The head of the military department of Pakistan asks the United States for help in allocating an IMF loan Business news

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s powerful army chief has contacted Washington to ask for U.S. help in securing an early release of a crucial $1.7 billion tranche from the International Monetary Fund for his country, which is battling a deepening economic crisis, Pakistani officials said Saturday.

According to a number of government officials, General Qamar Javed Bajwa discussed the issue with US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, urging Washington to use its influence at the IMF to help Pakistan.

The address was a rare address from the head of the army. Pakistan’s relationship with the United States has been troubled in recent years, mainly over the issue of neighboring Afghanistan, which is now ruled by the Taliban.

Relations remained particularly strained under former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was ousted in a no-confidence vote in parliament in April. However, Pakistan’s armed forces, which have ruled the country directly for more than half of its 75-year history, have worked closely with the US and have been an official ally in the war on terror against al-Qaeda.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry confirmed on Friday that Bajwa and Sherman had spoken.

“I understand that (this) conversation took place, but at this stage I do not know directly about the content of this discussion,” said ministry spokesman Asim Iftikhar.

Officials who spoke to The Associated Press on Saturday said the discussion focused on the IMF loan. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Pakistan and the IMF initially signed an aid agreement in 2019. But the $1.7 billion tranche has been on hold since earlier this year when the IMF expressed concern over Pakistan’s compliance with the terms of the Khan accord.

Khan’s successor, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, and his government reached a tentative agreement with the IMF earlier this month to renew the aid package. This agreement had to be approved by the foundation’s board of directors.

Pakistan had hoped for a quick resumption of aid, but the IMF has still not released the much-needed tranche, which may have been the reason for Bajwa’s call to Washington. It remained unclear what US officials could do to speed up the aid process.

Washington did not comment on the phone call.

Bajwa also spoke by phone with the head of US Central Command in the Middle East, Gen. Michael Kuril, on Friday, the military said in a statement. He quotes the words of Kurila, who highly evaluates the role of Pakistan in the stability of the region and expressed hope for further improvement of cooperation with Pakistan.

Pakistan badly needs an IMF loan. Earlier in July, the fund said it would increase the value of the aid from $6 billion to $7 billion if approved by the executive board, which is generally considered a formality.

Sharif has repeatedly blamed the former prime minister’s government, arguing that Khan – a former cricket star turned Islamist politician – deliberately violated IMF terms to remain popular with followers at home.

Analysts say the resumption of IMF aid will help Pakistan and encourage other international financial institutions to engage with the South Asian country.

Sharif’s government has also been in touch with Washington about resuming IMF aid. Since his ouster, Khan has repeatedly claimed that his government was overthrown by a US conspiracy, which Washington denies.

After Khan’s ouster, Pakistan’s currency fell to an all-time low amid uncertainty over IMF bailouts. Over the weekend, the rupee fell to a record low of around 240 to the dollar. Earlier, the dollar was sold at 225 rupees.

The constant fall in the currency of this Islamic country has caused panic in the business community. Rising food prices and inflation have made Sharif’s four-month-old government deeply unpopular.

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