Pakistan Finance minister cancels US visit amid domestic political and judicial crisis: Report
Pakistan's Finance Minister Ishaq Dar has cancelled his visit to the US to attend the spring meetings of the World Bank and the IMF and hold talks with officials to unlock a much-needed USD 1.1 billion IMF bailout, amid deepening domestic political uncertainty and developing judicial crisis, according to a media report on Friday.
During the visit, Dar was to meet the International Monetary Fund management for the removal of bottlenecks in the staff-level agreement on the revival of the stalled bailout package.
Sources said that Dar would not attend the spring meetings of the World Bank and the IMF that will take place from April 10 to 16 in Washington, The Express Tribune newspaper reported.
"I am not going due to the domestic state of affairs," the newspaper quoted Dar as saying.
The deepening political uncertainty and developing judicial crisis were said to be the reasons behind the cancellation of the trip to Washington, the paper said.
Dar had the plan to address the financial and political worlds' concerns regarding the continuity of the Pakistan government, future economic plans and bridging the once again trust deficit with the multilateral lenders.
The sources said that Minister for Economic Affairs Sardar Ayaz Sadiq would also not go to the United States due to the prevailing uncertain political conditions.
The economic affairs minister always represented Pakistan at the World Bank. Ayaz is considered very close to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and also handled the political affairs of the allied parties.
The development came amid the widening chasm between the judiciary and the federal government over holding polls in the country's politically crucial Punjab province.
The federal government asserts that it has the power to delay the polls and hold them with the general elections in the country after August this year.
However, former prime minister Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party has been pushing for early polls and demanding that instead of delaying the elections in the Punjab province, the national assembly should be dissolved and general elections called in the country.
Finance Secretary Hamed Yaqoob Sheikh and Economic Affairs Secretary Kazim Niaz would now represent the government at the WB-IMF spring meetings.
During the visit, Dar scheduled meetings with the presidents of WB, Asian Development Bank and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank the three multilateral creditors that were very crucial for Pakistan's plans to raise USD 6 billion in additional loans to meet the last IMF condition.
Cash-strapped Pakistan is awaiting a much-needed USD 1.1 billion tranche of funding from the Washington-based IMF, which was originally due to be disbursed in November last year.
The funds are part of a USD 6.5 billion bailout package the IMF approved in 2019, which analysts say is critical if Pakistan is to avoid defaulting on external debt obligations.
The IMF programme, signed in 2019, is going to expire on June 30, 2023, and under the set guidelines, the programme cannot be extended beyond the deadline.
The pending 9th review was scheduled to be completed in December 2022 and the 10th review should have been kick-started from February 2023. The 11th review was scheduled to commence on May 3.
Pakistan and the IMF have been negotiating the resumption of the stalled programme for months but have yet to reach an agreement.
There is no easy solution available to fix the ailing economy of Pakistan and the government is of the view that they have taken all the tough decisions for reviving the stalled IMF programme.
Pakistan, currently in the throes of a major economic crisis, is grappling with high external debt, a weak local currency and dwindling foreign exchange reserves, enough to shore up for barely one month's imports.
The current volatile political situation in Pakistan has become a factor in delaying a much-needed deal with the IMF.