‘Embattled’ Dar may leave finance ministry soon

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ISLAMABAD: The decision to replace embattled Finance Minister Ishaq Dar has been made at the highest levels of government, a senior government official told Dawn.

According to the official, the only option the government now has is to replace Mr Dar. “The decision was taken after getting a green signal from former prime minister Nawaz Sharif,” he said.

The source added that it had not yet been decided whether an adviser on finance would be appointed or a full-fledged minister, who must be a member of parliament.

What was most likely, he said, was that a non-elected adviser would be appointed and the decision would be made public in the next couple of days.

The source said a list of likely advisers had already been drafted. Two of the people being considered for the job are Shaukat Tarin, who served as finance minister in the PPP government, and Dr Ishrat Husain, who was governor of the State Bank of Pakistan during Pervez Musharraf’s regime. But the list contains other names too which the source was not willing to divulge.

List of possible ministers or advisers ready

Speculation rife in Islamabad and in the media suggests that name of Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Economic Affairs Miftah Ismail is also on the list, as is that of Ahsan Iqbal, currently holding the twin ministerial portfolios of interior and planning. A final decision on who the replacement for Mr Dar will be has yet to be made.

Mr Tarin told Dawn that he had not been contacted by anyone in the government about this. He also ruled out the idea of becoming a finance minister or a financial adviser.

“I am very clear on this: I do not wish to be finance minister or an adviser” he said, but added that he could consider helping out in some other capacity, “such as on some council or committee, but even that depends on who else is going to be a member,” he said.

“If a council is stuffed with useless people, there is no sense in serving on it.”

The source painted a picture of disarray in the bureaucracy.

No bureaucrat in the finance ministry had the courage to move any file, resulting in delays in major decisions, he said.

“There is complete chaos within the tax machinery as well,” he said. FBR chairman Tariq Pasha has started seeking approval from Mr Dar even on minor issues like the issuance of press statements.

Mr Pasha worked with Finance Minister Dar very closely and was considered his close associate. He was also likely to be replaced as the new adviser would consider his own team, the source added.

Mr Dar was indicted on Sept 27 in a corruption reference but has continued to serve as finance minister amid strong criticism from opposition parties.

An accountability court on Nov 14 issued non-bailable arrest warrants for the minister due to his absence from court.

The court is hearing the corruption reference against the finance minister who is accused of accumulating assets worth an estimated Rs831.7 million, which is disproportionate with his known sources of income.

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