In ISLAMABAD Amid noisy protests in the Senate Tuesday, former finance minister and senior PMLN leader Ishaq Dar was administered oath as a member of the house.
PTI legislators gathered in front of the podium of Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani and resorted to massive slogan-chanting, tore copies of the agenda and threw them into the air when Sanjrani invited Dar to take oath. Some of them carried placards, inscribed with slogans against Dar.
In a related development, a petition seeking to declare Dar’s Senate seat as vacant over his failure to take oath filed with the Election Commission of Pakistan has also been withdrawn. The PTI legislators kept protesting, ignoring repeated requests by the chairman to go back to their seats. They finally took their seats when the security personnel started moving towards them on the chair’s direction.
Leader of the House and Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar rose to regret the opposition’s attitude and emphasised the decorum of the house and traditions have to be kept in view. He explained Ishaq Dar has taken oath as a member of this august house and hoped that he will use his capabilities to steer the country out of the crisis as a member of the government’s team.
He made it clear that the Constitution and the law were very clear and do not recognise the opposition’s reservations about Dar’s oath and said these could be their personal reservations, having nothing to do with the Constitution.
Leader of the Opposition Dr Shahzad Waseem lamented that Ishaq Dar had left the country and was elected a Senator in 2018 while the seat remained vacant for four years. He said during this time, an ordinance had also been promulgated under which the seat of a lawmaker who fails to take oath within 60 days was to be declared vacant.
He said a system was in place to protect some individuals and noted that the country was fast turning into the private property of a family, adding instead of explaining his position before the court of law, Dar chose to flee the country.
“The-then prime minister took him out of the country in his aircraft and now the sitting prime minister has brought him back. This joke about absconders taking free rides to come and go must stop,” he remarked. He criticised Dar for coming straight to the Senate to take oath instead of appearing before the court of law. He vowed Pakistan would not be allowed to become a banana republic.
Azam Nazeer Tarar rose to explain that the court had suspended proceedings against Ishaq Dar until Oct 7. He recalled that the previous prime minister was also a proclaimed offender and the sitting president was acquitted by a court of law in a case in March this year. “No seat of the parliament falls vacant on the basis of personal likes and dislikes of someone,” he contended. He then blasted the PTI government for promulgating a person-specific ordinance and pointed out that the ordinance had lapsed months ago.
Later, initiating a debate on the deteriorating state of economy, former finance minister Shaukat Tarin came down hard on the previous government of the PMLN and incumbent government for its economic policies. He regretted the repeated allegations of PDM government that the PTI government had left landmines in the country’s economy. He continued that the government ministers also said that things would improve only after a deal was struck with the IMF but even after it was done, the rupee continued its downslide. “One of the major reasons of this is that no one is ready to extend financial help and even friendly countries also agreed to just rollover, whereas there are liabilities in dollars. How will the government deal with this situation?” he asked.
Senator Tarin continued that the fall of rupee was because of the nervousness of the local market as well as the international market and referred to the euro and Sukuk bonds. He also criticised the government for not bringing down the POL prices, which had come down to 80 dollars per barrel, adding instead the petroleum prices had been further increased last week. He said as per the IMF conditionalities, petroleum levy was to be increased. “Why can’t they ask the IMF that we can’t do this, as the common man is already facing acute economic hardships. But as per the fund condition, the government has to collect Rs855 billion in terms of petroleum levy. The government should tell the IMF that when oil prices will fall, we will also reduce the prices,” he contended.
The PTI senator claimed the regime change was not carried out for the economy but for changing the NAB law and reversing the electoral reforms, adding because of changing the NAB law, Ishaq Dar was sitting here (in the Senate). To this, some PTI senators chanted shame, shame.
Tarin identified political instability as the major reason for the economy continuously going down, as political instability breeds economic instability. He emphasised the only way to address this were immediate elections.
Earlier, he recalled when the PTI had formed the government in 2018, it was beset with $19 billion current account deficit and for this he blamed the fault-lines in the exchange rate and related measures, which had caused a setback of $33 billion to the economy during the PMLN government’s tenure.
Counting what he called achievements of the ex-PTI government, he claimed that the economy was put on a sound footing with a healthy growth. He cited the cost of utility services, flour and other items to prove that how difficult it was for the people to afford basic needs of life.
He criticised the economic policies of Ishaq Dar during his previous term as finance minister. At the end of PPP government’s term in 2013, the country’s exports stood at $25 billion, which during Dar’s days at the helm of economy dropped to $21 billion.
As a result of the flawed policies of PMLN government, he claimed the PTI government had to swallow the bitter pill of IMF. He said the foreign exchange reserves of the country during the PTI government had reached $21 billion and at the time of change of government, they were at $14 billion. He said currently there were reserves of only $8.4 billion.
Tarin said the currency exchange rate in March was Rs178, which now stood at Rs235. He said the consumer price index (CPI) had gone up from 12.2 percent to 27.3 percent and the sensitive price index (SPI) from 15 percent to 29 percent.
Later, Ishaq Dar told the media the local unit had gained Rs10 against the dollar and the country’s debt had reduced by Rs1,350 billion 24 hours after his arrival. He said the biggest challenge for him was to control depreciation of the rupee. Inflation had risen enormously and high prices at utility stores were also worrisome.