HomeWorldAsiaPakistan Faces "Perfect Storm" of Crises, Foreign Minister Says

Pakistan Faces “Perfect Storm” of Crises, Foreign Minister Says

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Pakistan’s foreign minister stated on Thursday that his country is facing a “perfect storm” of crises, including an economic crisis, the aftermath of catastrophic flooding, and terrorism “that is once again rearing its ugly head” as a result of the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan.

In a wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the 34-year-old son of deceased former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, claimed that Pakistan, like other countries, is plagued by “hyper-partisan and hyper-polarized politics.”

When discussing his cash-strapped country’s need need for financial assistance, he strongly chastised the International Monetary Fund, which last month postponed a USD6 billion bailout due to Pakistan’s failure to satisfy the terms of a 2019 agreement. The administration blames former Prime Minister Imran Khan, now the opposition leader, for the disaster.

According to government authorities, the IMF has given Pakistan new directives to raise and collect taxes as well as reduce subsidies without burdening the poor.

“We are looking to work with anyone, including Russia, to meet our energy needs.”

– Bilawal Bhutto Zardari

Zardari stated that his party supports increasing revenue collection and believes that the wealthy should pay more, but he also stated that Pakistan has been unable to implement structural tax reform “over the last 23 IMF programmes in which we have participated.”

“Is it really the time to nitpick about our tax policy and tax collection when we’re dealing with a climate disaster of this magnitude?” he said.

The IMF is not being fair to Pakistan, which is also dealing with 100,000 new refugees as a result of the West’s exit from Afghanistan, as well as “a steady increase in terrorist operations within our country,” according to Zardari.

The IMF is delaying talks on a bailout when the government needs money immediately to help “the lowest of the poor,” he claimed, whose houses and crops were washed away in the floods. And they’re being informed that the IMF programme will not be completed until their tax reform is completed.”

Economically, he claimed, Pakistan has been able to keep its head above water despite the COVID-19 epidemic, the Taliban’s capture of power in Afghanistan in August 2021, inflation, and supply chain disruptions. But then there were the floods of last summer, which killed 1,739 people, wrecked 2 million homes, and cost USD30 billion in damage — “the worst, most horrific climatic calamity that we’ve ever experienced,” he said.

According to Zardari, Pakistan confronts a variety of diplomatic issues with its neighbours. He cited a slew of bilateral concerns with India, decades of “tragedy and conflict” in Afghanistan, and Iranian restrictions that impede Pakistan’s trade with the country.

“We have a very solid economic relationship with our neighbour China, which is clearly also in the spotlight as a result of geopolitical events,” he remarked. He added the government is “extremely thankful” to Beijing for another USD1.3 billion loan announced on March 3, especially in view of the flood damage.

“The Chinese government has aided Pakistan in various ways, including debt forgiveness and economic assistance,” Zardari remarked. “I’m not bothered about this right now. We require assistance and support from all sources.”

“We are looking to work with anyone, including Russia, to meet our energy needs,” he stated. He also feels that there is now room for Russian imports inside the US price cap.

We are open to partnering with any country, including Russia, to satisfy our energy requirements – Bilawal Bhuto Zardari (Image by: AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

In an ideal world, a petrol pipeline from Iran to Pakistan would be constructed, but “sadly, I don’t see it occurring in the short future due to geopolitical problems,” Zardari remarked.

After years of strained relations under Khan’s administration, Zardari stated in May that the US and Pakistan needed to move beyond old disputes over Afghanistan and establish a fresh engagement.

“We’re on a good track,” he said on Thursday, referring to climate, health, technology, and trade issues.

He said that US and Pakistani officials have just met to discuss counterterrorism, a topic that Pakistan’s government has also discussed in Afghanistan.

Zardari argued that Pakistan’s “supposed influence over the Taliban has always been exaggerated” – both before and after Kabul’s collapse. But, he stated that Pakistan has always emphasised the necessity of engaging with the Taliban on terrorism and other concerns, particularly women’s rights to education and employment. He was at the United Nations, where he spoke at many meetings in support of women’s rights.

Zardari stated that Pakistan wants the Taliban to take action against all terrorist organisations, including those related to al-Qaida and the Islamic State. Nonetheless, he expressed concern about the Taliban’s ability to resist these groups because it lacks a standing army, a counter-terrorism force, and an effective border management force.

Zardari advised the West to deal with the Taliban “regardless of what is happening on the ground.”

He believes that the West should continue to provide humanitarian aid to Afghanistan while simultaneously providing economic support to help the country’s economy and central bank recover and keep Afghans from plunging into an even deeper economic disaster.

Zardari acknowledged how difficult this will be for parliamentarians in the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union.

Yet, without a functional economy, there will be no “room” for the Taliban to implement political policies, including attempting to persuade them to keep earlier commitments, like as women’s rights to education and jobs.

Info source – AP News

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