• Discusses budget proposals with allies; sees next FY as ‘year of economic progress’
• Accuses PTI chief of spreading fake news about rights abuses

ISLAMABAD: 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 programme will materialise. Our ninth review by the IMF will match all terms and conditions and, hopefully, we’ll have some good news this month,” PM Shehbaz told Turkiye’s Anadolu Agency in an interview on Monday.

Separately, the prime minister discussed next year’s budget with parties in the ruling PDM, held out the assurance that due process of law will be ensured for May 9 rioters and expressed his government’s resolve to work for curbing plastic pollution.

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.

“We have met all conditionalities. I repeat, each and every requirement of the IMF as prior actions has been met,” he said.

On contingency plans in case IMF talks fall through, Mr Sharif said people of Pakistan had faced challenges in the past, and if needed, would “tighten our belt” and rise again.

The issues the country is facing are the result of the previous government’s policies, the deadly floods in August, and inflation, he pointed out.

“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,” he recalled.

“Then we had devastating floods in August. Combined with that we are facing galloping inflation, because of the international situation.”

May 9 vandalism

Alluding to violence that erupted following the PTI chief’s arrest, PM Shehbaz said Imran Khan faced charges of “serious corruption, malpractice, and wheeling-dealing,” stressing that the “law had to deal with this”.

He said Mr Khan’s supporters were instructed to torch buildings, attack institutions, and desecrate graves and monuments.

“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,” he said.

“I assure everyone that the culprits are being dealt with under the law and that I will ensure that no rights violations take place,” the prime minister wrote on Twitter.

He told Anadolu Pakistan and Turkiye would boost cooperation in the near future by focusing on areas such as biogas, solar energy, and hydropower.

Priorities of budget

In Islamabad, the PM took the ruling allies in confidence over preparation of forthcoming budget.

According to the PMO, the prime minister apprised allies that in order to increase GDP growth and provide jobs, the PSDP was being increased from Rs700 billion to Rs950bn.

He said a big amount was being earmarked for the development of flood-hit areas while the National Flood Response Programme was being revived.

Parties in the ruling coalition expressed satisfaction that despite poor economy they inherited from the PTI government, the economy was being stabilized.

In a separate meeting with his economic team, the PM directed authorities concerned to give special incentives to the poor and mediocre in the budget. He said instructions had been given for the provision of direct subsidy on fertilisers to farmers.

“Maximum relief should be provided to people by ensuring the best use of available resources,” he directed.

The meeting was informed that the database of Benazir Income Support Programme would be expanded to provide relief to the poor and the middle class. “No deserving widow should be out of the BISP,” he added.

The PM said a comprehensive plan on provision of direct subsidy on fertilisers should be presented, adding that solarisation of tube-wells would reduce the fuel import bill and per acre production cost.

The PM said that dividends of the recent reduction in oil prices should be passed on to the common man.

Deserving students will be provided scholarship and laptops, he said.

Separately, JUI-F president Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Federal Minister for Communications Maulana Asad Mehmood called on PM Shehbaz and discussed with him the upcoming budget as well as the overall political situation.

PTI chief’s claims rejected

In his tweet, PM Shehbaz lamented that Imran Niazi in his interviews was disinforming audiences by “glib-talk laced with fake news and plain misrepresentation”.

“His expedient description of the post-May 9 events as ‘human rights abuses’ and ‘stifling of the right to political protest’ is not only misleading but aimed at manipulating and swaying opinion-makers outside the country,” he said.

In another tweet, PM Shehbaz said the government was actively working with national and international stakeholders to develop a legal instrument to end plastic pollution.

Published in Dawn, June 6th, 2023

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