Dr. Tahseen Mahmood Aslam describes the struggle for survival for the incumbent political chief executive
Shehbaz running around was brought to the office with a view of his proven pragmatism in political wheeling-dealing and the amiability of his temperament. Another quality he possesses is his work ethic that has earned him the reputation of being indefatigable and known to be result-oriented. On the other hand it is widely known that he is a political lightweight who thrives on the support of his older brother and multifarious political influences in the political party he represents particularly the likes of Khwaja Asif and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. The first instances of the political influences reacting on him were the initiatives of Nawaz Sharif resulting in shape of appointment of Tariq Fatemi in the foreign office and Fawad Hasan Fawad for establishment affairs. The first appointment elicited furious response from the PPP that gave Shehbaz Sharif literally a short time frame to reverse it that he did. This attempt by Nawaz Sharif prompted PPP to send a word to him in London through Bilawal Bhutto to refrain from trying to sabotage Shehbaz Sharif’s administration.
Despite all the handicaps he faces, Shehbaz running around working in earnest and with his usual speed though his coalition partners are trying to slow him down with the result that he compulsively goes out attending almost irrelevant pieces of business including inspecting the municipal areas of Lahore that are supposed to be the domain of his chief minister son. However, he also ventured out to bring some cash into the national exchequer that is badly needed. In this context, he went Saudi Arabia on a three-day visit at the invitation of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Pakistan has decided to seek an additional package of $3.2 billion from Saudi Arabia to increase the total facility to $7.4 billion from the existing $4.2 billion. Pakistan also wanted rollover of the existing package of $4.2 billion for one year till June 2023 in order to align it with the IMF programme as Islamabad has already asked the Fund to extend the existing Extended Fund Facility (EFF) for nine months till June 2023 coupled with increasing the size of the programme from $6bn to $8 billion. Saudi Arabia had already given $3 billion deposits to Pakistan and an oil facility on deferred payment worth $1.2 billion during the tenure of the last PTI-led regime. The deposits were given in December 2021, while the Saudi Oil Facility (SOF) started in March 2022 and so far, $100 million have been disbursed. Saudi Arabia had placed stringent conditions on the last package amount of $4.2 billion and linked it to the IMF programme.
Shehbaz running around visit was marred by the inclusion of his family members and their domestic servants that was widely resented. The other sour event was that when the PM and his delegation reached the mosque, people there chanted slogans against them. In a video message in response to the chants, that gave birth to a serious controversy although the Saudi government did not pay much heed to the incident. Shehbaz Sharif made a palpable breakthrough when he was granted an audience by the Saudi crown prince who was known to be very angry with the attitude of the former prime minister.
The result of the visit was that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia decided that they would discuss extending the term of a $3 billion loan to help Pakistan’s faltering economy. Saudi Arabia has long been an intelligence partner of Pakistan as well as a regular source of financial relief for successive governments. A joint statement said the kingdom would continue to support the Pakistani economy and had discussed augmenting the $3 billion deposit with the central bank through term extension or otherwise. Saudi Arabia also pledged to further enhance the financing of petroleum products at a time when Pakistan is suffering from frequent power cuts.
Shehbaz Sharif then hopped-off to Abu Dhabi for a day-long visit to the United Arab Emirates. On this visit he met Deputy Supreme Commander of UAE Armed Forces and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan known to be iron-man of the Emirates and not a great admirer of Pakistan’s leadership frequent meanderings into policies resented by the UAE. However, the leadership of other important ally of the Shehbaz Sharif’s government, the PPP, has successfully maintained warm relations with the UAE ruling family and this factor may play an important role in obtaining some much-needed succour for Pakistan.
Shehbaz running around had also not hesitated a bit before approaching the IMF for renewal of EFF facility. He quickly despatched his team to Washington to sort the matter out and succeeded in not only getting the IMF programme renewed but also enhancing it from $5 billion to $8 billion. Though Shehbaz Sharif’s government was not allowed the luxury of honey-moon period and this was not unexpected that the former government had taken to the streets and has put tremendous pressure on the incumbent government. TW