ISLAMABAD - Pakistan has contacted the United States seeking support for the International Monetary Fund bailout package as Washington ‘closely examined’ Islamabad’s request to the international lender.

Senior government officials told The Nation that Pakistan had urged the US not to discourage the IMF bailout as Pakistan was in economic crises.

One official said: “We have told them (the US) to be sympathetic towards our position. We have to stabilise our economy.”

Another official said the US had promised to be ‘helpful’ but they were ‘concerned’ about our Chinese debts. “There is improvement in Pakistan-US ties and we hope to move forward. They are likely to give a nod (support Pakistan’s request),” he added.

Earlier, the US said it will ‘evaluate on merit’ the bailout package sought by Pakistan from the IMF. “We understand that Pakistan has formally requested assistance from the IMF. As we do in all cases, we will examine closely all aspects, including Pakistan’s debt position, in evaluating any loan programme,” State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said.

She added: “This is something that we’ve been tracking fairly closely. The Secretary had spoken about this a few months back, I know, in some interviews not that long ago. I think part of the reason that Pakistan found itself in this situation is Chinese debt and the fact that there is debt that governments have incurred that they maybe thought wouldn’t be so tough to bail themselves out of, but has become increasingly tough.”

The US has the greatest influence in the IMF’s decision-making process. This week, Pakistan sought a $8 billion bailout package from the IMF. Finance Minister Asad Umar met with IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde in Nusa Dua, Indonesia, and formally applied to the global lender for the loan.

In July, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had indicated that the US will review the bailout package in view of the massive Chinese debt on Pakistan. “Make no mistake. We will be watching what the IMF does. There is no rationale for IMF tax dollars, and associated with that American dollars that are part of the IMF funding, for those to go to bail out Chinese bondholders or China itself,” Pompeo said.

Yesterday, former planning minister Ahsan Iqbal rejected the US statement that huge Chinese debt-trap was responsible for Pakistan's current economic challenges.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader, who remained the focal person on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, said the payment of Chinese loans shall begin after 2022 and that will not be more than $2 billion per annum so “it is wrong to blame Beijing deals for the economic mess.”

QURESHI PARTICIPATES IN SCO MEETING

Yesterday, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi participated in the restricted and extended sessions of the 17th Meeting of the Council of Heads of Government of the Member States of Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Dushanbe, Tajikistan on the invitation of Prime Minister of Tajikistan Qohir Rasulzoda.

This was the second CHG meeting attended by Pakistan after becoming a full member of SCO in June last year. Prime Ministers of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Foreign Minister of India also attended the meeting, said a foreign ministry statement.

The Council of the Heads of the Government exchanged views on the emerging economic situation in the region and beyond and held in-depth discussions on economic integration, regional connectivity and peace and security.

The Foreign Minister in his address to the Council highlighted the importance of SCO as a vital platform to achieve the objectives of peace, security and stability across Eurasia.

He underscored the need of upholding peace in an increasingly tense international environment. While speaking about economic development through regional connectivity, Foreign Minister highlighted the importance of CPEC.

Qureshi also emphasised on Cooperation among SCO countries in the field of multilateral trade and removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers. He also supported the initiative of establishment of SCO development bank and development fund.

In the context of SCO’s Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure the Foreign Minister highlighted Pakistan’s commitment in combating terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. He offered to SCO member states the sharing of expertise gained in fighting terrorism.

The Foreign Minister also expressed Pakistan’s full support for peace and stability in Afghanistan and assured full cooperation for SCO’s initiative in this regard. He also held important meetings on the side-lines of the summit, discussing economic and political situation of the region.