News Analysis |
Finance Minister, Ishaq Dar is undergoing a trial in an accountability court after appearing for the seventh hearing of the graft reference filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). The hearing on 18th October was adjourned till today, when Dar’s counsel, Khawaja Harris left the country the same day. NAB indicted Dar last month over the reference filed by it following the orders of the Supreme Court in its unanimous Panama verdict on 28th July.
The NAB reference against the incumbent Finance Minister alleges that “the accused has acquired assets and pecuniary interests/resources in his own name and/or in the name of his dependents of an approximate amount of Rs 831.678 million (approx).” The graft reference further alleges that Dar’s assets were“disproportionate to his known sources of income for which he could not reasonably account for”.
Pundits are of the opinion that Dar cannot grapple with the simmering financial crisis because of the preoccupation with NAB references. This case is made stronger by the fact that instability in the economy is least desired.
Today, the NAB prosecution presented two witnesses in the accountability court. Abdul Rehman Gondal, a manager of a private bank gave out complete details of Dar’s account in his bank. He informed the court that he had submitted all account details to NAB when he was summoned on 17th August.
He said that the details covered the time period from the time he opened his account in the bank on 25th March 2005 till 17th August 2017. As of now, Dar’s counsel is cross-examining him. The second witness, Masood Ghani, the operations manager in a private bank will testify after the cross-examination is over.
A Defiant Minister
While opponents, watchers, and pundits have implored upon Dar the need for him to hang his boots, the beleaguered finance minister decided to address a press conference last week. While categorically saying that his resignation is his party’s prerogative, he defended his performance as finance minister.
Most importantly, Dar jumped-in on the simmering civil-military war of words which started when the Army Chief, Gen. Bajwa made a statement on the country’s skyrocketing debt.
Most importantly, Dar jumped-in on the simmering civil-military war of words which started when the Army Chief, Gen. Bajwa made a statement on the country’s skyrocketing debt. Dar admitted that the military has done a tremendous job in curtailing terrorism but he said it had a cost. “There are costs to these operations and we have been paying these costs,” Dar said while alluding to cuts in the Coalition Support Funds.
While commentators are putting the larger chunk of the blame for the economic decline on Dar, the minister has attributed the downturn to the cost of security. Many believe that this is a jibe at a military and part of the ongoing tussle between the civil and military leadership.
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Pakistan took exceptions to the dismal external sector picture presented by the World Bank. The bank rectified its figures of $31bn needed to sustain its accounts; the new figure was affixed at $17bn. “This has resulted in increased external financing needs of 5-6pc of GDP in the financial year 2018, or around $17bn, to cover rising current account deficit and debt repayments,” the bank said.
The NAB prosecution presented two witnesses in the accountability. Abdul Rehman Gondal, a manager of a private bank gave out complete details of Dar’s account in his bank.
Though the figures are even lower than those estimated by Pakistan, experts and analysts are convinced that the situation may lead towards a return to the IMF, something which would be politically damaging for the PML-N. Besides, it will provide the US of one important tool to pressurize Pakistan.
Pundits are of the opinion that Dar cannot grapple with the simmering financial crisis because of the preoccupation with NAB references. This case is made stronger by the fact that instability in the economy is least desired; it can only be averted if better financial management is put in place. It remains to be seen if Dar resigns on moral or political grounds or he is shown the door by a legal process.