Category Archives: Pakistan

(Reuters) Pakistan dismisses U.S. concerns about IMF bailout and China

(Reuters) Pakistan on Wednesday dismissed U.S. concerns that any new International Monetary Fund bailout for the South Asian nation would be used to repay Chinese debt as “totally wrong”.

Pakistan’s economy has hit severe turbulence over the past year and most analysts expect the nuclear-armed nation to seek a bailout, either from the IMF or closest ally China, to avoid a currency crisis.

Beijing has pledged $57 billion in loans for Pakistan as part of China’s vast Belt and Road initiative, deepening economic and diplomatic ties between the neighbors at a time when relations between Islamabad and Washington are fraying over how to deal with Islamist militants waging war in Afghanistan.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday warned that any potential IMF bailout for Pakistan’s incoming government should not provide funds to pay off Chinese lenders.

In response, Pakistan’s finance ministry sought to de-couple the link between any potential IMF bailout and Beijing’s loans for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which spans mostly energy and transport infrastructure.

“First and foremost it is totally wrong to link the IMF package with CPEC. It is affirmed that Pakistan Government is fully committed to undertake and complete CPEC projects in their totality,” the finance ministry said in a statement.

“Third parties cannot weaken our collective resolve to make CPEC a success story.”

CPEC is billed as Pakistan’s most important national project, while Beijing has touted CPEC as the “flagship” project in the vast Belt and Road initiative to build rail, road and maritime links across the globe.

Both countries are very sensitive of any criticism about CPEC.

The United States has been concerned that China is saddling smaller countries with debt as a way to gain influence and control around the globe.

Pakistan obtained a $6.7 billion IMF bailout in 2013 and near-identical balance of payments problems pose a major headache for the incoming government of Imran Khan, Pakistan’s former cricket hero who is seeking coalition partners to form a government.

“Make no mistake. We will be watching what the IMF does,” Pompeo said.

“There’s 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 added.

Asad Umar, widely tipped to become the new finance minister, told Reuters last month that Khan’s government would not rule out either Chinese or IMF support.

On Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the IMF had its own standards and operating rules when cooperating with countries.

“I believe they will handle it appropriately,” he told reporters, without elaborating.

30-YEAR LOANS

Miftah Ismail, Pakistan’s finance minister in the previous government until late May, said the Chinese debt repayments were nowhere near as big as Western nations imagine.

He told Reuters that ministry of finance calculations showed that for the next five years, Pakistan’s total annual debt repayments and profit expatriation by Chinese companies would be below $1 billion.

“All of those things combined will not go to $1 billion up until 2023,” he said.

Ismail added loans given by China to Pakistan had a 30-year length and a five-year grace period, meaning there were no repayments for the first five years.

The lending was a combination of zero-interest debt, concessionary and some market rate loans, Ismail said, adding that the “weighted average” interest rate for these loans was 2 percent

“These are not loans that will break our back,” he said.

Ismail said the problems hitting Pakistan’s economy were not linked to debt but rather to current account problems, which was not China’s fault.

Pakistan’s finance ministry said it was engaged in “technical discussions” with the IMF but the interim caretaker government did not have a mandate to decide on any IMF package, which will be down to the new administration.

(PT) Aga Khan thanks Portugal for a ‘progressive partnership’

(PT)

LISBON: Prince Karim Aga Khan has praised Portugal as a country of opportunity and has thanked the country for a “progressive partnership” with the Ismaili imamat.

He said this while addressing members of the Portuguese parliament. He was invited to speak at the Assembly of the Republic in Lisbon by its president Eduardo Ferro Rodrigues.

The address coincides with the global celebrations taking place in Lisbon commemorating the Diamond Jubilee of the Aga Khan, marking 60 years of his leadership as 49th spiritual leader of the Shia Ismaili Muslims.

In his address to the parliament, he expressed gratitude to the Republic of Portugal and spoke of Portugal as a significant partner with the Ismaili imamat, one that shares a commitment to pluralism and embracing diversity. He described Portugal as a country of opportunity. He said that Portugal is “a country that seeks to honour both its past achievements and its future opportunities, to embrace both the gift of social stability and the promise of social progress.”

He also noted that the history of Ismaili engagement with Portugal stretches back many years, beginning when Ismailis settled in Portuguese Territories in India in the 17th century. He noted the warm welcome that Portugal offered almost half a century ago to Ismailis fleeing the Mozambiquan civil war. In reflecting upon the past, he also looked forward and considered the challenges that lie ahead, remarking “We know that the days ahead will be demanding ones, a time of profound global change.”

Members of his family who joined him for the address included his brother Prince Amyn, daughter Princess Zahra and her children Sara and Iliyan, son Prince Rahim with his wife Princess Salwa, and sons Prince Hussain and Prince Aly Muhammad.

+++ (BBG) Pakistan Vows to Hunt Terrorists After Easter Sunday Carnage

…Only now…?…After all these years…?…Or is it a false promise…?

(BBG) Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif vowed to eradicate radical ideologies from Pakistan after a Taliban suicide bomber targeted many women and children celebrating Easter Sunday at a park in one of its biggest cities.

“Our goal is not only to eliminate terror infrastructure but also the extremist mindset which is a threat to our way of life,” Sharif said in a statement on Monday after reviewing security in Lahore. “We must take this war to the doors of terrorist outfits before they are able to hit our innocent country men.”

He called for more coordination between law enforcement and intelligence agencies and sought a united fight against terrorism, a refrain he has repeated often in the face of a Taliban insurgency that has killed more than 60,000 people since 2001. This one hit close to home: Punjab, the nation’s most populous state, is Sharif’s political base and has seen fewer attacks than areas closer to the mountainous border with Afghanistan.

The blast killed at least 72 people and injured about 300, police spokesman Nayab Haider said by phone on Monday. An offshoot of the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility and said the group was targeting Christians, the Washington Post reported, citing a spokesman.

Pakistani television showed a video of people running from the Gulshan-e-Iqbal park in a residential part of Lahore. The area was crowded with Christians, and many families were leaving when the blast occurred, according to reports.

The attack highlights the challenges in Pakistan, where the military has long used extremist groups as strategic assets against India to the east and Afghanistan to the west. Sharif has sought to take on Pakistan’s conservative elements in recent months, calling for better treatment of women and executing a man who assassinated a former governor for seeking a review of a blasphemy law.

Cowardly Attack

Sharif, who took power in 2013, termed the attack as cowardly and said it was a reaction to the government’s success in the fight against terrorism. Troops and intelligence agencies conducted five raids since last night, recovering a “huge cache” of arms and ammunition and arresting a “number of” suspected terrorists and facilitators, military spokesman Asim Bajwa wrote on Twitter on Monday.

The attack occurred as thousands rallied in the capital Islamabad to protest the execution of Mumtaz Qadri, who murdered the former governor of Punjab in 2011 over his stance on the blasphemy law. The protesters called for the imposition of Shariah law and wanted Qadri to be declared a martyr.

Although Pakistan was created for Muslims as part of a two-state solution following independence from the British in 1947, military ruler Zia ul Haq imposed more stringent Islamic laws only in the 1980s. Religious minorities — including Hindus, Christians and Shia Muslims — have been frequent targets of sectarian violence.

Leaders around the globe condemned the attack. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called Nawaz Sharif on Sunday and “underlined the need for uncompromising efforts to fight against terrorism,” foreign office spokesman Vikas Swarup wrote on Twitter. U.S. presidential candidates also condemned the attack.

“The United States condemns in the strongest terms today’s appalling terrorist attack,” U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said in an e-mailed statement. “Attacks like these only deepen our shared resolve to defeat terrorism around the world.”

Sunday’s attack was Pakistan’s deadliest since 2014, when the Taliban massacred about 150 — mostly students — in their school, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal. It was the deadliest in Lahore since 2010, when a bombing killed almost 100 members of the minority Ahmadi Muslim community.