Karachi: Pakistan’s political landscape is abuzz with the news of Imran Khan, the country’s main opposition leader and former prime minister, expressing his support for a recently-reached bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). After a meeting with IMF officials on Friday, Khan’s party announced his endorsement of the nine-month $3 billion stand-by arrangement and associated policies.
Hammad Azhar, a former finance minister under Khan, participated in the meeting virtually and took to Twitter to share their discussion on the staff-level deal between the IMF and the Pakistani government. “In this context, we support the overall objectives and key policies,” Azhar stated. The meeting, held at Khan’s residence in Lahore, had IMF officials present in person while Mission Chief Nathan Porter joined virtually.
The IMF, in the lead-up to the approaching national elections, is seeking the support of Pakistan’s political parties, including Khan’s, for the new program. Esther Perez Ruiz, the IMF’s resident representative, emphasized the importance of meeting with political parties to secure their backing for the program’s objectives and policies.
The IMF board’s expected approval on July 12 will be a significant step in Pakistan’s effort to stabilize its faltering $350 billion economy. If approved, the new agreement will take the place of the four-year Extended Financing Facility that Khan’s administration first agreed to in 2019. This will give the nation the chance to address its urgent problems and reenergize economic growth. The IMF board’s decision, which will determine the course of Pakistan’s economic recovery moving forward, is currently the focus of all attention.
However, it’s worth noting that Khan’s previous government deviated from agreements under an earlier IMF program shortly before his removal from power. The breach resulted in delayed program implementation and increased economic uncertainty. The upcoming national elections, scheduled for early November, take place against a charged political backdrop, with Khan locked in a confrontational standoff with the government and the powerful military.
The new program is expected to span three consecutive governments, starting with the current setup led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, whose term ends in August, followed by a caretaker administration responsible for conducting the polls, and finally, a new government formed after the elections.
According to Azhar, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party, led by Khan, believes that political stability is crucial for the economy. They call for free, fair, and timely elections, which will pave the way for a new government to initiate reforms and engage with multilateral institutions on a longer-term basis.
Despite Khan’s popularity as the country’s most favored leader, his eligibility for the upcoming elections is at risk due to ongoing cases against him since his removal from power. Khan perceives these cases as an attempt to sideline him and dismantle his party. However, the government and military deny these claims, asserting that the cases are based on merit.
Following Khan’s brief arrest in May, the government launched a crackdown on his party, resulting in violent protests and damage to military installations. While Khan was released on bail, several of his key aides remain under arrest, and others, including Azhar, are in hiding. Despite these challenges, Azhar stated that some members of PTI’s economic team attended the meeting virtually, highlighting their commitment to the cause.
The meeting not only provides an opportunity for Khan to strengthen his party’s stance on economic policies but also showcases his willingness to collaborate with international institutions for the betterment of Pakistan. It underscores the importance of political stability as a foundation for sustainable economic growth and sets the stage for a critical dialogue on the country’s future trajectory. As the nation braces itself for the forthcoming elections, the outcome of this engagement will reverberate throughout Pakistan, shaping the economic landscape and determining the path forward.