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Pakistan has gone bankrupt, says country’s former revenue board chief

Shabbar Zaidi had served as the FBR chairman in the government of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan from May 10, 2019 to April 8, 2020

In a major embarrassment to the Imran Khan government, former chairman of Pakistan’s Federal Board of Revenue Shabbar Zaidi has stated that the country has gone bankrupt, and all claims that the nation has achieved great economic success are “wrong.”

In a wide-ranging speech at a university in Karachi, Zaidi said, "We keep saying that everything is good, the country is running well, we have achieved great success and we brought tabdeeli (change) but this is wrong. In my view, the country is, at the moment, bankrupt and not a going concern.

"It is better if you decide first that we have reached bankruptcy and we have to move forward compared to saying everything is running well and I will do this and that. These are all things to deceive the people," Zaidi said.

A video clip of his speech was shared widely on social media and reported in all prominent Pakistan dailies.

He also said changes were required in the National Finance Commission Award (NFC) such as the incorporation of the Provincial Finance Commission Award. "The problem in Pakistan is that money doesn't go beyond the NFC and corruption occurs there," he said.

The second issue he pointed out was the lack of documentation in the economy.

Zaidi also called for transparency in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, saying that he himself had not yet fully understood what it was. He lamented about confusion over which projects were part of CPEC.

However, after triggering a media storm,  Zaidi later said his speech was being "misreported", adding that he had given a presentation of 30 minutes, of which only three were "cherry-picked".

In a tweet, he said: "Yes I said that with this constant current account & fiscal deficit there are issues of bankruptcy & going concern but look at the solution."

He said his statement had been made on a "basis & conviction".

At the same time in another tweet later on Thursday, the ex-FBR official said that Pakistan's total foreign debt stood at over $115 billion while its current account deficit was between $5 to $8bn.

"When we will be able to pay that debt? It is better to recognise the reality then living in illusion. We need to have a reality check," he added.

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