Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has once again touched on the subject of securing a loan from the International Monetary Fund and expressed the resolve that he would not let the country's interests be compromised. It should be clear to any observer of Pakistan's despairing economic scene that its interests, from the immediate perspective, dictate that it gets financial backing on reasonable terms to be able to meet its urgent commitments. However, the IMF, being the lender is well known for laying harsh conditions on its loans. Speaking at a press conference on Saturday on return from Istanbul where he had gone to attend the World Economic Forum, Mr Gilani said that the government had also asked the IMF to relax its conditions. This is rather confusing, because only two days earlier reports quoting Finance Ministry sources related a different story. It said that Pakistan had "minimised our conditions", and as a result of this, its home-grown economic stabilisation package had been accepted by the IMF and that within 14 days of a formal request it would release $3.2 billion out of a total agreed amount of $4.6 billion. The rest would be delivered in two subsequent tranches. According to these sources, the package was the outcome of about 10-day-long negotiations held between the two sides at Abu Dhabi. However, its formal endorsement was expected at the forthcoming Washington meeting of the IMF on November 7 before which date Pakistan had to apply. There seems to be little scope of another option for the cash-strapped country but to seek the fund's assistance. Its kitty is virtually empty, while the due dates for certain obligatory payments to foreign sources are fast approaching and, unfortunately, all other sources of financial assistance have, to all intents and purposes, dried up. The much talked-about Friends of Pakistan have turned their faces away. Even if they were to agree to assist Pakistan, they are not inclined to bail it out in the short term. However, their assistance might be of use in stabilising the economy in the long term. Besides, Pakistan has neither had an encouraging response from Beijing nor Saudi Arabia. In this critical backdrop, one is quite puzzled to hear Mr Gilani assert that Pakistan would get the money from the IMF on its own conditions. He also maintains that the country would not reduce its defence budget under its pressure. We should be seriously planning that once we have fallen into the clutches of the IMF, how best to come out of them. Somehow, we are long on rhetoric but short on substance when it comes to minimising non-development expenditure like, for instance, the running of administration and other wasteful expenses under various heads. This is a moment when the leadership should be setting an example of austere living for the rest of the nation to follow.