• PTI leader claims IMF approached Imran first to seek ‘guarantee’
• Issue of unassigned reserved seats reverberates in upper house

ISLAMABAD: Sena­tors from two sides of the aisle on Friday sparred over PTI founding chairman Imran Khan’s letter to the IMF linking rele­a­se of next tranche of bailout package for Pak­i­stan with audit of rece­ntly held general elections.

Senator Saadia Abbasi of the PML-N while raising the issue in the house regretted the invitation to the global len­der to intervene in internal matters of Pakistan.

She said IMF was neither an investigation age­ncy nor had the role to impose its will in matters linked with Pakis­t­an’s sovereignty. She said Mr Khan’s role was one of the strongest opp­o­sition parties at present.

She said the opposition was a watchdog on government and a government-in-waiting, but domestic issues should be resolved domestica­lly, highlighting the need for all to join hands to protect country’s interests.

PTI Senator Humayun Mohmand made it clear that it was the IMF that had sought a meeting with Mr Khan in June 2023. He said the IMF board of governors had declared that it would offer bailout package “only after Mr Khan gave a guarantee”.

He said the PTI chairman had been told that the first tranche would be released to the PDM government, second to the caretaker government and the third to the government that will get people’s mandate in a free and fair election.

“We are just reminding them that the next tranche is to be given to those having mandate,” the senator said, while accusing the government of being formed by those who had stolen mandate.

He reminded PML-N Senator Abbasi that this was also the opinion of former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, former PPP senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar and PML-N leader Javed Latif. He praised the PML-N candidate from NA-66, Nisar Cheema, for admitting that defeat was better than a stolen mandate.

‘Foreign intervention’

PML-N Senator Irfan Siddiqui said an invitation to foreign institutions to intervene in inte­rnal affairs of Pakistan by those who say “subjugation unacceptable” was condemnable. He also informed the chair that he has already submitted an adjournment motion on the subject with the secretariat.

Mr Siddiqui said there should be no injustice with women in jails for their association with the PTI. However, he said, there were around 1,400 women behind bars, besi­des four PTI women — Dr Yasmeen Rashid, Aalia Hamza, Sanam Jawed and Aisha Bhutta.

He said he could not support the demand for rel­easing the four wo­men without legal pro­cess, just because they belonged to the PTI.

Reserved seats

PTI lawmaker Zees­han Khanzada criticised the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for not allocating reserved seats to Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC), which has been joined by PTI-backed independent candidates.

He drew the attention of senators, worrying over Mr Khan’s letter, to the one written by US lawmakers urging President Biden not to recognise the government in Pakistan without a thorough investigation into the allegations of election rigging.

Another PTI Senator, Saifullah Abro, emphasised that the election to the office of the prime minister should be held only after the National Assembly is complete, with allocation of reserved seats. He said except PML-N, every party was complaining that elections had been rigged.

Senator Waqar Mehdi of PPP said his party also had reservations over the election. However, he added, writing a letter to the IMF was enmity with Pakistan. He said complainants should approach the election tribunals.

Also referring to the letter sent to the IMF by the PTI founder, PPP lawmaker Nisar Khuhro said such moves would only weaken democracy. He warned that political parties must not take steps that amount to attempts to derail democracy.

Published in Dawn, March 2nd, 2024

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