Germany urges assistance for Pakistan bailout

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier Tuesday called upon the world community to come forward to avert looming economic collapse in Pakistan, a key ally in the international fight against terrorism, reported dpa.

"We believe that the international community has to do what it can, what is required of it, and that is to express its readiness to stand at the side of Pakistan," he said in a joint press briefing with his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi in Islamabad.

Pakistan is facing an economic meltdown, mainly because of the political crisis that ended with former president Pervez Musharraf's resignation in August, and dozens of suicide attacks by Taliban militants around the country, causing foreign investors to flee.

The country's foreign reserves dropped some 75 per cent over the last 12 months from 18 billion dollars to around 4.3 billion dollars.

At the same time, the rupee has weakened by more than 27 per cent against the dollar, the current-account deficit reached a record 14 billion dollars in the year ending June 30, and inflation has risen to over 30 per cent.

Prolonged power outages and skyrocketing electricity tariffs have already triggered countrywide protests in recent weeks, raising fears that the nuclear-armed Muslim nation might fall into chaos, and further complicate the ongoing fight against the Islamic insurgency in Afghanistan.

Islamabad has appealed to the Friends of Pakistan group, which held its first formal meeting during the recent UN General Assembly session in New York, for urgent assistance.

The group, which includes members of the European Union, the United States and China, plans to hold another meeting next month in Abu Dhabi to discuss how to provide financial help to Pakistan to prevent further destabilization.

The Islamic country has also sought International Monetary Fund assistance to avoid default on its external debt payments, but only after it cannot not get much-needed hard cash of between 3.5 and 4.5 billion dollars within the next 15 to 30 days from friendly nations, Finance Minister Shaukat Tareen said last week.

Steinmeier said the country's friends should support when it "comes to Pakistan's negotiations with the IMF."

"It is necessary to provide this assistance not in the next six months or in six weeks, assistance aid has to be given here and now to help Pakistan," Steinmeier added.

He said his country had identified several areas of cooperation, focusing on increased German investment and support in the education sector.

"We are both of this opinion that the Pakistan-German relations need a comprehensive upgrade in all fields - politics, economy, military and culture," Qureshi said.

But a strict IMF programme may require Pakistan to do away with all subsidies, hitting hard especially the poor as well as business activities in general.

The Taliban, who use country's tribal region as springboard to launch cross-border attacks on US-led international forces in Afghanistan, can benefit from a situation where the public rises against the democratically elected government.

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