LAHORE: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif lines up the striker disc for a shot on the carrom board, as caretaker Punjab CM Mohsin Naqvi looks on, during a visit to the Sabzazar Sports Complex on Sunday.—Courtesy PID
LAHORE: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif lines up the striker disc for a shot on the carrom board, as caretaker Punjab CM Mohsin Naqvi looks on, during a visit to the Sabzazar Sports Complex on Sunday.—Courtesy PID

• Shehbaz hopes agreement to be signed by June end since all conditions have been met
• Says May 9 rioters to be penalised, instigated by ‘one person’; inaugurates sports complex

LAHORE: As the agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) continues to elude Pakistan, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif shared the pessimism of his finance czar Ishaq Dar about dealings with the global moneylender, saying in case the deal with the Fund did not go as planned, he would take the nation into confidence and find a way forward.

In the same breath, the premier expressed optimism about the ninth review and said all requirements to unlock the funding have been met and the government and the global moneylender would reach an accord by the end of this month. He had made similar comments during a cabinet meeting wherein the budget for the upcoming fiscal year was approved.

A day earlier, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar had said Islamabad expected little from the Fund beyond the disbursement of money under the long-delayed ninth IMF review, which would result in the release of $1.1 billion. Both the finance minister and the premier, apparently, are on the same page about the ninth review, which they hope would be achieved by the end of this month.

Editorial: Ishaq Dar, what have you done?

“There is no need to be nervous. Allah has granted the country all the major resources. We have met all conditions of the IMF, removing obstacles in finalising an agreement with it. I have spoken to the head of the IMF for an hour, and she assured me that the agreement will be signed this month,” he said at a ceremony here on Sunday. He said he would address the nation if there were any delays in signing the agreement.

Pointing out that when the PML-N assumed power in April 2022, its predecessor had broken the agreement signed with the IMF. The prime minister criticised PTI chief Imran Khan and alleged that the “fascist government that came to power in 2018 stopped work on the development projects”.

Speaking about the challenges his government was facing, he said that gas prices had plummeted during the Covid-19 pandemic but the then rulers did not try to benefit from the dip on energy prices.

Mr Sharif also chided the PTI government for comprising CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corri­dor) projects. He said the PTI had only one agenda: pushing the opposition to the wall. He said had Imran Khan worked hard to resolve “real issues during his four-year rule”, the economic condition would not have been what the people were seeing today.

Referring to the relief given to the government employees in the budget tabled in parliament on Friday, he said salaries of federal government officers above grade 17 were raised by 30 per cent, while pensions of retired employees increased by 17.5pc.

May 9 riots

In a comment on the May 9 violent incidents, he said these were “acts of enmity that even the enemies could not accomplish” in the last 75 years. “The miscreants atta­cked government facilities, causing substantial damage in a single day at the instigation of an individual,” he said, referring to PTI chairman Imran Khan. “And anyone found guilty in these incidents would be penalised,” he declared.

He called for political stability to bring about economic stability in the country and pledged to work under the leadership of Nawaz Sharif for bringing economic stability to the country.

The prime minister announced membership fee exemption for all school and college students at sports complexes. He said state-of-the-art sports complexes were built in 14 constituencies of Lahore during his term as the chief minister, but work on these projects was halted in 2018 after the PTI came to power.

Mr Sharif said he was inaugurating the first of the 14 sports complexes from which talented youth will benefit free of charge. The sports complex would have separate facilities for boys and girls and 50 per cent of the membership would be free while the other half of members would be charged to meet the operational costs of the complex.

Published in Dawn, June 12th, 2023

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