Ishaq Dar, who is set to take charge as Pakistan’s finance minister after the resignation of Miftah Ismail, is scheduled to return to the country along with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif from London on Monday, according to media reports.
The formal decision to put 72-year-old Dar in the driving seat of the cash-strapped country’s financial affairs was taken in during a meeting between Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his elder brother Nawaz Sharif in London on Saturday.
Both the finance minister Miftah Ismail and his successor Ishaq Dar were present in the meeting, besides other leaders of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).
The Prime Minister in a statement on Sunday announced the appointment of Dar, who has been on self-exile since 2017 after being accused in a corruption case.
Ismail handed over his resignation to the elder Sharif, who is out of politics due to a conviction in corruption cases but his decisions are considered binding on the party.
I worked to the best of my ability for four months, and remained loyal to the party and the country, Ismail was quoted as saying by the PML-N in the statement.
Former premier Sharif appreciated the efforts made by Ismail for carrying out the responsibilities under the tough economic challenges.
The resignation came after it was formally decided in the party meeting that the crisis-hit country, also reeling under the impact of the massive floods, needed a new finance minister and Nawaz Sharif nominated Dar for the tough job.
A source close to the Sharif family told The Express Tribune newspaper that Dar, who is also related to the elder Sharif as his son is married to one of the daughters of Nawaz Sharif, would first take the oath of his Senate seat and then be sworn in as the finance minister.
“Whatever comes first, Dar becoming a senator or a finance minister is irrelevant at this point, as he has already started preparing for the mammoth task at hand, he said.
On his return, Dar would take up the responsibility with or without officially taking charge of the office, he added.
Dar served as finance minister when Nawaz Sharif was prime minister and later faced corruption charges but went out of the country before evading conviction.
Dar’s return to Pakistan has been made possible after an accountability court in Islamabad suspended on Friday the arrest warrant against him in an alleged corruption case in which he was declared a proclaimed offender.
According to a source quoted by the Dawn newspaper, the senior Sharif told participants of the meeting held in London that the party had lost political capital and that Dar must work to regain it.
The two main targets given to Dar by the former premier are to bring down inflation and decrease the dollar-rupee parity, the source told The Express Tribune on the condition of anonymity.
The source said Ismail too had made tall claims before the leadership of being capable of driving the country out of the seemingly inextricable maze the party had found the country’s economy in.
In view of these pledges, he had sought permission from Nawaz Sharif to raise fuel prices once, assuring him that a one-time increase would placate the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) concerns.
Not that fixing the economy was an easy task by any means, but what frustrated the party leadership was the absence of any signs of a better tomorrow, he added.
A source told Dawn newspaper that Ismail was offered to oversee solar energy and privatisation, an offer he declined.
It was a pleasant meeting. I will now take a few days off to spend time with my family in Karachi. After a short break, I will return to Islamabad, Ismail told the Dawn.
When asked if he would take a cabinet position if offered, Ismail replied in the negative, saying: No, I won’t.
Ismail said his job was to “save Pakistan from default and I did that. With the floods, the situation has become more challenging but I have faith that we will not be abandoned by the international financial community. I hope the gains made and the fiscal space created will be retained in the long run.
Separately, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said Dar was likely to take the Senate oath on Tuesday but refrained from confirming that.
The change in the key portfolio came after an audio clip leak went viral, believably featuring a conversation between Shehbaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz, with the latter accusing Ismail of failing to fix the economy.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on August 29 approved the release of a USD 1.17 billion tranche to the cash-strapped country, providing much-needed budgetary support to meet fiscal and external deficits.
Despite the disbursal of the IMF tranche, the economic situation remains precarious, as the depleted forex reserves stood at only around USD 7.7 billion as on August 24.
The devastating floods, which have left more than 1,500 dead and displaced more than 30 million persons, added to Pakistan’s forex woes, with an estimated loss of over USD 10 billion to the economy.
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