Elusive deal.

CAN the government be trusted any longer about anything it says regarding the ongoing negotiations with the IMF? Days have turned into weeks and weeks into months, yet Finance Minister Ishaq Dar continues to insist on the imminency of a deal despite having nothing to show for his six months of efforts.

This ongoing week has now seen matters take a deeply embarrassing turn. On two occasions, the IMF's country representative had to issue statements that appeared to contradict quite explicitly the finance ministry's posturing on several key matters.

First, Esther Perez Ruiz, in response to journalists' queries over a statement from the finance minister, rebutted the perception that the lending agency had sought compromises from Pakistan over its nuclear programme.

Then, she had to issue a statement underlining that the IMF ought to be kept out of the country's internal politics and clarify that its programme requirements had nothing to do with election funding.

That is not all: it appears that the IMF has not taken lightly the government's blindsiding of the Fund with a recently announced measure aimed at providing 'public relief'.

It had emerged earlier this week that the government's political stunt of introducing a cross-subsidy on petrol - under which the 'rich' will pay Rs100 more per litre of fuel and the 'poor' Rs100 less - had never been discussed with the IMF.

The lender has now confirmed that the government must satisfy it regarding its plans before the process for approving the release of requested funds can move ahead.

Since the...

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