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EditorialAudio leaks on IMF deal

Audio leaks on IMF deal

Certain sectors, such as economy and finance, should be above domestic politics in the larger interest of the state, and citizens. Political parties, taking the benefits of the controversy arising from the audio leaks of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI’s) former finance minister Shaukat Tarin and finance ministers of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, should be directed to draft a code of conduct for all political parties, and those who matter in the national economy and defence affairs should be involved in the process. Finance Minister Miftah Ismail was on fire after the audio leaks and accused PTI leaders of trying to disrupt the revival of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout package, which the Fund approved on Monday. The purported conversations between Tarin and the finance ministers of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, apparently recorded by hidden hands, reveal former finance minister Tarin is pressing Punjab Finance Minister Mohsin Leghari and KP’s Taimur Jhagra to back out of the commitment of provinces to keep their budgets surplus, a vital IMF term for the release of the bailout package, in the wake of destructive floods. The task being discussed in the leaks is that the provinces should write to Finance Minister Miftah Ismail that they would not able to post surplus budgets, and the letters were to be leaked to the IMF so as to delay or hamper the bailout package. Some political circles called it an anti-state measure by the PTI side, as the sabotage of the deal would lead the country to the feared bankruptcy, and the collapse of the economy. The subject was so sensitive that at one point, Punjab Minister Mohsin Leghari asked Mr Tarin if their letter would damage the state. Later, one such letter appeared from the KP minister, whereas the Punjab minister remained mum on the subject.

While one could argue on Mr Tarin’s argument that the floods have changed all economic dynamics as Pakistan is sinking and needs to revisit its budget and all financial commitments, there should be no reason to sacrifice the interests of the state for political reasons. Now when the bailout package has been released by the IMF and Pakistan has frustrated the imminent prospects of default, both the opposition and the government should move forward keeping the state’s interest in mind.  In the coming months, the IMF would do more reviews of the loan facility for budget support under the arrangement to about $3.9 billion. That means the centre and the provinces would need more working relationships in the future. It is in the interest of the governments that politics be avoided in the economy and defence.

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