As at the UN countries jostled to give speeches about past contributions to Pakistan, Inner City Press asked UK International Development Minister Andrew Mitchell about the IMF’s requirement that Pakistan not seek any relief of its $500 million a year in debt payments in exchange for a $450 million loan. Mitchell responded that Pakistan’s debt service is “only 3% of its gross national income.” He said he was sure negotiations would continue on the debt.
But a letter submitted to the IMF on September 10 by State Bank Governor Shahid Hafiz Kardar and Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh committed, at the IMF’s demand “To make sure Pakistan’s international trade and financial relations continue to function normally, we will not impose any restrictions on payments and transfers for current international transactions nor introduce any trade restrictions or enter into any bilateral payment agreements that are inconsistent with Article VIII of the Fund’s Articles of Agreement.”
Inner City Press asked Pakistan’s foreign minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi about this, and he replied that his country’s finance minister is speaking with the World Bank, the IMF and Asia Development Bank and he is “sure he will take it [debt relief] up with them at the appropriate time.” But he and the country appear precluded from taking it up, by the IMF’s own demands.
Inner City Press also asked Mitchell about whether the EU will grant Pakistan GSP Plus trade benefits. Mitchell made much of his Prime Minister Cameron pushing for this, but the EU has yet to move on it, reportedly due to protectionist opposition by France, Italy, Poland and Portugal (which is seeking a UN Security Council seat). It was impossible to ask the EU, as Catherine Ashton unceremoniously canceled her scheduled stakeout.
To the side of Minister Lectureship’s stakeout, against his will, stood UN envoy Jean-Maurice Ripert. He had refused to speak to the Press outside the General Assembly’s pledging session on Pakistan, and this time had to be summoned after Secretary General Ban Ki-moon left without taking questions, due to the need to swear in Michelle Bachelet at the head of UN Women.
Inner City Press asked Ripert, by name, to explain his and the UN’s failure to push for humanitarian access to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas including Waziristan. Ripert tried to get OCHA’s Valerie Amos to answer in his stead, but Inner City Press said Ms. Amos had already taken the question last week. (Ms. Amos later on Monday introduced and praised her previous UK colleague Andrew Mitchell in a way some correspondents found noteworthy, “like Le Roy and the French,” one said.)
Ripert came to the microphone and offered nothing but praise for the government, then referred to “security issues,” saying it is “quite normal that the UN has to discuss with the government” issues of access.
Just like UNAMID has not had access in Darfur to parts of Jebel Marra since February, the UN and NGOs have been denied access to Wazirstan. And what has the UN and Ripert done?
Footnote: Ripert has been avoiding the Press for days. On September 17, greeted by Inner City Press, he scowled and walked away, smoking a long white cigarette. Later he was seen chatting euphorically on his cell phone in the UN’s Vienna Cafe. On Sunday evening he was on CNN International saying that the floods have impacted an area “as large as Italy.” Some in the Pakistani press corps have stories of Ripert in the Alps — others say Geneva — but everywhere but Pakistan.
By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, September 19
© Inner City Press