• Country is racing against time to unlock funds ahead of the scheduled end of the programme today
  • Dar says Pakistan expects IMF deal in next 24 hours

On July 4, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif will be participating in the 23rd Meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Council of Heads of State (CHS). This significant event is being hosted by India and will take place in a video conference format.

The Foreign Office (FO) announced in a press release on Friday that the invitation for Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to attend the SCO-CHS was extended by the Prime Minister of India, who currently holds the position of Chair within the SCO.

India Chosen as Host for Virtual SCO Summit in July

The 23rd Meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Council of Heads of State (CHS) is set to take place on July 4, bringing together member countries from across Eurasia. This political and security union, comprising China, India, Russia, and other nations, will welcome Iran as a new member this year, as confirmed by the foreign ministry.

During the CHS, leaders will engage in discussions on crucial global and regional matters, shaping the future trajectory of cooperation among member states. Pakistan’s Prime Minister’s participation in the CHS underscores the significance that Pakistan attributes to the SCO as a vital platform for regional security, prosperity, and enhanced engagement with the region, stated the Foreign Office (FO).

Additionally, China’s President Xi Jinping will be in attendance, delivering a speech via video link on July 4. The SCO, established in 2001 by Russia, China, and former Soviet states in Central Asia, has expanded to include India and Pakistan, aiming to play a greater role as a counterweight to Western influence in the region. Following the summit, Kazakhstan will assume the SCO presidency.

Earlier this year, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari attended the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers meeting, reaffirming Pakistan’s commitment to the fundamental principles of the “Shanghai Spirit,” which encompass mutual trust, equality, respect for cultural diversity, and the pursuit of shared development. During a press conference, he expressed satisfaction with Pakistan’s decision to participate in the meeting, highlighting fruitful interactions with various foreign ministers.

While Pakistan’s historical stance advocated for the normalisation of Pakistan-India relations, India’s violation of international law in August 2019 has diminished the space for such efforts, according to the Foreign Minister. He emphasised that there is now a trust deficit and called upon India to create a conducive environment for meaningful dialogue.

Anticipation Builds as Pakistan’s Finance Minister Hints at Imminent IMF Bailout Agreement

Revised Text:

In a moment of heightened anticipation, Pakistan’s Finance Minister, Ishaq Dar, reaffirmed that a staff level agreement for a crucial bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is on the verge of materializing. With expectations soaring, the agreement is poised to be finalized within the next 24 hours, adding a glimmer of hope to Pakistan’s economic outlook.

In a race against the ticking clock, Islamabad is striving to unlock a staggering sum of $1.1 billion as part of the lender’s ninth review of a colossal $6.5-billion Extended Fund Facility, initially agreed upon in 2019. The urgency amplifies as the program, which has been the driving force behind financial stability, reaches its expiration today, marking the end of this eventful Friday, June 

In a recent interview with Reuters, Dar revealed that the signing of a staff level agreement with the IMF is just on the horizon. With an air of anticipation, he expressed his confidence that the agreement will materialize either tonight or within the next 24 hours, as all the necessary details have been meticulously ironed out.

According to a reliable source familiar with the ongoing negotiations, discussions are underway between Pakistan and the IMF regarding the release of the remaining $2.5 billion that is pending under the IMF program. As per the source, the staff level agreement, once finalized, will initially unlock approximately $1.1 billion, followed by a subsequent “standby agreement” that would release the rest upon the program’s conclusion on Saturday.

Requests for comments from the IMF representative in Pakistan have yet to receive an immediate response, leaving the official status of the agreement dependent on the approval of the IMF board, which has already experienced an eight-month delay.

For Pakistan, the funds under discussion would provide a much-needed respite, given the ongoing struggle to address the acute balance of payments crisis and the declining foreign exchange reserves. Up to this point, a total of $4 billion has already been released. In an earlier statement to the media, Dar had hinted at the government’s efforts to devise a mechanism aimed at unlocking the remaining $2.5 billion under the IMF program. However, it remains uncertain which portion of the funds will be made available in the imminent announcement expected within the next 24 hours.

Earlier statement by IMF

The IMF had acknowledged on Tuesday the steps taken by Pakistan, and said its team is continuing discussions with the aim of quickly reaching an agreement on financial support from the Washington-based lender.

“Pakistan authorities have taken decisive measures to bring policies more in line with the economic reform programme supported by the IMF,” Nathan Porter, IMF Mission Chief to Pakistan, was quoted as saying in a statement to Business Recorder on Tuesday night.

This includes “the passage of a budget by the parliament that broadens the tax base while opening up space for higher social and development spending, as well as steps towards improving the functioning of the foreign exchange market and tightening monetary policy to reduce inflationary and balance of payment pressures that affect particularly the more vulnerable”.

“The IMF team continues discussions with Pakistani authorities with the aim of quickly reaching an agreement on financial support from the IMF.”

The statement, however, did not mark a course of action ahead of the scheduled end of the IMF programme on June 30.

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