Bajwa appeals to Biden administration to help expedite Pakistan-IMF deal
ISLAMABAD: Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa has approached The White House seeking their intervention in the early disbursement of funds from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), according to Nikkei Asia.
According to the report, General Qamar Javed Bajwa telephoned US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and appealed to her to expedite the $1.2bn dispersal by the IMF.
The unusual move by the army chief comes as Pakistan faces a worsening economic crisis due to dwindling foreign reserves.
This is not the first time that the government has approached the administration of President Joe Biden to restore the $6 billion loan programme. Federal Finance Minister Miftah Ismail had met the US envoy in Islamabad seeking the US government’s influence over IMF in reviving the bailout package.
The country reached a staff-level agreement with the lender earlier this month but the delay in the disbursement has put pressure on the country’s faltering economy amid a deepening political crisis.
As per reports, the IMF’s board meeting is expected in the third week of August and the pressure on the local currency has sparked a debate about whether Pakistan could default.
Pakistan agreed to take some very tough measures in order to revive the stalled IMF programme, removing subsidies on petroleum products, hiking power and gas tariffs and increasing taxes.
These steps have taken a toll on the common man but the delay in the funds’ transfer has jittered the financial markets with the rupee has slid to the historic low in the interbank market, trading at around 240 to a dollar.
The Shahbaz Sharif-led government has been making hectic efforts to restore investor confidence but all the attempts have so far failed to bring stability.
Miftah meets US envoy
In a similar move to Pakistani Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa’s appeal to US to help Pakistan in securing an IMF loan tranche, country’s Finance Minister Miftah Ismail has met the Ambassador of the United States (US) to Pakistan, Donald Blome, to get financial investments from Washington, media reports said.
As Pakistan is battling with an unprecidented crisis, Ismail asserted that attracting the United States (US) foreign investment in different sectors of country’s economy was the Pakistani government’s top priority. The Finance Minister said the incumbent government was focusing on creating a business-friendly environment for foreign investors. He stated that Pakistan and the US enjoy a long-term, broad-based and multi-dimensional relationship.
Earlier, country’s army chief Bajwa has sought help from the US to secure an early loan dispersal from the International Monetary Fund at a time when the country is battling with dwindling foreign reserves, media reports said.
Pakistan’s Finance Ministry, in a press statement, confirmed this development. Economic Counselor, Aaron Fishman and Treasury Attache of US Embassy, Larita Bolden accompanied the Ambassador during his meet with Ismail, reported local media outlet ARY News.
Minister of State for Finance and Revenue Dr Aisha Ghous Pasha, Special Secretary Finance and senior officers also attended the meeting.
On Thursday, S&P Global downgraded Pakistan’s outlook to negative from stable. The U.S. is the largest shareholder in the IMF, founded in 1945. While Washington has voted for funding Pakistan in the past, the Trump administration openly expressed its reservations about the country using IMF loans to pay back China, as per the media portal.
General Bajwa’s appeal comes in the wake of separate meetings between senior civilian Pakistani and American officials in July, none of which managed to negotiate an early disbursement of funds.
“Several senior Pakistani officials have met with U.S. and other key stakeholder nations in the IMF and World Bank in the past week to register concerns about the timing of IMF Executive Board decisions, pressing to expedite review of Pakistan’s progress on prior actions,” said an official familiar with the proceedings.
According to sources, the lack of progress in those meetings spurred Gen. Bajwa, commander of the 650,000-strong military, to get Washington’s attention when other emissaries could not deliver. “This reflects the Pakistan army’s concerns about the state of the economy,” said Hussain Haqqani,
Pakistan’s former ambassador to Washington and currently the director for South and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute in Washington. “It also reflects that the Pakistan army chief is the authority with whom the global players feel the final word rests.” (ANI)
Nawaz Sharif’s spokesman
Mohammad Zubair, a spokesperson for Nawaz Sharif, three-time former premier and head of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party, has said the government would not grant an extension to Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and would appoint a new head of the army in November this year.
Bajwa’s tenure was due to end in November 2019 but then Prime Minister Imran Khan gave him a three-year extension.
As the army chief’s tenure comes to an end this November, the question has risen once more of whether Bajwa will be granted another extension by the PML-N government, which faces severe economic challenges and growing demands by the opposition to call snap polls. Elections are scheduled in August 2023 but Khan’s party and allies are demanding early elections and a new government by October.
In the current affairs program ‘Hum Meher Bokhari Kay Sath,’ when asked if the government would grant an extension to the army chief in November, Zubair replied categorically “No.” When asked if the current government would appoint the new military chief, he added: “Inshallah,” the implication being that the PML-N would still be in power in November and would not be announcing snap polls.
In April this year, while answering questions about whether the army chief would seek a second extension, military spokesman Major General Babar Iftikhar had said: “Let me put this to rest: COAS [Chief of Army Staff] is neither seeking an extension, nor will he accept an extension. He will be retiring on time on November 29.”
Any effort by a military chief to consolidate power is widely viewed with suspicion by many in Pakistan’s political classes, who are wary of the army extending its influence further into the civilian domain.
The army has ruled Pakistan for nearly half of its history since independence in 1947 — and even during periods of civilian rule, the army has set security and foreign policy.