Khan Formally Asks IMF to Link Future Lending to Audit of Pakistan’s Disputed Vote

ISLAMABAD — The political party of Pakistan’s jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan wrote Wednesday to the International Monetary Fund, asking that lending to the cash-strapped country be tied to an independent audit of the disputed Feb. 8 elections.

Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, or PTI, addressed the letter to IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, saying it was written on his behalf to remind the U.S.-based global lender to uphold its commitment to demanding free and fair elections.

The letter, shared with VOA, stated that the polls for the national and four provincial assemblies, which cost of $180 million, “were subjected to widespread intervention and fraud in the counting of votes and compilation of results.”

Islamabad has struggled to keep the national economy on track after securing a $3 billion standby arrangement from the IMF last June, with record inflation, local currency devaluation and dwindling foreign exchange reserves.

The letter stated that in the last meeting between Khan and IMF representatives in the lead-up to the standby arrangement, it was agreed that the financing facility would be granted on the condition that free and fair elections were held in Pakistan.

“We, therefore, call upon the IMF to give effect to the guidelines adopted by it with respect to good governance as well as conditionalities that must be satisfied prior to the grant of a finance facility that is to burden the people of Pakistan with further debt,” the letter said.

“An audit of at least 30% of the national and provincial assemblies’ seats should be ensured,” it added.

There was no immediate comment from the IMF on the letter.

The independent candidates fielded by the PTI Party in this month’s elections secured the highest number of seats in the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, but fell short of winning a simple majority. The party also swept the polls for the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

However, the elections were marred by accusations of widespread electoral fraud, triggering calls for a thorough investigation into the charges by both domestic critics and foreign countries, including the United States.

The military-backed interim government suspended nationwide mobile phone and internet services on the polling day and for hours beyond. The move gave credence to suspicions the results were manipulated to help anti-PTI parties gain the upper hand.

Several political parties and independent election watchdogs have declared their support for PTI’s claims that they were on the path to a sweeping victory but were prevented from doing so due to alleged electoral fraud that favored army-backed rival political parties, particularly the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), led by former Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

Sharif is set to become the prime minister again to lead a minority coalition government in partnership with the Pakistan People’s Party and a smaller regional group. Newly elected lawmakers will take oath during Thursday’s inaugural session of the National Assembly before electing Sharif as the country’s chief executive.

As the standby arrangement expires in April, the new government will likely reach out to the IMF as soon as possible to secure more funds, analysts say.

An IMF spokesperson told reporters in Washington last week that it was focused on completing the existing funding facility to support Pakistan’s efforts to stabilize the economy.

“We look forward to working with the new government on policies to ensure macroeconomic stability and prosperity for all of Pakistan’s citizens,” said Julie Kozack.

Khan, now 71, was removed from office in 2022 through a parliamentary vote of no-confidence. He accused the powerful military of orchestrating his ouster at the behest of the United States, charges Washington and Islamabad rejected.

The cricket celebrity-turned-deposed prime minister has since faced scores of state-instituted lawsuits and prosecutions on charges ranging from terrorism and corruption to sedition and murder.

Khan has been serving lengthy prison terms since last August after having been convicted on disputed charges of corruption, leaking state secrets in office, and a fraudulent marriage. He has also been disqualified from holding public office for 10 years.

The former leader denies all the charges and alleges Pakistan’s powerful military has orchestrated the legal actions to block his return to power.

The legal challenges and subsequent convictions were part of a state crackdown on PTI leaders, workers and supporters in the lead-up to the elections, allegedly to force them to abandon Khan.

Pakistan has experienced more than three decades of direct military rule through multiple coups since gaining independence in 1947.

Even when not in power, army generals are said to covertly influence the success or failure of civilian governments, according to Pakistani politicians, including Khan, and many independent critics.

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