In order to secure an early release of a key $1.7 billion tranche from the International Monetary Fund to his country, which is grappling with a worsening economic crisis, Pakistan’s army chief contacted Washington on Saturday.
According to reports, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa reportedly raised the matter with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and pleaded with Washington to utilize its clout with the IMF to aid Pakistan. The army chief’s request represented a rare act of outreach as Gen. Bajwa is the Army Cheif of the nation, neither the Prime Minister nor Finance minister.
Under previous Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was removed in a vote of no-confidence, Pakistan’s ties with the US were exceptionally hostile. But Pakistan’s military, which has administered the nation directly for more than half of its 75-year existence, has cultivated close ties with the United States and served as an official ally in the fight against al-Qaida.
Bajwa and Sherman’s conversation was verified by Pakistan’s foreign ministry on Friday. Ministry spokesperson Asim Iftikhar said, “I understand (the) conversation has taken place, but at this stage, I am not in direct knowledge of the content of this discussion.”
The rescue agreement was initially inked in 2019 by Pakistan and the IMF. But since the IMF voiced concerns about Pakistan’s compliance with the conditions of the contract under Khan, the release of a $1.7 billion tranche has been put on hold.
Khan’s successor as prime minister, Shahbaz Sharif, and his administration revived the bailout package earlier this month after reaching a preliminary deal with the IMF. The board of directors of the fund had to approve that deal.
Pakistan had hoped that the bailout would be revived quickly, but the IMF has not yet made the crucial payment as it is shut for three weeks, which may be what motivated Bajwa to call the White House.
Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the call.
According to a military statement, Bajwa also spoke on the phone on Friday with Gen. Michael Kurilla, the commander of US Central Command in the Middle East. According to the report, Kurilla expressed appreciation for Pakistan’s contribution to regional stability and expressed hope for further advancements in bilateral collaboration.
Pakistan is in dire need of an IMF loan. Earlier in July, the fund announced that, if approved by its executive board, generally regarded as a formality, it would increase the bailout’s worth from $6 billion to $7 billion.
Sharif has frequently placed the responsibility on the former prime minister’s administration, claiming that Islamist politician and former cricket player Amir Khan willfully broke the terms of the IMF loan in order to maintain his popularity with supporters at home. Washington and Sharif’s administration have spoken about resuming the IMF bailout.
Pakistan’s currency has fallen to an all-time low since Khan was removed, and IMF support remains questionable. Over the last weekend, the Pakistani rupee fell to a historic low vs the dollar of roughly 240. The price of a dollar was once 225 rupees.
The business community in this Islamic country is in a panic as a result of the currency’s gradual depreciation. After four months in office, Sharif’s government is highly criticized due to rising food costs and inflation.
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