Federal Finance Minister Miftah Ismail asked Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Finance Minister Taimur Khan Jhagra to resign and PTI Senator Shaukat Tarin to quit politics for trying to sabotage Pakistan’s interests after audio leaks of their conversation regarding the resumption of the crucial International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme surfaced on Monday.

In one of the audio clips, that are being widely played on television channels, Tarin can be heard asking Jhagra to write a letter to the federal government to let it know that KP would not be able to commit to a provincial surplus in light of the recent floods that have wreaked havoc in Pakistan.

In the other audio, Tarin can be heard asking Punjab Finance Minister Mohsin Leghari to do the same.

Running a provincial surplus, which had been agreed to by all provinces earlier this year, was one of the key requirements for Pakistan’s IMF programme and the release of the loan tranche by the lender.

In his presser, Ismail referred to both the audio leaks as well as a letter Jhagra had written to him last week in which he conveyed his administration’s inability to provide a provincial surplus this year.

The federal minister alleged that Jhagra had sent the letter to the IMF before sending it to him. “I checked with them (the IMF) within an hour [of receiving the letter] and they already had it. Are we children? Am I mad? If you’re clever, can we not recognise it? And then you are defending it.

“Imran Khan should ask the nation for forgiveness. Taimur Jhagra should resign and Shaukat Tarin should quit politics. Is this why you do politics?” he thundered.

He termed the PTI’s move the “most shameful thing”, saying that the real faces of the party leaders had now been exposed.

Ismail also urged PTI supporters to question party chairman Imran Khan about whether the letter Jhagra wrote was in the state’s interest. “Do support Imran but tell him he is not bigger than Pakistan. Bring him to power but not at the cost of Pakistan.

“When they are writing letters against Pakistan’s interest, it is your responsibility to say no. Consider Pakistan’s interest to be sacred. If Pakistan’s interest is not sacred to a person, he is not fit to govern the country.”

At the start of his press conference, the finance minister spoke about the devastation caused by the floods sweeping the country. People had lost their family members, their homes had been flooded, their crops destroyed and their livestock killed, he noted.

He said Pakistan was “drowning and the one support after God is the IMF programme”. However, amid the destruction, the PTI had resorted to a below-the-belt act, he said.

Referring to the audio leak, Ismail said only Leghari had questioned whether the state would be damaged by writing the letter. “Nobody else asked this. Jhagra said I know IMF’s number 2 and I will give him the information. Did you become politicians for this?

“Fawad Chaudhry had already spoken about this a day earlier. Should Imran Khan [be allowed to] change Pakistan’s name to Bani Gala? Should we hang Pakistan on Imran Khan’s directives? Has Imran Khan become bigger than Pakistan? Are they not ashamed?”

‘PTI took country to point of bankruptcy’

The minister said several politicians, including PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif, had advised against forming the government after the vote of no confidence against Imran Khan because of the precarious situation the country was in.

Ismail claimed that the country was already bankrupt when the coalition government came into power.

He blasted the PTI for “taking the country to the point of bankruptcy, doing an agreement with the IMF and then reneging on it, and leaving a deficit of Rs350 billion with Rs600bn adjustors after telling the IMF the deficit would be contained to Rs25bn”.

After coming into power, the PML-N had “risked its political capital and saved the country from default”, he said, adding that he had faced great difficulty in restarting talks with the IMF for the resumption of the programme.

“When I raise the price of petrol, Shaukat Tarin and Asad Umar criticise and people of my party join in as well. What choice did I have? Would we bankrupt the country to save our ministries? We would not have done that even in the opposition. The day Shehbaz became PM, he invited [the PTI] to discuss a charter of economy but they refused.”

He claimed that the coalition government had saved Pakistan from a Sri Lanka-like situation. “I do not want to use the word treason. Is this what you are doing?”

The PTI had crossed all lines by doing this conspiracy, the minister said.

KP funds

Addressing Jhagra’s letter, Ismail said the KP finance minister had written that the federal government did not give money to the province for temporarily dislocated persons (TDPs).

However, the letter was sent 72 hours before the IMF’s executive board was set to meet and on the afternoon of the last working day of the week, he said, claiming that the PTI wanted him to be unable to do anything.

Ismail said that while the KP government had asked for additional funds, it had not justified why the money was needed. “Does the federal government give money on verbal requests or on notes and summaries?” he asked.

He claimed the provincial government had created 19,000 additional posts after the merger of erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

“If there is a problem, we are happy to talk. [Sindh Chief Minister] Murad Ali Shah writes a letter to me daily. What is new in this? This is a normal give-and-take. You write a letter 72 hours before [the IMF meeting] and send it to IMF’s number 2.

“You are telling us there are floods. Do we not know that we will need more money? Will it not be mentioned in IMF’s conditionalities? But at least let [the programme] be approved.”

He said the PTI was calling for a meeting of the National Finance Commission (NFC). “Imran Khan was in government for four years. Did he reconstitute the NFC? Did [ex-PunjabCM Usman] Buzdar give his share and is [incumbent CM] Parvez Elahi giving it? It is the federation’s responsibility.

“Shehbaz Sharif will take responsibility for tribal children even if Parvez Elahi doesn’t. But is this the time and way to talk? When did we refuse to talk? It’s been proven you wrote this two days prior to sabotage the IMF deal.”

Other ministers decry PTI

Separately, in a message on Twitter, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said the “red line” of the state’s identity and existence was crossed when someone targeted its survival and economy just for the sake of power or to target political opponents.

Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal said there was “no doubt left that Imran Niazi has become blind [and will] play with every interest of Pakistan for the sake of his ego and power.”

Iqbal questioned what the situation could be termed, if not treason. “What do you say to those who still do not recognise this selfish person?” he added.

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