ISLAMABAD : Former chairman of Senate Mian Raza Rabbani has said that it will be “disastrous” if Pakistan approaches the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to seek another bailout.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, the PPP stalwart claimed that the statement by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo opposing an IMF programme for Pakistan had shown that the Fund is an “instrument of imperialist powers”.

“The imperialist powers want to use IMF and other institutions [for their interest],” he claimed.

The US has warned that it will be watching closely to ensure Pakistan does not use IMF money to repay debts to China, which has poured billions into the country for infrastructure projects under its Belt and Road Initiative.

Rabbani alleged that it was the agenda of the US to have conflicts prevail in this region and make Pakistan play a certain role. Referring to Finance Minister Shamshad Akhtar’s suggestion that Pakistan might have to approach the IMF after the new government is installed, he claimed that if the caretaker finance minister has prepared an IMF package for the country, “she has exceeded her legal mandate”.

He said even if the new government plans on going to the IMF, the issue should be debated in the parliament first.

Pakistan is on the verge of a balance-of-payments crisis, which threatens the stability of its currency and its ability to repay debts or pay for imports. The country has gone to the IMF repeatedly since the late 1980s. The last time was in 2013, when Islamabad got a $6.6 billion loan to tackle a similar crisis.

Today, the country “needs at least $12 billion”, according to Zeeshan Afzal, the director of Insight Securities, a Karachi-based consulting firm. “We will have weeks, not months” to act, Asad Umar, widely tipped to be the next finance minister, told the Financial Times recently.

All options are on the table, he has tweeted, telling media that the new government is considering privatising all state-owned companies, including the debt-laden Pakistan International Airlines. But there are fears that the terms of any new IMF bailout will be stricter than in 2013, thanks to the tense relationship between Islamabad and Washington, one of the Fund’s biggest donors.