PML-N leader and Defence Minister Khawaja Asif — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: PML-N stalwart and Defence Minister Khawaja Asif has reiterated reservations over the autonomy that the previous government granted to the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) during its tenure.

In the wake of the previous government’s agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for reviving its $6-billion loan, it had committed to granting autonomous status to the central bank.

For this purpose, the SBP Act, 1956 was amended through the SBP (Amendment) Act, 2021, for enhanced central bank autonomy, price stability, and accountability.

But Asif, during an interview with Geo News‘ programme “Capital Talk” said he still believes the laws that the previous government amended to meet the IMF’s conditions were still wrong and needed to be reserved.

The defence minister said former prime minister Imran Khan had “sold out” Pakistan’s economic sovereignty to the United States, as Washington has the most shares in the IMF.

“IMF is an institution in which America has a lot of stakes as it is the largest shareholder. Imran Khan sold out our economic sovereignty to them as he handed over our central bank — our bank of the last resort — to the IMF,” he said.

The defence minister said the coalition government would reverse the move and reestablish Pakistan’s economic sovereignty, but noted that the central bank would be given independence when it comes to the monetary policy.

When asked whether he would raise the concerns with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, he said: “I will definitely ask him to do it.”

The defence minister also assured that the Governor of the State Bank of Pakistan Dr Reza Baqir would retire on his designated date and the government has no plans of retaining him.

“His term is about to end and we will not retain him,” he added.

‘Don’t sell Pakistan’

When the National Assembly was discussing the SBP bill in December last year, the defence minister, who was in the Opposition then,` had said the sovereignty of Pakistan was being sold.

“The nation is ashamed of what is happening in the House today,” he had said on the floor of the National Assembly. He further said that the PTI-led government is trying to “enslave Pakistanis financially.”

“You’re giving the State Bank of Pakistan’s control to IMF. Please don’t surrender Pakistan’s sovereignty,” he reiterated.

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