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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Pakistan ‘very hopeful’ of sealing IMF deal in June: Prime Minister Sharif

‘Our 9th review by the IMF will match all terms and conditions and, hopefully, we’ll have some good news this month,’ Shehbaz Sharif tells Anadolu in an exclusive interview

Sharif was in Ankara for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s inauguration, one of dozens of heads of state and government who attended Saturday’s ceremony.

Islamabad has been negotiating with the IMF since early February for the release of $1.1 billion, part of a $6.5 billion bailout package inked in 2019 by the previous government of former Prime Minister Imran Khan.

In total, about $2.7 billion are left to be disbursed from the package, which is scheduled to expire this month.

Read more: Political Stability and the IMF’s Bailout Package for Pakistan: A Risk Assessment

At the end of May, Sharif 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,” Sharif told Anadolu.

“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.”

On contingency plans in case the IMF talks fall through, Sharif emphasized the resilience and fortitude of the Pakistani nation.

He said the people of Pakistan have faced challenges in the past, and if needed, will “tighten our belt” and rise again.

According to Sharif, Pakistan has been facing a plethora of problems since April 2022, when the current government took over after Khan was ousted in a no-trust vote.

The issues are the result of the previous government’s policies, the deadly floods in August, and the inflation problem, he said.

Read more: Pakistan gets closer to IMF deal after UAE pledges $1 billion

“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 Sharif.

“Then we had devastating floods in August 2022. Combined with that we are facing galloping inflation, because of the international situation.”

He asserted 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.”

‘Would any civilized country allow this kind of vandalism?’

Pakistan has been engulfed by unrest since Khan’s arrest last month in a corruption case, which sparked violent protests across the country, including attacks on state and military installations.

He was released after the arrest was declared illegal by the country’s top court, but thousands of workers and leaders of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party have since been detained.

Many of them have quit the party, or politics altogether. Some of those involved in the violence will be tried in military courts, according to the government.

Commenting on the situation, Sharif said Khan faced charges of “serious corruption, malpractice, and wheeling-dealing,” stressing that the “law had to deal with this.”

“He, 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 said 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 “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.

The “bottom line of this entire process” is ensuring justice “so that this never takes place in Pakistan, for the rest of our life,” said Sharif.

“Would any civilized country allow this kind of vandalism against the state, which happened on May 9 in Pakistan?” he continued.

“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?”