Courtesy Business Recorder - ZULFIQAR AHMAD
ISLAMABAD: The opposition lawmakers in Senate on Tuesday demanded resignation of Finance Minister Ishaq Dar after his indictment by an accountability court in a corruption reference filed against him by National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
Taking part in debate on a motion moved by some 23 opposition senators belonging to PPP, PTI, PML-Q, ANP, and FATA, they said that a person involved in serious financial crime can not continue as finance minister after his indictment.
Another motion moved by the same senator about growing conflict between different institutions and sale of a PIA airbus to a German museum at a throwaway price were also clubbed.
Taking part in the debate, Opposition Leader in Senate Aitzaz Ahsan said that he was not surprised to see with what Dar is doing as it has been hallmark of this government.
“Nawaz Sharif ended the government of PPP’s Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani with the help of then Director General ISI Shuja Pasha and the then Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and I confirmed this from Iftikhar Chaudhary’s side too,” he alleged.
He continued that Sharif had a track record of conspiring against democratically elected governments of Benazir Bhutto and then taking refuge in Jeddah by striking a deal with a military dictator without taking other senior leaders of his party into confidence.
“Again this is not my statement as this is what Chaudhry Nisar once told me during lawyers’ movement as we enjoyed good terms then. And Mushahid Hussain had the same reservations,” he said while recalling a secret deal with Pervez Musharraf who had allowed elder Sharif to go into exile in Saudi Arabia back in 2001.
Senator Noman Wazir Khattak of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) said that the country’s reserves have reached record low of $14 billion, adding the total reserves were $19 billion six months back and sharp decline in it shows the flawed policies of the government.
“Out of total $14 billion reserves, the government has borrowed $4 billion from different commercial banks which means your total reserves are $10 billion which is a testimony in which way the economy of the country is heading towards,” he lamented.
He also came down hard on the government for hand-picking a bureaucrat as governor State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), saying, “If a bureaucrat who knows nothing about economy can be in-charge of a central bank then we have to be ready for a disaster.”
“We should know that the future battles will be fought in stock exchanges and not in battlefields…the finance minister who destroyed the whole economy of the country must go home,” he maintained.
Senator Rehman Malik of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) said that the US Defence Secretary’s statement the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is passing through a disputed territory shows he is speaking the language of Pakistan’s enemies which is not acceptable to Pakistanis.
Terming the Parliament helpless, he advised the government to avoid confrontation with state institutions, which prompted Chairman Senate Raza Rabbani to say that the Parliament is not helpless.
“If there is an institution which can steer the country out of the crisis, it is only the Parliament,” he said, adding, “There is a law for all state institutions except Parliament, perhaps they all are sacred.”
Senator Mohsin Aziz of PTI criticized Shahid Khaqan Abbasi administration for creating new ministries, and said, “All economic indicators show we are near bankruptcy but the government is busy obliging its blue-eyed instead of taking austerity measures.”
After indictment of Dar, he said, he does not have any moral authority to stick to ministry, as there are serious corruption allegations against him. “The sooner he is removed, the better it would be,” he added.
Kamil Ali Agha of Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) said that Pakistan is heading towards a serious debt problem as the government has decided to borrow Rs30-40 billion more loans after Prime Minister Abbasi was given a briefing about the sinking economy of the country.
”I’m glad that he has restricted Dar from taking any major decisions after he was given reports about what he is doing with the economy of the country. The IMF officials have also refused to meet Dar, which is embarrassing for the country…the sooner Dar is sent home, the better it would be,” he added.
Senator Sherry Rehamn of PPP said that the way accountability court is issuing bailable arrest warrants against Sharifs is nothing but a ‘deluxe package’ for them, adding all the citizens should be equal before the law.
Other opposition senators also demanded Dar’s resignation, but the treasury senators kept defending the policies of the government.
Winding up the debate Law and Justice Minister Zahid Hamid went to the extent in recalling Dar’s academic brilliance and charity organizations – Hajveri Trust and Hajveri Foundation - run by him.
He said that his party government took over when the country was near bankruptcy, and a conducive economic environment was created by Ishaq Dar that put a punctured economy of the country on track.
Minister for Railways Saad Rafique while winding up the debate about the confrontation among state institutions said that his party never blamed any institution of hatching conspiracy against the disqualified prime minister.
About reelection of Nawaz Sharif as party head, he said that it is the right of any political party to choose a leader of its choice; otherwise, the basic concept of a political party will be dead. He justified removal of clause 203 of Political Parties Order 2002, saying it was a clause inserted by a dictator.
He said that a similar clause was inserted by Gen Ayub Khan which was removed by late PPP leader Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, and now it is the PML-N which had the honour to undo a controversial clause inserted by another military dictator Gen Musharraf.
About sale of a PIA airbus at a throwaway price to a German firm, Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab said that it was a twenty-seven years old plane, which was rented out by PIA to a German for Euro 210,000 for ten days.
“And after that a German form wanted to purchase it and then the controversy started which led to termination of PIA chief executive officer who was a German national,” he added.