Pakistan’s former finance minister Ishaq Dar will end his self-exile in London and is set to return to the country this week to “facilitate” Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s efforts to resurrect the cash-strapped economy by taking over the key portfolio of finance, according to a media report on Sunday.
The decision on the return of the 72-year-old senior leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party was taken during a meeting between the Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his brother Nawaz Sharif in London on Saturday.
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah also confirmed the return of Dar, who has been Pakistan’s finance minister four times, during a press conference held on Saturday.
“Ishaq Dar is coming back to facilitate Prime Minister Shehbaz on economic affairs,” the interior minister told a press conference in Lahore.
The Dawn newspaper reported that Shehbaz Sharif stopped in London on his way back from the UN General Assembly and met his elder brother and party supremo Nawaz Sharif on Saturday.
Sharif brothers in the hours-long meeting at Shehbaz’s flat on Edgware Road discussed the political and economic situation in Pakistan, as well as, the development of Dar’s return to take charge of the finance ministry.
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.
In 2017, the court declared Dar — who is in London — an absconder in a corruption case after he failed to join the trial against him.
The Dawn report said Dar was also present at the meeting between the Sharif brothers where it was decided that he would take charge of the economy as early as the coming week.
Miftah Ismail, whose tenure as finance minister ends on October 18, is expected to remain in the cabinet as an adviser.
In a brief interaction with reporters after Saturday’s meeting, Dar said: “We have another meeting tomorrow, so I can share more tomorrow.” When asked if he would take charge of the finance ministry, he said: “We have discussed many things but I can share decisions tomorrow. This was a family meeting, not a formal [one].” He added that he was booked to fly to Pakistan on Wednesday.
For months now, sources close to Nawaz Sharif have detailed how the premier’s elder brother was unhappy with Ismail’s economic policies and had been eager for Dar to replace the current finance minister as there have been conflicts on key economic decisions.
Reports of Nawaz Sharif leaving a party meeting over a fuel price hike in August added to the perception that he and Ismail were not on the same page when it came to Pakistan’s economy.
An insider, who spoke to Dawn on the condition of anonymity, said: “If they were not happy with Miftah, they should have told him to go home. Keeping him as finance minister but constantly undermining him is not ethical.” The source added that Ismail learnt about Dar’s imminent appointment as the finance minister through media reports and that it was not communicated to him by the prime minister.
Ismail did not respond to requests for comment.
“These Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leaders, including the elder Sharif, want senator-elect Dar to return and take over the finance ministry as he can better manage the economy being an experienced person,” a party leader told Dawn. “Dar is likely to assume charge of the ministry this month.” To a query on the possible return of the elder Sharif, the interior minister said: “Nawaz Sharif has been requested to lead the party campaign in the next general elections and he accepted it.” The Dawn also reported that regarding the Pakistan Army chief’s impending appointment, Sanaullah said: “If the appointment of the head of the institution is made under pressure or before the time it will be detrimental to the institution. The appointment of the army chief will be made in accordance with the laid down procedure at its due time,” he stressed.
Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa is set to retire in November this year.
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.