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Cash starved Pakistan on selling spree, to offload more port terminals to UAE firm

After taking control of Gwadar port under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects, China has now set its eyes on Karachi, a premium port in South Asia

The Pakistan government has decided to hand over two more port terminals of the Karachi Port Trust (KPT) to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as it faces a near collapse of its economy. The KPT has been running into losses besides paying a hefty three billion Pakistani rupees to the World Bank as interest on a 2016 loan.

Berths from 11 to 17 will be handed over to Emirati company Abu Dhabi Ports for five years. With this deal, 85 per cent of the East Wharf will go to the UAE.

On June 22, the cash-strapped country had handed over management of five berths – 6 to 10, to Abu Dhabi Ports on the East Wharf at the Karachi Port. The agreement will be signed between the governments of the two countries. Pakistan has chosen a negotiated deal instead of competitive bidding.

The Pakistan Tribune says that Finance Minister Ishaq Dar headed a meeting where officials considered a proposal by the Ministry of Maritime Affairs about an intergovernmental agreement between the governments of UAE and Pakistan on port cooperation.

Pakistan has been hiving off various assets to keep itself afloat as it battles depleted foreign exchange reserves, high inflation and shortage of food and fuel.

Recently the Shehbaz Sharif government decided to outsource the operations of three of its airports – Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore.

In the past couple of months, the government decided to sell off its vacant embassy building in Washington for $7.1 million. The building had been declared “blighted property” by the local municipal authority.

Similarly, the iconic Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan, New York, has been leased to the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation as the country could not afford to manage the costs of the hotel.

The Pakistani Army has been helping the Sharif government in boosting the economy. The army has been not only guiding the government with ideas but also implementation. Egged on by the army, the government decided to give farm lands to Gulf countries for corporate agriculture. Prime Minister Sharif made an announcement to this effect.

Recently, Islamabad was granted a $3 billion bail-out loan by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) while China has rescheduled $2 billion worth of loans for two years.