Pakistan must suspend debt repayments immediately

CADTM-International Appeal/

Almost a year ago in August 2008, Pakistan was at the brink of a default. Its foreign exchange reserves were hitting the rock bottom of $4 billion, depleting rapidly in the range of $250 to $330 million weekly, which were hardly sufficient to sustain a month’s imports. Pakistan’s sovereign debt and liabilities had crossed the $45 billion mark, the Pakistani rupee had depreciated to 23 per cent and the gap between balance of trade was widening to an alarming extent. To confront this problem, a desperate Pakistan decided to knock the IMF door, and despite strong opposition from many in the country, the government finally entered into $7.6 billion Stand-By Arrangement (SBA) loan.

Yet, even after resorting to pump-priming measures, the global economy does not escape the stagnation in which it is plummeted. If it risks plunging more countries in the infernal spiral of debt, this “solution” additionally forces the PPP (Pakistan Peoples Party) government headed by Asif Ali Zardari to apply the same spurious recipes that have inevitably led to the current impasse.

The Stand-By Arrangement calls for example, the elimination of fuel and electricity subsidies, doing away with exemptions on income and agriculture taxes, continuing privatisation process and cutting social sector spending. The only thing IMF did not emphasize was to cut was the military budget… The Pakistani government fulfilled its obligations of the privatization of industrial units. It put up for sale millions of hectares of agricultural lands, withdrew fuel subsidies and increased electricity tariff; all these provoked strong protests. To keep down its budgetary deficit, the government put an end to around 125 public sector developmental projects |1| and have postponed 432 others. The expenditure for higher education has been reduced by 73% while the imposition of fiscal supplementary charges could terribly wreck this sector.

The recourse to indebtedness and the implementation of neo-liberal measures, imposed at the global level since the last 30 years have been a failure in terms of human development. These are contrary to a genuine political course to be taken in dealing the financial crisis, defending the interests of its victims.

CADTM calls on the Pakistani government to discontinue submitting at the pernicious injunctions of the IMF and to take urgent measures such as a unilateral suspension of the repayment of debt – odious and largely immoral – in order to assign priority to the fundamental human requirements of its population.

CADTM recalls that the earlier General Pervez Musharraf regime was a strategic ally of the US in the region, especially since the 9/11 attacks. The principal creditors have never hesitated to lend the Pakistani dictatorship the funds it needs to pursue this alliance. In the autumn of 2001, the United States asked Pakistan for assistance in waging the war in Afghanistan. Musharraf agreed to let the US use his country as a rearguard base for US armed forces and those of its allies, but in exchange, he negotiated a substantial reduction of Pakistan’s debt. In December 2001, the rich countries meeting at the Paris Club were quick to agree to this reduction. The regime then continued indebting Pakistan with the active support of the World Bank and the other major powers. The loans granted have no legitimacy; it has only served to reinforce the tyranny of the General and have not improved a bit the living conditions of the Pakistani citizens… The debt contracted by this despotic regime can therefore be classified as odious. CADTM declares that the creditors who made loans to Musharraf did so in full knowledge of the facts; and under such circumstances, it is inadmissible that the Pakistani people should in the future be forced to repay the odious debt contracted by Musharraf. In these conditions, a pure and simple cancellation of the debts is the least demand.

In addition, the fight against pauperisation and against the growth of religious fundamentalism cannot be victorious until the fundamental problems of the peasantry, the working class and that of the women, in the social, political and economic domain are resolved.

 CADTM supports the demand for a programme of radical agrarian reform, the redistribution of lands in the hands of armed forces (the ‘Military Farms’, the ‘Army Welfare Trust’ and the Punjab Seed Corporation) which controls close to 30,000 hectares of very fertile lands which the peasants and their families cultivate for more than a century. There should be a radical reduction of the military budget to benefit social expenditure.

 CADTM calls Pakistan and all the countries of the South to set off another economic logic respecting the fundamental human rights and the environment, opposed to the neo-liberal logic imposed at forceps through an odious debt which they must immediately call for abolition. CADTM supports a programme for a total legal and constitutional reform which incorporates the convocation of an assembly to draft a new secular constitution respecting the minorities and women.

 CADTM demands an end to the occupation of Afghanistan by the American and NATO forces as well as their withdrawal from other parts of the world.

 CADTM provides support to popular support against the pursuit of neo-liberal policies and the return of foreign military forces. CADTM supports the struggle of social and political forces opposing religious fundamentalism. CADTM supports the women’s struggle for their emancipation.

notes articles:

|1| The budgetary cut for these programmes is currently estimated at 100 billion Pakistani rupees.

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