The bailout from the International Monetary Fund ensures that the political turmoil in Pakistan will not end
ISLAMABAD, July 12 (IANS) Pakistan has welcomed the partial bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) with a deep sense of relief, but also with a red face at what many see as “direct interference” in their internal affairs after the global lender held “unprecedented” meetings with various Institutions and political stakeholders.
The political parties that were “consulted with” eschewed their usual anti-Western rhetoric, but sections of the media questioned the “attack on national sovereignty”. Some have justified this as a measure by which the IMF, like any lender, can ensure that its money is used properly.
The comments follow the political divide over whether former prime minister Imran Khan, who was formally consulted by IMF officials through a virtual conference, is justified in seeking from them a “guarantee” of early elections in the country. Media reports say the consultations have revived Khan’s public image as a belligerent critic, who has once again raised concerns that he and/or his party have been subjected to physical attacks, cut so badly by the exodus of its members, that it was disqualified from contesting the elections.
Everyone agrees that the bailout is only “temporary” relief and does not guarantee economic or, more importantly, political stability. Pakistan continues to suffer severe economic stress with easing pressure in terms of inflationary trends but without impact on widespread shortages of basic commodities and jobs, closure of industries and withdrawal of foreign firms.
An editorial in the Urdu newspaper Jasarat (July 10) bemoaned that in return for the upcoming $3 billion forgiveness, Pakistan would have to service its $23 billion foreign debt next year.
The bailout that is yet to come is likely to come in tranches with political threads. Asima S. wrote in another Urdu daily Awami Awaz (5 July), that Shahbaz Sharif’s government may get only one billion and the second billion may be released to the interim government.
Other media speculates whether this was promised to Imran Khan who ran a relentless campaign in the US media and pressured the Joe Biden administration.
Interior Minister Rana Sanalla on July 10 indicated the dissolution of regional governments early in time for a caretaker government. But the life of the caretaker government itself is a matter of serious speculation. It depends on the military establishment’s thinking about how to deal with Khan who is seen as retaining his popularity, despite being untested since his party’s collapse in the past two months.
The army responded by beating the rebellious Khan after the violence on 9 May and the burning of military facilities by Khan’s supporters. Khan’s overtures for reconciliation were also ignored. In the eyes of the public, he regained or retained his primacy in the ongoing discourse.
Army chief Gen. Asim Monir’s speech at the July 10 conference on the “Green Pakistan Initiative” highlighted the army’s willingness to join the “economic recovery”, but made no mention of the political process or elections that Khan continues to demand.
Media reports said that Munir’s speech was “commended” by Prime Minister Sharif, in the presence of representatives of several “potential investors” in Pakistan’s economy.
The life of a caretaker government may be extended, by amending the constitution if necessary, if the military so desires. This is possible while a flexible Sharif government is in power and the term of office of the National Assembly.
In such circumstances, it is not surprising that the two major ruling parties, the PPP and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) seek to place their favorites in the interim government and the coordinator of the PDM, Maulana Fazlur Rahman, protested his removal from the political assembly. It took place last week in Dubai.
Analysts say the IMF has consulted Khan as a public guarantee that he wants a level playing field on the political front as former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif prepares to return from his exile in London. Also, it is imperative that you consult the army leadership as well, without revealing it publicly, because the reality on the ground indicates that the army is the main driver in Pakistani affairs.