ISlamabad — Pakistani authorities on Wednesday ordered the closure of shopping malls and markets by 8:30 p.m. as part of a new energy conservation plan to defuse the country’s economic crisis.
The move comes amid talks with the International Monetary Fund to ease some conditions on a $6 billion bailout for Pakistan, which the government says will cause an increase further inflation.
Pakistani Defense Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif and Power Minister Ghultam Dastghir said on Tuesday that the government had decided to close the facilities early as part of a new energy conservation plan approved by the Cabinet. Authorities also ordered wedding halls and restaurants to close at 10pm.
These measures are designed to save energy and cut the cost of imported oil, which Pakistan spends $3 billion annually and is used to generate most of Pakistan’s electricity.
Representatives of shopping malls, restaurants and shop owners want the government to reverse the decision. Many Pakistanis shop and dine in restaurants at midnight.
Business leaders say the new measures will have a negative impact on their facilities, which have suffered during the pandemic due to government-imposed lockdowns to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Coronavirus.
The IMF released the last significant sum of $1.1 billion to the cash-strapped nation in August, and since then, negotiations between the two sides have stalled.
Pakistan says last summer’s devastating floods caused up to $40 billion in damage, making it difficult for the government to comply with some of the IMF’s conditions, including rising gas and electricity prices and new taxes.
Also on Wednesday, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar lashed out at former Prime Minister Imran Khan, accusing him of “raising false alarms” by claiming that Pakistan might default on its foreign debt obligations.
Khan was ousted in a vote of no confidence in parliament in April 2021. Dar said that under Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s new government, Pakistan had “regained the brink of default”.
Pakistan is also grappling with a surge in militant violence since November, when the Pakistani Taliban – known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP – unilaterally ended a months-long ceasefire. with the government.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan sought to assure the nation that security forces are fighting the TTP threat while also trying to bring the militant group to the negotiating table. judge. He said that the Pakistani Taliban would first have to lay down their arms.
The TTP on Wednesday claimed responsibility for the killing of two intelligence officers in a gun attack outside the eastern Punjab province the previous day. The Pakistani Taliban are separate from but allied with the Afghan Taliban, who seized power in neighboring Afghanistan last year when US and NATO troops withdrew after 20 years of war.