Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif is optimistic that the country would finalise the deal with the IMF this month as the cash-strapped nation makes every effort to bolster the economy and tame inflation.
“We are still very hopeful that the IMF program will materialize. Our ninth review by the IMF will match all terms and conditions and, hopefully, we’ll have some good news this month,” he said in an interview with Turkiye’s Anadolu Agency that was published on Monday.
The development comes just days before the coalition government is all set to present the budget for the next fiscal year. The outlay is also important as the country is expected to go for elections this year.
Sharif was in Ankara for the swearing ceremony of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Over a dozen heads of state attended the ceremony.
Pakistan has been in talks with the IMF since early February for the release of $1.1 billion, part of a $6.5 billion bailout package signed in 2019.
Finance czar Ishaq Dar has reiterated that the country would not default and promised that the government had planned reforms for the country’s “long-term betterment”.
The IMF remains in touch with Pakistan’s authorities in order to pave the way for a board meeting before a financing program expires at the end of June, the IMF mission chief for Pakistan said last month.
The staff-level agreement 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.
“We have met all conditionalities. I repeat, each and every requirement of the IMF as prior actions have been met,” he said, “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.”
Pakistan recorded its highest-ever annual inflation of 37.97 year-on-year last week, with the finance ministry blaming the flood damages, disruptions in supply chains, devaluation brought by the macroeconomic imbalances, and political uncertainty for the price hike.
The ruling alliance brought austerity measures to bring the economy back on track, however, such decisions were not fully followed as per reports.
But the premier was of the view that if needed the people of the energy-crunch country would “tighten their belt” and rise again.
He blamed his predecessor Imran Khan’s government for problems and the deadly floods of 2022. “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,” said PM Shehbaz.
Then, he added the country had devastating floods in August 2022.
He claimed 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.”
Shehbaz wonders ‘would any civilized country allow May 9 vandalism?’
When asked about the development after his rival Imran Khan’s arrest, the premier wondered would any civilised country “allow this kind of vandalism against the state, which happened on May 9” in Pakistan?
“I just want to cite one example, which is what happened on Jan 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?” he added while speaking about the events of May 9.
Pakistan is beset by unrest since Khan’s arrest last month in a graft case, triggering violent protests across the country and attacks on state and military installations.
He was released after the top court declared his arrest illegal by the country’s top court, however, thousands of Khan’s supporters and party leaders have since been detained. Some of the released leaders have condemned the May 9 riots and parted ways with the party.
The premier, who has refused talks offer from his rival, added that the PTI chief faced charges of “serious corruption, malpractice, and wheeling-dealing.” The law had to deal with this, he added.
“He [Khan], 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,” said the premier, “he planned this very serious act against the state of Pakistan. He incited his people. There’s evidence beyond any doubt.”
Sharif alleged that 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.
He explained that the Act has been in place since 1951 and, apart from military personnel, allows for the trial of civilians who have a “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.
‘Turkiye, Pakistan one soul, two hearts that beat together’
In the interview, PM Shehbaz hailed the bilateral ties and congratulated the people of Turkiye on President Erdogan’s reelection.
“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.
PM Shehbaz has extended an invitation to Erdogan to attend the Meeting of the High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council in Islamabad.
“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.”