ISLAMABAD: PTI’s plan to urge IMF to seek an independent audit of the election results before continuing talks with Islamabad for any new loan backfired on Friday as not only the lender expressed interest in working with the incoming government, but the party also received severe criticism from political forces.

Speaking during the Senate session, legislators termed the PTI’s plan “anti-people” and “anti-Pakistan”.

Incarcerated PTI founder Imran Khan, while talking to reporters in Adiala Jail, confirmed he was planning to write to IMF.

He said PTI would write a letter to the IMF against alleged rigging. “We will inform the Fund that due to rigged elections, the investors would not trust the regime and that PTI is seeking a probe into the rigging.”

He was of the view that in the prevailing political unrest, new loans would bring more poverty. “Seeking loan without investment will be detrimental to the country’s economy,” he warned, adding that political stability was imperative prior to getting a new loan.

Lender shows interest in working with new govt; senators term Imran’s decision ‘anti-Pakistan’; PTI founder confirms plan to write to Fund

The former prime minister said the country’s institutions were destroyed just to select Nawaz Sharif. “NAB and courts have been ruined only to pave the way for Nawaz’s selection.”

He said that former commissioner Liaquat Ali Chattha’s stunning revelations about massive rigging had come to the fore, but he was later “tortured” to change his statement. “Now his (commissioner’s) software has been updated,” he added.

PTI leader Barrister Gohar Khan defended Imran Khan’s move, saying the letter to IMF would be in the interest of the country.

 Barrister Gohar Khan speaks to media in Rawalpindi. — DawnNewsTV
Barrister Gohar Khan speaks to media in Rawalpindi. — DawnNewsTV

On the other hand, an IMF official said the lender looked forward to engaging with the new government on policies “to ensure macroeconomic stability and prosperity for all of Pakistan’s citizens”.

However, Senator Barrister Syed Ali Zafar of the PTI toned down the party’s stance on approaching the IMF. He said Pakistan should continue to engage with the IMF to ensure financial discipline, good governance, and economic stability, which are critical for the prosperity of Pakistan’s people.

In a post on X, he wrote, “For PTI, Pakistan will always be first and foremost. While we will continue to support all steps in this direction taken for the benefit of the country and in the national interest, PTI will continue its struggle for democracy and raise its voice at all forums and expect the international community’s support.”

Mr Zafar said he would advise Imran Khan to show restraint as writing to IMF at this juncture would not be a good option.

Senate debate

In the Senate, PML-N leader Irfan Siddiqui said writing a letter to IMF to block a new loan will be a move not against the PPP and PML-M but the people of Pakistan.

He said complaints of rigging were also lodged in the 2018 elections, but no one had even tried to ask the IMF to block the loan.

Mr Siddiqui recalled that the PTI regime’s finance minister, Shaukat Tarin, had also tried to stop the IMF loan in 2022. Similarly, another PTI leader, Fawad Chaudhry, had threatened that Punjab and KP (which were under the PTI’s rule during the PDM government) would not accept any deal between the IMF and the PDM regime.

PPP Senator Shahadat Awan said PTI had already tried to block the way of an IMF deal in the past and now a similar conspiracy was being hatched.

Sherry Rehman, PPP vice president, condemned Imran Khan’s attempt to sabotage the future IMF programme.

“Is it not a violation of laws and ethical standards to invite the IMF to intervene in Pakistan’s internal matters, espec­ially considering that the IMF has no mandate to interfere in the general elections of a country?” she asked.

PML-N leader Ishaq Dar, while speaking to the media in the Punjab Assembly, also condemned PTI’s decision and described it as “sad”.

“If a letter is written to IMF, it would have no standing,” he said, adding that by writing the letter, the PTI was proving to be anti-national.

IMF official’s presser

During a presser in New York, Julie Kozack, the director of the communications department at IMF, was asked whether Pakistan was on track to securing the third tranche of the short-term agreement and whether the IMF would entertain any letter by Mr Khan about the election irregularities.

In her response, Ms Kozack said: “On Jan 11, the IMF executive board approved the first review of the Stand-By Arrangement with Pakistan that brought total disbursements under the Stand-By Arrangement to $1.9 billion. The Stand-By Arrangement is supporting the authority’s efforts to stabilise the economy and to, of course, with a strong focus on protecting the most vulnerable.”

She said that during the tenure of the caretaker government, the “authorities have maintained economic stability”.

“This has been done through strict adherence to fiscal targets while also protecting the social safety net. It has been done by maintaining a tight monetary policy stance to control inflation and to continue to build up foreign exchange reserves,” she said.

“We look forward to working with the new government on policies to ensure macroeconomic stability and prosperity for all of Pakistan’s citizens. And I am going to leave it at that.”

As for Imran Khan’s letter, Ms Kozack said: “I’m not going to comment on ongoing political developments. So, I don’t have anything else to add to what I just said.”

‘Respecting mandate to help IMF talks’

Meanwhile, US Senator Chris Van Hollen, a key member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, has reminded Pakistani authorities that they need to respect the people’s mandate if they want meaningful deals with lenders like the IMF.

Senator Van Hollen stressed the necessity for a robust government supported by the people to make vital decisions. “Pakistan’s current economic and security challenges require a strong government with the backing of the Pakistani people to make the difficult but necessary decisions,” he wrote.

In a letter sent to Pakistan Ambassador to US Masood Khan on Thursday, he argued that “respecting the decision of the Pakistani people, expressed through their votes, is the only way a new government will be empowered to tackle issues facing Pakistan such as negotiating a new IMF agreement or investing to mitigate future floods.”

Urging Pakistani authorities to fully investigate the allegations of fraud and electoral interference, he added, “Without a credible investigation, a new government will struggle to bring the Pakistani people together.”

Pakistan and the United States, he said, shared many interests, including addressing climate change and ensuring a secure, stable, and prosperous South Asia.

Anwar Iqbal in Washington also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, February 24th, 2024

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