Staff level agreement with IMF within a few days: PM

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ISLAMABAD, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday said the staff-level agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would reach within a few days as the government had accepted even the “toughest” conditions put by the global financial institution.

The prime minister, in an interview with a private television channel (Geo News), said 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 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 which he 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 conditionalities and seeking their implementation. No doubt, these conditions have burdened the common man,” he commented.

PM Shehbaz said realising the common man’s suffering, the government had decided to provide relief through the Benazir Income Support Programme. However, he said, the imported inflation caused by the Ukraine war also hit the country in form of increased fertiliser and oil prices.

Moreover, the floods also affected the national economy, and ex-prime minister Imran Khan’s “shameful” lies about regime change by the United Stated created uncertainty, 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 leadership against him through local television channels as well the United Kingdom’s Daily Mail, Shehbaz Sharif said the latter apologised and the UK’s National Crime Agency also exonerated him from the charges hurled by that time government.

Question 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, he 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.

As regards the registration of around 80 cases against Imran Khan, the prime minister said it was not done by him rather the cases were registered by the citizens and the law would take its course.

“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 men 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.

Substantiating his point on the government’s seriousness for elections, the prime minister said a fresh census was being held to address the reservations of some political parties, particularly in Sindh, and billions of rupees were being spent on the exercise.

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.

She said the conventions being addressed by Maryam Nawaz were giving new energy to the party, besides building a narrative.

He was confident to say that the party would get stronger as its Quaid Nawaz Sharif would return soon following his doctors’ permission.

Regarding the appointment of the new army chief, the prime minister said he had appointed General Asim Munir to the slot for being the most senior officer and having an excellent career.

He said while appointing the army chief, the government banked upon the existing law. He also thanked the coalition parties for backing him in taking the decision.

Asked about any progress in the probe into the murder of Arshad Sharif, he told the interviewer that he had talked to the Kenyan president twice – with the last one some three weeks ago – and asked him to provide their investigation report also sought by the Supreme Court. The Kenyan leader agreed and assured him to extend maximum support in that regard.

Calling it a brutal murder, the prime minister said the government was making all-out efforts and would not sit idle until the bereaved family got justice.

To another question, the prime minister endorsed the anchorperson’s viewpoint that he was offered the premiership before the 2018 polls, which he rejected saying that he could not backstab his brother who had made Pakistan’s defence impregnable by carrying out nuclear explosions and also brought in an investment of around $30-35 billion through the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).