz said, “We have met all conditionalities. I repeat, each and every requirement of the IMF as prior actions has been met.

“Some of those actions are usually met after the board’s approval, but this time the IMF required that those actions be met before the board’s approval, so we have met them.”

On contingency plans in case the IMF talks fall through, PM Shehbaz emphasised the resilience and fortitude of the Pakistani nation.

He said the people of Pakistan had faced challenges in the past, and if needed, will “tighten our belt” and rise again.

According to the premier, Pakistan has been facing a plethora of problems since April 2022, when the current government took over after Imran was ousted in a no-trust vote.

The issues are the result of the previous government’s policies, the deadly floods in August, and the inflation problem, he said.

“Pakistan, in April 2022, was on the verge of default because the government of the day had violated the IMF agreement and the economy was in tatters,” Shehbaz said. “Then we had devastating floods in August 2022. Combined with that we are facing galloping inflation, because of the international situation.”

He asserted that his government has been able to navigate the challenges “in the best possible fashion with the help of the people of Pakistan” and “brotherly and friendly countries.”

‘Would any civilised country allow this kind of vandalism?’

Commenting on the events of May 9 — when public and private properties, including military installations, were vandalised amid protests over Imran’s arrest in a graft case, PM Shehbaz said the PTI chief faced charges of “serious corruption, malpractice, and wheeling-dealing”, and the “law had to deal with this.”

“He (the PTI chief), for a period of time, had been preparing his people mentally, his bunch of thugs, as I call it, to react violently, in case he’s arrested,” PM Shehbaz alleged.

“He planned this very serious act against the state of Pakistan. He incited his people. There’s evidence beyond any doubt,” he said, further alleging that the PTI chief’s supporters were instructed to torch buildings, attack institutions, and desecrate graves and monuments.

The PTI chief has distanced himself from the incidents of violence and vandalism and called for an independent inquiry into the matter.

Meanwhile, the government has decided to try those accused of attacking military installations under army laws.

“Those people who have attacked civilian installations will be tried under civilian law, and those people who attacked military installations and desecrated institutions will be tried under the military act,” PM Shehbaz told Anadolu.

He maintained that the act has been in place since 1951 and, apart from military personnel, allows for the trial of civilians who have “direct or indirect connection” with certain criminal acts.

“Under this act, once the judge awards punishment, the defendant has two appeals — one in the high court and then in the Supreme Court of Pakistan,” he said.

The “bottom line of this entire process” is ensuring justice “so that this never takes place in Pakistan, for the rest of our life,” PM Shehbaz added.

“Would any civilised country allow this kind of vandalism against the state, which happened on May 9 in Pakistan?” he continued.

“I just want to cite one example, which is what happened on January 6, 2021 at Capitol Hill in Washington. Aren’t those perpetrators being tried and given severe punishments so that such an act never happens again in the history of the United States?”

‘Turkiye, Pakistan one soul, two hearts that beat together’

Turning to bilateral ties, PM Shehbaz congratulated the people of Turkiye on President Erdogan’s reelection, hailing it as a “wonderful development.”

“I will work very closely with my brother, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a visionary leader and a man of commitment who believes in public service. I hope our relations will enhance to a much higher level in terms of brotherhood, understanding, and economic cooperation,” he said.

“I always maintain, and I mean it, that our two brotherly countries are like one soul with hearts that beat together. We speak different languages, but we understand what we’re saying through our hearts. So, I think it’s a great opportunity.”

Shehbaz said Pakistan and Turkiye will boost cooperation in the near future to enhance trade and foster mutual growth by focusing on areas such as biogas, solar energy, and hydropower.


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