The announcement that Pakistan would receive an IMF facility worth $7.6 billion has been greeted more with relief rather than joy. The relief has been caused by the reality that without the IMF money, Pakistan was likely to default on its sovereign debt, and was possibly going to welsh for the first time on money, which it owed. Particularly worrying for Pakistan's fund managers was an old bond issue, which was due for repayment. Unfortunately, this is not the first time that Pakistan has been in this condition, though it is probably the first time that the possibility of default has not been raised. Interestingly, the country's economic managers and its leaders have tried to raise this prospect, because the last time Pakistan came close to default, around the time of the South Asian financial crisis, it was as part of a doomsday scenario, whereby the collapse of any state could cause the collapse of the whole banking system. Now, it seems, though no sovereign country has yet gone under, the prospect of one actually doing so is not so frightening, probably because a number of large banks, normally the most reliable of financial players, have gone under, leaving the financial markets still functioning. It is perhaps an irony of fate that it is a PPP government that takes Pakistan into an IMF programme. The last time that Pakistan went into an IMF programme, for three years that got extended by the granting of a fresh programme, was under the first Benazir government. It was the beginning of a decade of IMF programmes, that also made the life of both Nawaz governments miserable, and that only ended with 9/11 and the West's need of Pakistan. It is therefore a safe prediction that the IMF is here for some time. The problems it thinks it has been engaged for, the balance of payments crisis, the energy crises, the food crisis, and the persistent inflation, will not go away any time soon, not even with IMF ministrations. Actually, it has only been engaged because the government wants the immediate crisis tided over, and as soon as this happens, in the estimation of the government, not the IMF, it will see the defects of being in an IMF programme which it does not at present. The government has had to deal with a lot of anti-IMF feeling it did not face the last time around, and which have been caused by the previous experience. There is no real indication that the IMF is better staffed this time, by economists with better degrees from better universities, than when it plunged into the Asian crisis. But apart from the never-ending debate on whether or not the IMF has enough properly trained economists or not, the IMF has come this time to Pakistan with a limited wish list. Is this because its previous wish list has been implemented, but has not yielded the results wished, definitely by Pakistan and perhaps by the IMF? The IMF is coming in with a large portion of what might be called the expatriate agenda. It has not yet accorded formal approval to the package for Pakistan, but already the size of the Cabinet has become a concern. Another IMF concern is the tax base, and the contribution of agriculture to it. That was present the last time, with the resulting abolition of the land revenue tax, and the introduction of the agricultural income tax, which was actually a new land revenue. This time around, real estate and the stock market have become additional concerns of the IMF. These are some of the worries that have upset the Pakistan expatriate, which in turn becomes the Army agenda whenever there is a decision to take over. The relief inevitably follows, as the military regime imposes the IMF agenda with the promise that this will lift the country out of the depths to which the country has sunk. Unfortunately, it seems that Pakistan is unwilling to learn from experience that military regimes cannot solve any of Pakistan's problems, even when armed with an IMF agenda, because that agenda cannot solve any of the problems Pakistan is faced with. Yet military regimes preen themselves on their economic achievements more than anything. It is perhaps an irony that Pakistan spends most of its time grappling with the many legacies of the first PPP government, and the work of the IMF, called in by the daughter of the man who transformed Pakistan into a socialist framework, was mainly devoted to reversing this achievement. Many concepts in Pakistan about the role of government still date back to that era, such as full employment and the provision of health and educational services, for example. Actually, they go back to the war economy imposed on India, where the state had a primary role in almost every sphere, a role which was inherited by Pakistan when it came into being. This socialisation required the Labour Party to win in the UK, where there was a similar process at work, but in British India, the state was already paternalistic, ever-present and the leader of the modernising project, so it was actually more advanced in the colony than the mother country. India itself was in safe hands, those of the Congress, founded by an Englishman and led to Independence by an England-schooled Indian Socialist. But Pakistan was only safe when it was under the rule of the military, which had been loyal in the years leading up to Partition. The Pakistan military in particular always had a modernizing mission to accompany its mission as determined by the civilian government, which it has tried to fulfill through repeated coups, and which it will try to fulfill again when the following conditions are fulfilled: first, that the West needs a friendly government in Pakistan; second, that it faces a lot of pressure from civilians for budget cuts. Those noises have already begun, naturally. Any exercise in budget control in Pakistan has logically to start with defence, which is the budget's largest component. If these attempts are in any way nearing success, there will be a coup. This is another way in which the invitation to the IMF means that a coup will become inevitable, in which it means an agenda for a coup. There is another dimension to the IMF: its very availability means that friendly countries, notably Saudi Arabia and China, hold back assistance from Pakistan until they see what the IMF comes up with. This might be in line with the IMF mission of being the lender of last resort, but it means that friendly countries will not help as soon as they could. E-mail: