- Audio of Shaukat Tarin’s conversation with Mohsin Leghari leaked.
- PTI leader asks him to tell IMF he “cannot honour” deal.
- Says Pakistan suffering due to treatment meted out to Imran Khan.
ISLAMABAD: PTI leader Shaukat Tarin has allegedly asked Punjab Finance Minister Mohsin Leghari to withdraw from the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) deal, just two days after the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government backtracked from it.
KP and Punjab provinces are under PTI’s control and there have been repeated instances where the federation and provinces have had differences — and it all started in April when Imran Khan was ousted.
The leaked audio came to the fore on the day that the international lender’s executive board is scheduled to meet for considering Pakistan’s request of releasing the $1.2 billion tranche under the Extended Fund Facility (EFF).
Economic experts expect the IMF deal to go through despite the setbacks as all the prerequisites have been met, however, if the board decides against releasing the trance, it will deal a huge blow to the country’s already faltering economy.
The KP government — which is completely under PTI’s control — has already written the letter, but Punjab — which PTI rules in coalition with PML-Q — is yet to write it.
In the leaked audio, Tarin can be heard asking Leghari to tell the lender that the commitment Punjab made was pre-floods and now the province “cannot honour it”.
“You have signed a Rs750 billion [surplus] commitment with the IMF. You now need to tell them that the commitment you made was before the floods, and now [Punjab] has to spend a lot of funds for [the] floods [rehabilitation].”
“You need to say now that ‘we will not be able to honour our commitment’,” Tarin said, telling Leghari that this is all he wants – for pressure to increase on the incumbent government.
The PTI leader told the finance minister to draft a letter and send it to him for vetting so it could be sent to the federal government and later on to the IMF representative in Pakistan.
At Tarin’s request, Leghari asked whether Pakistan would suffer if Punjab — the largest province of Pakistan — withdraws from the deal.
“Well, frankly isn’t the state already suffering because of the way they are treating your chairman [Khan] and everybody else? IMF will definitely ask them: where will you get the money from now?” Tarin responded.
Tarin said that this could not go on further and the party could not bear being “mistreated” and not respond. “We cannot be blackmailed,” the PTI leader said.
In another leaked audio, Tarin can be heard asking Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Finance Minister Taimur Khan Jhagra if he had written the letter.
“I am on the way. I have the previous letter. I will send the letter to you after drafting it,” replied the KP finance minister.
Hatching a conspiracy against the IMF deal, Tarin directed Jhagra that the key point of his letter should be the floods devastations in the province.
“First point [of the letter] would be that we need huge financial aid for restoration of infrastructure and rehabilitation of flood affectees,” Tarin tells the KP finance minister, adding that he has already briefed Punjab’s finance minister about it.
“By the way, this is a blackmailing tactic,” he said, adding that nobody leaves money.
PTI comes to Tarin’s defence
In a press conference later, PTI Secretary-General Asad Umar said Tarin being a former finance minister understands the country’s economy and, therefore, he didn’t suggest anything wrong.
“He told both finance ministers to tell the federal government they should go back to the IMF and inform them that we [our provinces] have been hit by a flood and it is not a normal situation,” Umar said.
The PTI leader said that Tarin asked the finance ministers to tell the federal government that it should seek a concession in the budget surplus that was initially agreed upon.
“Will a sensible person believe that this wasn’t a good suggestion? Didn’t Imran Khan, when COVID hit the country, ask the IMF personally for fiscal space? Wasn’t a debt relief programme started for developing economies?” Umar questioned.
He added that it is sensible to seek concession from the international lender — given the current situation.
“Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif is asking countries for funds to provide relief to the flood affectees. Can’t you ask the IMF to provide fiscal space for a certain period of time, so we can rehabilitate our people through our own money and not ask others for donations?” he stressed.
Umar claimed that the letter was sent to the federal government and not the IMF.
Seperately, PTI Senior Vice President Shireen Mazari said that there is “nothing illegal or wrong in the conversation”.
The PTI leader said that the party has publicly opposed the terms on which “imported government” is taking loans from the international money lender.
“But what is illegal is the wire-tapping done on the conversation without court order. A criminal offence.”
Govt chastises PTI
In conversation with Geo News, Federal Maritime Affairs Minister and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) Senator Faisal Subzwari said the audio leak was not “unfortunate”, but “embarrassing”.
The MQM-P leader reminded the PTI that the state is at stake, not the government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, and that it was ex-finance ministers Tarin and Abdul Hafeez Shaikh who made the deal with the IMF.
“The Shehbaz government followed through the PTI-IMF deal. Where are they [the PTI] taking this country?” the senator lamented.
Subzwari said what the PTI did was “shameful”, adding that whoever is behind this act is not a well-wisher of the Pakistani nation.
For her part, Climate Change Minister Senator Sherry Rehman said that the PTI was ready to push the state towards economic turmoil to satisfy its ego.
Rehman said her party was trained to ensure that the country’s interest was kept first, but the PTI is taught otherwise.
“Damaging the country is a serious crime.”