On Tuesday, the International Monetary Fund announced that its executive board had approved a credit of 7.6 billion dollars for Pakistan, “the Fund’s first rescue in Asia since the global financial crisis began,” reported the AFP. According to USA Today, “The IMF said a first installment of $3.1 billion will be transferred immediately.” The news agency quoted IMF acting Chairman Takatoshi Kato, who said, “By providing large financial support to Pakistan, the IMF is sending a strong signal to the donor community about the country’s improved macroeconomic prospects.” The AFP also cited the statement, which noted that the 23-month credit line will “support the country’s economic stabilization program.”
The Associated Press reported, “Pakistan’s young government had been reluctant to go to the IMF but had little choice after close allies — the United States, China and Saudi Arabia — turned down pleas for significant bilateral aid.” The lead-up to today’s development faced much opposition in Pakistan by parties and political figures who argued that the IMF will “impose austerity measures that will hurt ordinary Pakistanis, two-thirds of whom live on $2 dollar a day or less.” PML-N‘s Javed Hashmi told the AP, “This IMF loan the government is getting is in fact poison, and the nation has been forced to drink it.” Nevertheless, said Muazzamil Aslam, an economist at the Pakistani securities firm, KASB, “The loan removes the most pressing risk facing the country – that it would not be able to repay dollar-denominated government bonds due to mature early next year.”
According to USA Today, “With the IMF deal now in place, Pakistani officials hope those three and other nations in the “Friends of Pakistan” group will move forward with their own assistance packages.” In related news, Pakistan reached several deals with neighboring countries in the region. Yesterday, media outlets reported that Zardari and UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan met on Monday and expressed their resolve to upgrade and further strengthen their existing bilateral ties, particularly in the trade and economic fields. According to The News, “In the delegation-level talks, there was unanimity of views on bilateral matters with focus on encouraging UAE public and private investment in joint ventures in the fields of energy, agriculture, construction and infrastructure development.” Dawn reported that the leaders also “stressed the need for joint efforts to improve the security situation in the region.” [Above image from The News]
Officials from India and Pakistan also discussed security-related issues today. GEO News reported Wednesday that the neighboring states “agreed to boost cooperation between their civilian investigation agencies to control terrorist activities, illegal immigration, influx of fake currency and liberalize the visa regime under a joint anti-terrorism mechanism.” The news agency added,
Under the joint anti-terrorism mechanism, a two-member committee has been formed, comprising additional foreign secretaries of the two sides. The committee will exchange information about terrorists.
Visiting British Foreign Secretary David Miliband praised the recent developments between Pakistan and its regional neighbors, particularly Afghanistan and India, asserting that the new “zeal” in its foreign policy was vital as the region struggles with Islamist terrorism. According the Associated Press, Miliband further noted that it was “very important in turning Pakistan outwards and making clear that it sees itself as a cooperative force for stability in the region.” [Left image from AFP]
While Pakistan’s foreign policy meetings this week are certainly significant, a domestic development is also noteworthy. According to the Financial Times yesterday, the Pakistani government “has disbanded the political wing of the Inter-Services Intelligence, the notorious military-run spy agency, in a bold move intended to reduce sharply the military’s influence in politics.” The news agency added,
The effort to refocus the intelligence agency came a day after Asif Ali Zardari made one of the strongest overtures of any Pakistani president to India. He offered to abandon Pakistan’s first-strike nuclear threat, sign a South Asian nuclear non-proliferation treaty and join India in an economic union.
Pakistan’s foreign minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi termed the move a “positive development,” telling reporters, “The ISI is a precious national institution and it wants to focus fully on counter-terrorism activities.” However, Tariq Azim, leader of the opposition party PML-Q warned that a permanent end to the military’s role in politics “would only be achieved when civilian governments were more robust and effective.” He asserted, “The quality of governance remains very weak in Pakistan and the government today has failed to take charge on a number of fronts…We must always remember . . . that every time a civilian government has become weak and controversial, the military has used that as a pretext to take charge in the name of improving the country’s outlook.”
Do you agree that the current government has exhibited weak governance? Have the recent foreign policy and domestic-related developments shown that Islamabad is attempting to take charge of the number of issues facing Pakistan, or are they all superficial attempts to address Pakistan’s deeper underlying problems?
Also, an interesting read: Dawn discusses the dynamics of Pashtun (Pathan) violence, and how that has mystified Western intellectuals.