By Gibran Naiyyar Peshimam
KARACHI, Pakistan (Reuters) – Pakistani Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said on Saturday he had canceled a trip to Washington to attend meetings with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Itinerary for the Bank’s Spring Meeting Due to the political situation in the country, please follow the Prime Minister’s order.
Dar said, however, that he will take part in key bilateral and multilateral meetings virtually, with a Pakistani delegation in Washington.
Pakistan is in danger of defaulting on its debt, with the IMF bailout stalled since November and a political battle between the government and former prime minister Imran Khan raging.
Dar said the crisis was exacerbated by the Supreme Court’s recent order to cancel plans to postpone two provincial assembly elections scheduled for next month. The order created an impasse between the government and the courts.
“As a country we are in a strange mess… so in this case, on the orders of the Prime Minister, I am dropping Darr in a televised address.
The minister rejected reports that the cancellation of the trip was linked to a blockage of Pakistan’s IMF bailout.
He added that the Supreme Court had created a “constitutional crisis ’, the Supreme Court ordered the government to provide 21 billion Pakistani rupees ($21 million) to the election authorities for polls by Monday.
Dar said the Pakistani side had completed all IMF program reviews required to release over $1.1 billion in critical funds for the cash-strapped country.
All that remains is for one country to confirm that it will provide $1 billion to Pakistan to support its external account needs, he said. Another country has confirmed that $2 billion will be provided, he added.
Local media widely reported that Saudi Arabia had pledged $2 billion, while the United Arab Emirates was awaiting confirmation of $1 billion.
Once the $1 billion was confirmed, the minister said USD, there will be a staff level agreement. He denies that there are any other outstanding issues.
Pakistan desperately needs funds, its foreign exchange reserves hover around $4.2 billion and can only provide a month’s worth of imports Guaranteed.
(This story has been refiled to remove extraneous words in paragraph 2)
($1=21. 5000 Pakistan Rupee)