• 13 Apr - 19 Apr, 2024
  • Mag The Weekly

Pakistan is currently undergoing its 23rd IMF program since 1958. The country is striving to make progress after the election, and its significant challenge is to implement economic reforms due to a weak coalition government, political instability, and problematic relationships with neighboring countries.

Exchange rate, monetary policy, energy subsidies, and reforms of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) are the top priorities and conditions for the new IMF program, which Pakistan has somehow achieved in recent years and on some work in progress.

Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb has expressed his hopes of reaching a staff-level agreement with the IMF for a new program by the end of FY24. He also shared his ambition of concluding a larger, medium-term deal with the IMF before the current fiscal year is over. Based on his positive attitude and past experiences, the prospects of a successful negotiation with the IMF look promising. It appears that he has earned the goodwill of the fund.

But back at home, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif's strange actions are constantly targeting the finance minister.

A few days ago, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif reconstituted the Council of Common Interests. The Council of Common Interests is the forum of common interests of the provinces where general financial and constitutional matters are looked into.

According to the notification issued by the Common Interests Council Secretariat, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif will be the chairman of this eight-member council, while the chief ministers of four provinces are included in this council as members.

For the first time in the history of the Council of Common Interests, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has chosen to appoint Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar to the Council of Common Interests while leaving Finance Minister Mr Aurangzeb out. This move appears to be an effort to limit Mr Aurangzeb's involvement in decision-making.

While traditionally foreign affairs fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government and may not seem directly related to interprovincial coordination, such developments suggest that the foreign minister aims to expand his influence beyond his designated ministry.

While talking to the Independent Urdu, Federal Information Minister of Pakistan Atta Tarar says that the absence of Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb in the Council of Common Interests is not a dispute, but it is related to political management.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time something like this has happened. Just a few days ago, Mr. Sharif took it upon himself to chair the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC), the highest forum for policymaking. After facing criticism, he eventually relinquished the position and assigned it to the finance minister.

In another instance of the privatization process, he was sidelined when Mr. Dar was appointed as the head of the Cabinet Committee on Privatisation.

It raises questions as to why the Foreign Minister was appointed to head the Cabinet Committee on Privatisation instead of the finance minister.

Journalists and experts on the economy, have expressed their surprise at the exclusion of the finance minister at the Council. The forum serves as a critical platform for discussing and resolving issues and conflicts related to the federation and provinces. This is especially important now due to the implementation of several IMF reform programs. However, showing distrust towards the person in charge of this crucial task indicates a lack of faith in his abilities. The fund, as well as the countries that support us and are making their support contingent on an IMF deal, are all concerned about domestic issues and instability. At such times, everyone needs to support each other and refrain from any criticism or conflicts. Hopefully, the head of the country will make decisions in the best interest of the country and not by appointing or granting favors to favourite people.

By Noreen Shams
She is a multimedia journalist, who writes about politics, culture, and social media trends.)