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Tuesday November 29, 2022

PTI ‘conspiracy’ against IMF deal exposed

In leaked tapes, PTI leader could be heard asking Punjab and KP finance ministers to withdraw from IMF deal

August 30, 2022
(L to R) PTI leaders Taimur Khan Jhagra, Shaukat Tarin, and Mohsin Leghari. — Twitter/AFP/PILDAT
(L to R) PTI leaders Taimur Khan Jhagra, Shaukat Tarin, and Mohsin Leghari. — Twitter/AFP/PILDAT

ISLAMABAD: A conspiracy, allegedly hatched by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) against the federal government’s deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), was exposed on Monday when audiotapes of former finance minister Shaukat Tarin went viral on the social media.

In the leaked tapes, former PTI government’s finance minister could be heard asking the Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) finance ministers to withdraw from the IMF deal on the pretext of devastation, caused by floods in the provinces.

In the leaked audio, Shaukat Tarin is heard asking Punjab Finance Minister Mohsin Leghari to write to the IMF and tell it that the commitment Punjab made was in the pre-floods situation, 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 [rehabilitation of affectees of the] floods.”

“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 this, Leghari asked Tarin whether Pakistan would suffer as a state if Punjab, the largest province of Pakistan, withdraws from the deal. Tarin said: “Well, frankly [speaking], isn’t the state already suffering because of the way they are treating your chairman [Imran Khan] and everybody else? [The] IMF will definitely ask them: where will you get the money from now?” Tarin responded.

Tarin, towards the end of his conversation, said: “We will create such a scene that it should not be seen as if we are harming the state. At the end of the day, we should keep facts that you will not be able to pay (surplus funds); that means your commitment then means zero”.

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. “This is what was decided yesterday. That how it is to be done. We will ask the chairman that whether it is to be sent only to the federal government. Or we should raise it with the IMF,” added Shaukat Tarin.

Leghari says there is no more powerful tool than the social media. And, Tarin responds “then there is no need to release it. The social media, on its own, will release it, and that Jhagra was saying that he knows No2 (of the IMF) here very well, and he will release it”.

In another leaked audio, Tarin talks to KP Finance Minister Taimur Jhagra and asks if he had written the letter. In response, the provincial finance minister says, “I am on the way. I have the previous letter. I will send the letter to you after drafting it”.

On the pattern of what he had asked Leghari, Tarin directs Jhagra that the key point of his letter should be the flood devastation in the province. “[The] first point would be that we need huge financial aid for restoration of infrastructure and rehabilitation of flood affectees. I have already talked to Punjab’s finance minister about it.”

Jhagra says, “By the way, this is a blackmailing tactic: nobody releases money. I will not, but don’t know Mohsin will release it or not,” he said. To this, Tarin says that if he (Jhagra) will not release money, then Leghari will also not be allowed to do so. So that these… know…

The KP finance minister remarks, “Both Khan Sahab (Imran Khan) and Mehmood Khan (CM KP) told me that what was decided in the meeting yesterday, that we will hold a joint news conference”.

Tarin directed the KP finance minister to share the letter today and added there will be no news conference.

The audio leaks ‘endorsed’ the viewpoint that a letter written by Jhagra to Miftah Ismail last week, threatening to withdraw from the IMF commitment, was a deliberate effort to sabotage the government’s efforts to stabilise the economy.

Later, Miftah Ismail told a press conference that on the advice of former prime minister Imran Khan, Shaukat Tarin called finance ministers of Punjab and KP to instigate them to write to the IMF on the issue of revenue surplus, which was against the interest of the country.

“It is treason to write letters to a foreign institution and after leaking of audiotapes, Shaukat Tarin should say goodbye to politics, while KP’s finance minister should also present his resignation,” Miftah said.

He said currently, Pakistan is drowning and the only hope after God is the international money lender. “Shaukat Tarin is the architect behind PTI’s move. Is Imran Khan so power-hungry that he will do anything to get back? Is Imran Khan bigger than Pakistan?”

“Should we rename Pakistan to Bani Gala? Have they no shame? How can they stoop so low?” the finance minister questioned.

Miftah said Shaukat Tarin incited Punjab and KP finance ministers for an anti-state act. He said the KP finance minister had told him that he had not sent the letter — in which he pulled out from the IMF deal — to the lender. “Have some shame [...] I verified it, the letter was sent to the IMF.”

The finance minister said the coalition government took tough steps, but it was all to save the country from default. “Some PMLN leaders — including Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Nawaz Sharif — were against coming to power.”

“You have crossed all lines this time,” he told the PTI. Answering a query about the possibility of allowing imports of vegetables and Agri products from India, he said the trade could be resumed in order to avert food shortages in the country; however, the resumption of trade with India was his personal viewpoint.

To another query, he replied that Pakistan faced losses of $10 billion due to current flash floods.

Separately, Punjab Finance Minister Mohsin Leghari, without challenging the authenticity of the leaked audio, shied away from admitting the grave nature of the content of the call.

To a question, whether he refused to write a letter when he questioned Shaukat Tarin “would Pakistan suffer as a state due to it (writing a letter to the IMF)”, he refused to comment on it. But, he said that one could understand [the actual situation] only after hearing the complete discussion between any two persons. There is always difference of opinion,” he added.

“The leaked conversation between me and former finance minister Shaukat Tarin was not complete. If one listens to complete conversation, then one can understand what the discussion was all about,” he said while talking to The News on Monday.

Leghari said the Punjab government did not issue anything or write any letter to the IMF, irrespective of his discussion with Shaukat Tarin. However, he questioned if it was ethical to record the discussion between two persons. He said no one was questioning the recording of phone calls, which was unethical. He said that a selected ‘thing’ was released from the discussion.

To a question whether his party had taken any action against him on defying the party line of writing a letter to the IMF, he said so far no one asked him about it. “The party can take action on it, but there is no pressure on me for not writing a letter,” he added.

Punjab Finance Secretary Iftikhar Amjad, separately talking to The News, said the finance department did not draft any such letter. “The finance department follows the government decisions. Had the government asked to write a letter to the IMF, the finance department would have followed the instructions,” he added.

The leaked conversation between me and former finance minister Shaukat Tarin was not complete. If one listens to complete conversation, then one can understand what the discussion was all about,” he said while talking to The News on Monday.

Leghari said the Punjab government did not issue anything or write any letter to the IMF, irrespective of his discussion with Shaukat Tarin. However, he questioned if it was ethical to record the discussion between two persons. He said no one was questioning the recording of phone calls, which was unethical. He said that a selected ‘thing’ was released from the discussion.

To a question whether his party had taken any action against him on defying the party line of writing a letter to the IMF, he said so far no one asked him about it. “The party can take action on it, but there is no pressure on me for not writing a letter,” he added.

Punjab Finance Secretary Iftikhar Amjad, separately talking to The News, said the finance department did not draft any such letter. “The finance department follows the government decisions. Had the government asked to write a letter to the IMF, the finance department would have followed the instructions,” he added.

Meanwhile, senior PTI leader Shireen Mazari reacted to the audio leak and said now the audio call between Shaukat Tarin and the provincial finance minister had been leaked. In a tweet, she said that there was nothing illegal or wrong in the conversation. “We have openly opposed the conditions on which the imported government is taking loans from the IMF,” she said.

The PTI leader said that what is illegal in this matter is to secretly record the conversation without a court order, which is a grossly criminal act.  

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