Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)

By Ali, Muhammad Imtiaz | Economic Review, September 1998 | Go to article overview

Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)


Ali, Muhammad Imtiaz, Economic Review


There had been rumours floating around for quite sometimes that Pakistan government, in an underhand deal with the US Administration, agreed to sign Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). A report has now revealed that a package has been finalized with the US during the recent visit of Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif. The details of the package on offer suggest a five year moratorium on Pakistan's debt burden, conversion of short term three year debt to five years, and an augmented long term bail-out of $ 5 billion from the IMF, World Bank and other international lending agencies. That is the good news. The bad news is that strict conditionalities would accompany the package. Most of these conditionalities are similar to what has been the thrust of previous agreements with the IMF. They include privatization, rationalization (read slashing) of import tariffs, removal of subsidies, good governance, across the board collection of taxes, and the imposition of agricultural income tax. Although the report does not mention the imposition of GST, it may be assumed that would be central to the replacement of lost revenue because of slashed import tariffs, with the value added tax. The package is expected to have a salutary effect on Pakistan's straitened foreign exchange reserves by boosting them to a safe level of $2.5 billion by December this year.

In addition, the US is expected to return $600 million paid for the undelivered F-16s. The negotiations on the package are expected to be completed by November, and Pakistan expects the first tranche of $ 1 billion by December. The boosted foreign exchange reserves are anticipated to create a healthy effect on our downgraded credit rating, as well as possibly bring down the high 5 per cent plus LIBOR interest rate on the $1.5 billion loan negotiated with the Islamic Development Bank. The report has yet to be confirmed from authoritative government sources, but one indication of a turnaround in our financial fortunes may be the queue of international lending agencies which now appears to be making a beeline for Islamabad. The IMF mission is already here, and is expected to be followed by teams from other international lending agencies. Private funds flows, which had ceased in the aftermath of the nuclear tests in May, are also likely to be resumed after agreements are signed with the IMP and World Bank. All this of course, will only become possible once Pakistan agrees to sign the CTBT.

The ongoing debate in the parliament was said to be a face saving device. Since the imposition of international economic sanction following the N-tests on May 28 and 30, the sitting government was under tremendous pressure to sign CTBT. The US linked the lifting of economic sanction with the signing of CTBT first by Pakistan. The government now has managed to reverse the process of lifting of US economic sanctions as a pre-condition of the signing of CTBT. "We will not sign the CTBT in the presence of sanctions," said Sartaj Aziz while winding up the debate on CTBT in the joint sitting of the Parliament. He said the treaty will be signed after getting assurance for the protection of Pakistan's reservations. Though the Foreign Minister stressed for the solution of Kashmir issue, but he did not make it a condition for signing CTBT. …

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