April 19, 2023
ISLAMABAD – Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said on Tuesday that Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Asim Munir, among others, had made “tremendous efforts” for securing financial pledges from friendly countries and meeting the “last” of International Monetary Funds’ (IMF) conditions for the revival of a $7 billion bailout programme.
The premier’s statement came during a meeting of allies part of the PML-N-led ruling coalition at the Centre, as he announced that negotiations with the IMF were in the final stages.
Pakistan has been negotiating with the IMF since early February for the resumption of the loan programme agreed upon in 2019 and the completion of its ninth review to secure the last tranche of $1.1bn under this facility.
With central bank reserves falling to critical levels, hovering around $4bn and barely able to cover a month of imports, the IMF tranche is critical for the country to avert a default on its obligations.
Last month, PM Shehbaz said the Fund wanted external financing commitments fulfilled by friendly countries before it released bailout funds and since then, several countries such as Saudi Arabia, China and the United Arab Emirates, have made commitments to help Pakistan fund its balance of payments.
During today’s meeting, PM Shehbaz particularly lauded Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari for their tireless efforts to meet the IMF’s conditions and secure financial assurances from friendly nations.
He then went on to appreciate COAS Munir, saying, “At this moment I will also say — even at the cost of reputation — that our army chief has also made tremendous efforts in this regard.”
The premier said he could not share further details regarding the army chief’s contributions and efforts, “but this is also a fact”.
‘Allies united in face of challenges’
Earlier in the session, the premier said the coalition parties had shown “unprecedented unity” throughout their first year in government and that this unity was now a matter of worry for opposition parties.
The premier recalled that at the beginning of the ruling coalition’s tenure, the opposition and even some among the ruling allies were “not hopeful about the durability of the alliance”.
“However, all of the allied parties manifested their democratic spirit and played their constructive role to maintain unity and steer the country out of prevalent challenges,” he said.
PM Shehbaz said that despite differences on certain matters, the allied parties remained “united to face challenges inherited from the previous government”.
As for the disagreements among the allies, they were resolved through talks and discussions, the premier said. “Because in a democracy, decisions are made through consultation and not imposed.”
Referring to the Supreme Court’s ruling that bars the government from implementing a bill seeking to curtail the chief justice of Pakistan’s powers once it becomes a law, PM Shehbaz said: “Nowhere in the world has it ever happened that a court granted a stay on the implementation of a law even before its promulgation.”
He also briefed the meeting’s participants about his upcoming telephonic conversation with new Chinese Premier Li Qiang in the last week of April — on the 27th or 28th of the month — saying that they would discuss matters of mutual interest.
Concluding his address, PM Shehbaz reiterated the coalition government’s resolve to overcome the “challenges it has taken up for the sake of the country’s progress”.
“I again assure you that you have elected me your prime minister and I will try my best to live up to your expectations,” he said.