ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, on Tuesday, said that the staff-level agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would be reached within a few days as the government has accepted even the “toughest” conditions put forth by the global financial institution.
It has been over a month since the IMF mission left Pakistan, however the news about the signing of the Staff Level Agreement is still awaited. The mission was supposed to negotiate with the government virtually after their physical visit to Pakistan however, it has taken an unusual amount of time to reach that agreement.
The government has been assuring the public of the signing of the agreement “within a few days” for more than 20 days now. However, after the latest episode of devaluation of rupee, and a hike in the policy rate, experts expect the staff level agreement to fall through, sooner than later.
The prime minister, in an interview with a private television channel, said that joint efforts were being made by both his economic team and other national institutions to make the process a success.
The prime minister spoke at length on multiple national issues, including the one-year performance of his government, the economic situation, elections, Toshakhana record, party matters as well as a probe into the murder of anchorperson Arshad Sharif.
He said at the time of assuming government, he did not know that his predecessor Imran Khan had agreed on such conditions with the IMF. Conditions which Imran Khan himself later backed out of, to undermine Pakistan in the world as well as among global institutions.
“This is why the IMF is making us accept those conditions and seeking their implementation. No doubt, these conditions have burdened the common man,” he commented.
PM Shehbaz said that after realising the common man’s suffering, the government has decided to provide relief through the Benazir Income Support Programme. However, the imported inflation caused by the Ukraine war also hit the country in the form of increased fertilizer and oil prices, as per the PM.
The floods also affected the national economy, and ex-prime minister Imran Khan’s “shameful” lies about regime change by the United States created uncertainty about Pakistan as a debtor, he added.
The prime minister told the interviewer that friendly countries like China were supporting Pakistan despite the fact that Imran Khan had hurt their brotherly ties.
Recounting the baseless allegations leveled by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leadership against him, through local television channels as well the United Kingdom’s Daily Mail, Shehbaz Sharif said that the latter apologised to him. He said that the UK’s National Crime Agency also exonerated him from the charges hurled at him by that time’s government.
When asked about the ongoing police attempts to arrest Imran Khan, the prime minister said he had been avoiding the arrest on the excuse of illness or injuries. Despite using foul language against the national institutions, Imran Khan was given relief every time.
He said during the PTI government, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leadership, including himself, Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz, Hamza Shahbaz, Khawaja Asif and Rana Sanaullah, were implicated in false cases and made subject to inhumane treatment in jails.
With regards to the registration of around 80 cases against Imran Khan, the prime minister said it was not done by him. “He is wanted by courts, not me. The arrest warrants were issued by the courts, not me or the administration. Now what will happen if the administration does not abide by the court orders?” he questioned.
To a question about the implementation of the Supreme Court verdict on elections, PM Shehbaz said no political party could escape the polls. Being the PML-N president, he had already asked the party to submit their applications for the party tickets, to contest elections for which he was also interviewing the candidates.
However, it was for the Election Commission of Pakistan to hold the elections, he added.
Coming to the publicizing of the Toshakhana record, he said retaining gifts by paying a specified amount was a legal process. However, Imran Khan got the gift of a precious watch from a brotherly country and sold it out in Dubai whereas he committed a criminal act of getting a fake receipt from a local merchant.
The record of Toshakhana was made public as per the cabinet decision as well as the Lahore High Court’s verdict, he added.
Prime Minister Shehbaz rubbished the notions of any differences within the party and explained that PML-N Chief Organiser Maryam Nawaz had earned the office through her tireless struggle even when Nawaz Sharif was in jail.
He was confident to say that the party would get stronger as its Quaid Nawaz Sharif would return soon following his doctors’ permission.