Tuesday Aug 30, 2022
ISLAMABAD: In an extraordinary development, Punjab civil bureaucracy prevented the provincial government from writing a Shaukat Tarin-dictated letter to sabotage the International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout by issuing a candid and timely warning that such an act would be tantamount to “criminal conspiracy” and “high treason”.
Informed sources said that Punjab Finance Minister Mohsin Leghari, who had already sounded his concern to Tarin about the risk of such an act for the state of Pakistan, also agreed with the serious warning of the bureaucracy and decided not to do what his counterpart in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa did.
These sources said that when the finance minister of Punjab discussed his wish for Tarin with key members of the provincial bureaucracy, they warned him how the provincial government could do it knowing very well that the consequences of such an act would be extremely damaging for Pakistan.
Leghari was warned that writing such a letter, a few days before the IMF board meeting, would be tantamount to “criminal conspiracy” and “high treason”.
Leghari, these sources said, agreed to what was told to him by the bureaucracy. Leghari was advised to take up the issue with the political leadership and convince them not to write the letter to the federal minister as it would spoil the IMF bailout.
The bureaucracy also told the political leadership that even otherwise at this stage the province could not talk about a deficit budget because the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has all the details, including the fact that presently the province has a surplus budget.
Because of the responsible role of the provincial bureaucracy, Punjab decided not to withdraw its fiscal commitments regarding an agreement with the IMF.
As per the strategy of the PTI, Punjab was required to follow what the KP Finance Minister Taimoor Khan Jhagra did. In his letter to the federal finance minister, he expressed uncertainty to fulfil the KP government’s fiscal commitment to the federal government’s deal with the IMF.
As is reflected from the latest audio leaks, the former finance minister of the PTI government and Imran Khan’s key aide on the economy Tarin had asked Leghari to draft a letter for the federal government to the effect that the Punjab government would not be able to honour their commitment of provincial surplus made in the context of Memorandum of Economic and Fiscal Policies inked between the federal government and the IMF.
Tarin said that the main reason for this deviation should be attributed to recent floods. Leghari was of the view that such a move would damage Pakistan as a state.
Tarin impressed upon him that although it could damage the country, how the PTI could accommodate the federal government when the latter was registering cases against them.
The former finance minister also told Leghari that Imran Khan would give the final go-ahead as to whether the letter was to be released to the IMF or would be sent to the federal government only.
Subsequently, Tarin and Leghari discussed the option to release it on social media so that the IMF should know it even if they don’t send it officially to the Fund.
Originally published in The News