ISLAMABAD: Audio recordings of telephonic conversation between PTI’s leader and former finance minister Shaukat Tarin and the finance ministers of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab revealed the PTI’s plot for sabotaging the IMF loan programme worth $6 billion ahead of the lender’s Executive Board meeting scheduled for August 29 (today).
The audio leaks endorsed the view that a letter written by KP Finance Minister Taimur Saleem Jhagra to Miftah Ismail last week threatening to withdraw from the IMF commitment was a deliberate effort to sabotage the government’s efforts to stabilize the economy.
Earlier, in an interview, PTI leader Fawad Chauhdry said that the Punjab and KP governments might not be part of the programme.
Talking to a news channel on Thursday, he said the IMF programme depended on the agreement that the provincial governments will provide the tax collected to the federal government. However, if the provincial governments were to withdraw from the agreement, the IMF deal would collapse, claimed Fawad.
In one of the audio leaks, Tarin can be heard asking Punjab Finance Minister Mohsin Leghari to tell the lender that the commitment Punjab made was pre-floods and now the province “cannot honour it” due to unprecedented losses.
“You have signed an 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 provincial 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 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 the leaked audio, Shaukat Tarin can be heard asking 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.
Tarin directed Jhagra that the key point of his letter should be the flood devastation 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 told the KP finance minister, adding that he has already briefed Punjab’s Finance Minister Muhammad Mohsin Khan Leghari about it.
“By the way, this is a blackmailing tactic,” he admitted, adding that nobody gives money.
Tarin directed the KP finance minister to dispatch the letter today. He maintained that a copy of the letter would be forwarded to the IMF.
Nothing illegal, says Shireen Mazari
Responding to the bombshell audio leaks, former human rights minister Shireen Mazari didn’t deny the conversation took place between the PTI leaders.
“So audio call between Tarin and provincial FMs leaked. There is nothing illegal or wrong in the convo.”
She said that the PTI has publicly opposed the terms on which the imported govt is taking the loan from the IMF.
“But what is illegal is the wiretapping done on a conversation without a court order. A criminal offence.”
‘Tarin did not suggest anything wrong’
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.