English News


Broke Pakistan mortgaging iconic Islamabad park to raise funds

Fatima Jinnah Park is named after Fatima Jinnah, the younger sister of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan

Deeply buried under foreign debt and liabilities, Pakistan's Imran Khan government will tomorrow discuss a proposal to mortgage capital Islamabad's biggest park to get a loan of around Rs 500 billion.

The agenda item number six in the meeting of the federal cabinet scheduled to be held on Tuesday is "issuance of domestic and international Ijara Sukuk against unencumbered land of F-9 Park, Islamabad," reported Pakistan's leading daily Dawn.

The report said that it is due to financial issues that the government has decided to mortgage the park of the country's capital to get a loan through issuing bonds.

The F-9 park (Fatima Jinnah Park) is a public recreation park spread on 759 acres of land. The park is one of the largest covered green areas in Pakistan. It is named after Fatima Jinnah, the younger sister of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan.

Pakistan has desperately been seeking 'iron brother' China's help to repay international lending, including a $3 billion loan from Saudi Arabia which has given a jolt to the relations between the two countries.

Riyadh has been pressing for the return of money, especially after Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had last year strained the diplomatic ties by accusing Saudi Arabia-led Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) of delaying a meeting of its Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) on Kashmir.

It was reported last month that Islamabad, with the help of Beijing, had returned $1 billion to Saudi Arabia as the second instalment of the $3 billion soft loan.

The next instalment is due this month. However, recent reports have suggested that China, increasingly worried about Pakistan's weakening financial position, is now seeking additional guarantees before sanctioning funds, like for the "strategically important" Main Line-1 railway project under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Pakistan has for long used the bilateral Currency Swap Agreement signed between the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and the Peoples Bank of China (PBOC) in December 2011 to repay foreign debt instead of promoting bilateral trade.

China, on the other hand, has a firm grip over Pakistan now through CPEC. The entire talk of mutual prosperity through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has gone for a toss as Pakistan now looks forward to mortgaging its parks to generate funds and repay loans.  

The dire financial situation faced by Pakistan has resulted in international ignominy. Malaysian authorities recently seized a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) Boeing-777 at the Kuala Lumpur Airport on the orders of the Malaysian court after Pakistan failed to pay the leasing fee of about $14 million.

Ghulam Sarwar Khan, the country's minister for aviation, yesterday blamed the Covid-19 pandemic for failure to pay the money on time and said that an 'out-of-court settlement' will bring back the Boeing back home soon!