KARACHI: The International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) loan program is not linked with provincial or general elections in Pakistan, the IMF country representative said on Friday, amid a financial crunch in the South Asian country.
The statement came after the Pakistani finance ministry informed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) that the country was facing a severe economic crisis and the government did not have enough funds to separately hold elections in the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces as per the Supreme Court’s directives.
Earlier this week, the election commission also decided to defer the Punjab provincial elections by more than five months, citing financial and security constraints.
However, IMF resident representative Esther Perez Ruiz said decisions regarding the constitutionality, feasibility, and timing of the provincial and general elections “rest solely with Pakistan’s institutions.”
“There is no requirement under Pakistan’s EFF-supported program which could interfere with Pakistan ability to undertake constitutional activities,” she told Arab News.
“Targets under IMF-supported programs are set at the aggregate general government level and within these there is fiscal space to allocate or reprioritize spending and/or raise additional revenues to ensure constitutional activities can take place as required.”
Pakistan is desperately awaiting a $1.2 billion bailout tranche from the IMF as part of the $7 billion Extended Fund Facility (EFF) it secured in 2019.
The 9th review of the country’s loan program has been pending since late last year.
The release of IMF funds will offer some relief to the South Asian country reeling from a dollar crunch, which has raised fears for the economy slipping into a recession ahead of the elections this year.
Former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party and allies dissolved the provincial assemblies of the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces in January to mount pressure on the government to hold snap national polls across the country. The two regions account for more than half of the country’s 220 million population.
Under the Pakistani law, fresh polls for the two provincial assemblies should be held within 90 days of their dissolution and Khan’s PTI was gambling on the national government being unable to afford to hold the provincial elections separately from a national election, which is otherwise due by October.
Earlier this month, in a landmark ruling, Pakistan’s top court also said general elections in the two provinces should be held within 90 days. President Dr. Arif Alvi subsequently announced April 30 as the date for Punjab Assembly elections after much political wrangling and consultations in recent weeks.
Khan’s party has announced challenging in the Supreme Court the ECP’s decision to postpone the polls.