Pakistan, IMF agree to continue deliberations over bailout program

Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks during the World Government Summit in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Sunday, Feb. 10, 2019. (AP)
Updated 10 February 2019

Pakistan, IMF agree to continue deliberations over bailout program

  • Christine Lagarde says IMF stands ready to support Pakistan
  • Saudi Arabia, UAE’s financial assistance made Pakistan comfortable to deal with the Fund

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan and Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Christine Lagarde agreed in a meeting on the sidelines of World Government Summit in Dubai on Sunday to continue talks for a bailout package.

“The two sides agreed to work together on policy priorities and reforms aimed at reducing imbalances and laying the foundations of a job creating growth path in Pakistan,” Dr. Khaqan Hassan Najeeb, Spokesperson for the Ministry of Finance, told Arab News shortly after the meeting.

He said the deal on the IMF support package was yet to be reached and “deliberations between the Pakistani authorities and IMF staff will continue to finalize an agreement on the contours of a program.”

Pakistan government has been negotiating a deal with the IMF since November last year to shore up the country’s dwindling foreign exchange reserves and avert the possibility of a balance-of-payments crisis. But the agreement is yet to be reached due to “tough economic conditions” suggested by the Fund before it offers financial assistance.

Finance Minister Asad Umar has repeatedly said that Pakistan would sign the financial deal with the IMF only if it “gets the loan on favorable conditions.”

In the meeting with the IMF chief, Prime Minister Khan vowed to undertake “structural and governance reforms and strengthen social protection in the country.”

Meanwhile, a press release issued by the IMF said that Lagarde had a “good and constructive meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan.”

“We discussed recent economic developments and prospects for Pakistan in the context of ongoing discussions toward an IMF-supported program,” Lagarde was quoted as saying in the statement.

“I reiterated that the IMF stands ready to support Pakistan,” she said, adding that “decisive policies and a strong package of economic reforms” would enable Pakistan to restore the resilience of its economy and lay the foundations for stronger and more inclusive growth.

Citing the PTI government’s policy agenda, Lagarde said protecting the poor and strengthening governance were “key priorities to improve people’s living standards in a sustainable manner.”

On the other hand, senior economist Dr. Ayub Mehr said that “the highest-level meeting” between Prime Minister Khan and IMF chief showed that work on “operations level” of the financial agreement had been completed.

“Pakistan is in a dire need for a financial package from the IMF to overcome its liquidity crisis and bring a financial discipline to improve its economy,” he told Arab News. “And we have already met most of the IMF conditions like rupee devaluation to get the package,” he added.

Pakistan was faced with a financial deficit of around $12 billion when the PTI government took charge of the office in August last year, but the situation has changed now, Dr. Athar Ahmed, senior economist, said.

“The government is now in a comfortable position after the availability of $6 billion direct cash assistance ($3 billion each) from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and is now trying to negotiate a better deal with the Fund,” he told Arab News.

“We are definitely going to get a financial package from the Fund, but on conditions that would not harm our economic growth and burden the poor through sharp hike in electricity and gas tariffs,” he added.

Pakistan student kills professor over mixed reception

Updated 20 March 2019

Pakistan student kills professor over mixed reception

  • The student accused his teacher of “spreading obscenity”
  • The professor was stabbed in his head and stomach

ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani student was arrested Wednesday after stabbing his professor to death for organizing a mixed-gender reception at a government college, police said.

Associate professor Khalid Hameed was killed Wednesday on the campus of Sadiq Egerton College in the southern city of Bahawalpur, a local police official told AFP.

"The professor had organized a gender mix reception for the new students and the event was supposed to take place tomorrow, on Thursday," he said.

According to the report registered with the police, a copy of which was seen by AFP, the student had shouted that he killed the professor because he was "spreading obscenity."

"The gender mix reception is against the teachings of Islam and I had warned him to stop it," he was quoted as saying in the report filed with the police.

The professor's son Waleed Khan, who was with him at the time of the incident, said the student was waiting for his father.

"As my father was about to step into his office, the guy attacked him with a knife, hitting him at his head and stomach," he told AFP.

"My father then fell down and I rushed to him, the student held his knife and started shouting 'I have killed him, I had told him that a gender mix reception is against Islam'," he said.

"We took him to hospital but he had already died," he said.

He said the student dropped his knife and the guards arrested him.

The Punjab provincial government said on Twitter that the student had been arrested and the chief minister had sought a report from the police.

Mixed-gender events are not uncommon in Pakistan's educational institutions but they come with more restrictions in government-owned colleges than in private ones.

Recently, a government university in Punjab issued a dress code barring female students from wearing tops with a deep neckline, sleeveless shirts, tights, skinny jeans or capri pants.

In many government universities there is a ban on students sitting as "couples" and "inappropriate" interaction between male and female students.