ISLAMABAD - Caretaker Foreign Minister Abdullah Hussain Haroon has termed the US secretary of state’s statement about Pakistan seeking an IMF bailout package inappropriate.

“The American administration knows that Pakistan is facing economic challenges,” he said in a press briefing on Wednesday.

The minister said India was awarded individual licences for high technology weapons while Pakistan is asked to ‘do more’. He said that linking the IMF bailout package with the CPEC is inappropriate. “China is investing billions of dollars in Pakistan,” he added.

On July 30, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned that any potential IMF bailout for Pakistan’s new government should not provide funds to pay off Chinese lenders. “Make no mistake. We will be watching what the IMF does,” Pompeo said. “There’s no rationale for IMF tax dollars, and associated with those American dollars that are part of the IMF funding, to go to bail out Chinese bondholders or China itself,” Pompeo said.

“Pakistan has paid a heavy price in the war against terrorism,” Haroon said. “We have told the US that we don’t want its money,” he added.

“The Chinese president considers Pakistan his friend,” Haroon said. “CPEC is part of the Chinese president’s One Belt One Road vision,” he added.

Nobody will be allowed to become a hurdle in the way of CPEC’s success, he warned.

Agencies add: Haroon said that a new government led by Imran Khan, who won the country's general election last week, would have to decide whether to approach the IMF amid fears of a balance of payments crisis.

Analysts have predicted that Pakistan, which is running down its foreign reserves and devaluing its currency in a bid to bridge a yawning trade deficit, will need to seek help urgently - either from a friendly country, or by going to the IMF for its second bailout in five years.

The new government will have "limited time" to act, Fitch ratings agency said this month.

The US is one of the Washington-based IMF's largest donors. The concerns centre on Beijing's ambitious $62 billion infrastructure project - the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) - linking its western province of Xinjiang to the Arabian Sea via Pakistan.

The terms of the massive CPEC deals are shrouded in secrecy, raising concerns about Pakistan's ability to repay Beijing's investment. Haroon said the new government would have to decide on whether to approach the IMF. Asad Umar, widely tipped to become Khan's finance minister in a coalition government, tweeted on Tuesday that "no option including IMF is ruled out".

But Haroon also hit back at Pompeo's comments, saying: "It is totally wrong to link an IMF package with CPEC", and that there was "absolutely no reason for anyone to intervene" in Pakistan's relationship with China.

The finance ministry did not answer requests for comment by AFP.

Pakistan, which has historically relied on imports, has increased its procurement of materials to help build CPEC projects while also suffering from higher oil prices.

Its meagre exports such as textiles, meanwhile, have been hit as cheaper Chinese-produced goods flood the markets. Foreign remittances have not been enough to plug the gap.

Earlier this month China defended itself against suggestions CPEC was exacerbating Pakistan's financial predicament, calling the idea "highly irresponsible" and insisting that its loans account for just 10 percent of Islamabad's debt, which sits at roughly 70 percent of GDP.

"Even if there is a so-called 'debt trap', the initiator is not China," its embassy said in a statement.

NEW GOVT TO GIVE CPEC

PRIORITY: JANJUA

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor will continue to be taken as a priority by the new government, Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua said.

“The most important thing we need to underscore is that whoever is in power in Pakistan, has a clear commitment to the continuation of the CPEC as an important project that brings mutual benefit and prosperity for the people of Pakistan and hence a commitment by them for this project because it is as people said ‘is a game changer within the region,” she told a delegation of five Chinese media representatives during their visit to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“Right now, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has emerged as as the largest political party in the National Assembly, but government formation process will takes a bit longer,” she was quoted by China.org.cn, an official website on Wednesday.

“We see the CPEC not only as an initiative between the two countries but an initiative to help our entire region in its development. The CPEC has achieved significant success and enjoys cross-border political support. We continue to take it as a priority,” she added.

Defusing concerns, Janjua firstly expressed her appreciation for China to launch the first major project of BRI in Pakistan, stating, “there is a consensus across the board in Pakistan, on the importance of the CPEC, both for China and Pakistan.”

Director General (China) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ayesha Ali was also present on the occasion.

With the visit taking place just a few days after the former Pakistani cricketer Imran Khan won his country’s Parliamentary elections, questions from the Chinese media delegation were focused on any possible changes the election result may bring to the China-Pakistan signature cooperation project.

The visit was organised by the Institute of Strategic Studies, under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan and the Embassy of Pakistan to the People’s Republic of China.

The trip offers an opportunity for the Chinese media delegates to learn more about Pakistan’s history, culture and tourism to better provide firsthand information on developmental projects and to promote interaction with Pakistani media institutions, think tanks, political government and social entities of the country.