Ishaq
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Sources in Islamabad have revealed that the current Finance Minister Ishaq Dar is trying desperately to visit the USA on an official invitation from World Bank. However, the current Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi is not eager to grant him the status of a special envoy – which he enjoyed during his last visit in April 2017. There is no indication that Trump administration officials are interested to meet him. But Ishaq Dar’s contacts in World Bank are lobbying hard to get the incumbent Finance Minister an official invitation from this global organization.

Mr. Dar visited the USA in April this year where he held meetings with acting US Deputy Secretary of State, Tom Shannon at Pakistan Embassy in Washington and US National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. McMaster at the White House – these meetings usually falling beyond the purview of a finance minister were only possible because he was sent with the status of special envoy of the then prime minister, Nawaz Sharif.

Mr. Dar, who is acting as Nawaz Sharif’s Trojan horse, might not be the best bet Nawaz Sharif is vying for

According to a news published in Daily Times, on 25 April 2017, ‘in his meeting with US National Security Advisor, Dar stressed that Pakistan’s commitment to fighting terrorism from its soil was manifested by the successful conclusion of operation Zarb-e-Azb which was now being followed by a nationwide combing operation Rad-ul-Fasaad. As a result of these efforts, the incidents of terrorism in Pakistan had significantly reduced’.

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One wonders, why a Finance Minister met US National Security Advisor. Pakistani and the US media circles did not cover this important episode and it went unnoticed. It was possible because he enjoyed the status of a “special envoy” of PM Nawaz then. Such meetings reflected the importance and standing of Ishaq Dar in the previous cabinet.

Ishaq Dar and the house of Sharif’s

During the days of Nawaz Sharif’s premiership, Ishaq Dar enjoyed an unprecedented influence over the government’s decision making process. He was not a directly elected member of the parliament, and had no political constituency any where across Pakistan, but his personal relationship (being father in law to Nawaz’s younger daughter, sister of Maryam Nawaz) with Nawaz Sharif enabled him to have extraordinary powers. During his visits to major western capitals, Ishaq Dar served as the personal envoy of NS and he was privy to sensitive information which is generally reserved for highest officials within an administration.

The most plausible argument is that the US was in all likelihood comfortable with Nawaz being reasonably submissive to US’ main ally in the region, India

However, the disqualification of Nawaz Sharif and the Supreme Court’s instructions to NAB to file a reference against him have landed him in an uncertain situation.

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Ishaq Dar’s inclusion in Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s Cabinet surprised many as NAB reference against him was considered as an impediment to allocation of any Ministry to him.

Sources from within the government have revealed that Dar has been included in the new Cabinet on the insistence of former premier Nawaz Sharif. Also, while nominating Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, NS asked him to follow every instruction of Mr. Ishaq Dar. This if true, imply that Mr. Dar will serve as the eyes and ears of Nawaz Sharif in the new Cabinet and that the ousted premier will continue to influence the current government.

However, latest developments have added an element of surprise and confusion in these assessments. Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi removed Finance Minister Ishaq Dar from his post as chairman of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet on Saturday.

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There were speculations that this reflected an increasing assertiveness of the new Prime Minister, Shahid Khakkan Abbassi; others argued that it was due to pressures from within the new cabinet to get rid of controversial figures as much as possible since the general elections are only less than a year away and the government cannot afford to embroil itself in any new scandal. Yet other insiders have argued that PM Khakkan Abbassi is not capable, not powerful enough in the system, of taking this step by himself and Dar’s removal from the top of ECC has been taken by him on behest of Nawaz who wanted to cut Dar to size – or at least send the impression.

JIT was formed on the request of Sharif family and its formation was celebrated by the house of Sharif in fan and fare which was made visible to the public through media

Under these circumstances, question is: will finance minister, Ishaq Dar, will be getting the special status of Prime ministerial envoy from PM Khakkan Abbassi. Sources close PM secretariat consider it unlikely. World Bank, in Washington, has also not confirmed his invitation so far.

Why is Ishaq Dar desperate to visit the USA?

A government official, who requested not to be named, stated that the purpose of Ishaq Dar visit to the USA, which he is vying for, is to garner support from the US administration for ousted premier Nawaz Sharif.

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Sharif family is already enjoying considerable support from the US, and the Indian media outlets who are busy selling Nawaz’s stance on his ouster from the PM office.

In last 8 weeks, several key elements of US print media have painted a one sided picture of Pakistani politics. They have been propagating a one sided version that Nawaz Sharif has been disqualified on scrupulous grounds by Supreme Court solely on military’s desire and that democracy in Pakistan is once again under threat from an increasingly assertive military establishment.

Sources from within the government have revealed that Dar has been included in the new Cabinet on the insistence of former premier Nawaz Sharif

Influential US publications such as New York Times and the Washington Post have so far failed to reconcile with the fact the NS has been disqualified by the Supreme Court after, an unprecedented, almost 15 month-long open and transparent public debate, and the whole judicial process was open to public, political parties, national and international media. JIT’s formation was welcomed and approved by the Sharif family and its report (except one volume; Volume 10) was made available to national and international media and public. Pakistan had actually set a new example of transparent investigations into the abuse of public office not seen any where else in Muslim world that is dominated by royal dynasties and military dictatorships.

The Supreme Court and later the JIT afforded full opportunity to Sharif family to provide money trail of their assets which they did not. The SC decision has been welcomed by all political parties except those which are aligned with the current government. Despite these overwhelming fact, US media, like New York Times, have remained busy portraying Nawaz Sharif as a victim of military. It is this section of media, that Ishaq Dar expects more support from. During his rally and speeches, Nawaz kept on referring to articles in New York Times, in his support, as “look what world is talking off”

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US media, like New York Times, in their thrust to support ousted premier, have also ignored the visible streaks of anti-semitism being exhibited by key leaders of PMLN like Hanif Abbassi and Rana Sanaullah who keep referring to Imran Khan’s PTI as a Jewish conspiracy. Other PMLN leaders and media commentators keep describing Panama Papers Leaks, of ICIJ, as an international or Jewish conspiracy.

Last year, the US Senate passed the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, proposed by Senators Bob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat, and Tim Scott, a South Carolina Republican, to “ensure the Education Department has the necessary statutory tools at their disposal to investigate anti-Jewish incidents. Casey cited a few examples of what constitutes antisemitism to include demonizing Israel by blaming it for political tensions.

Ishaq Dar’s contacts in World Bank are lobbying hard to get the incumbent Finance Minister an official invitation from this multinational organization

This is something similar to what PML-N is doing, inside Pakistan, by blaming Khan’s party to be funded by the Jews or Israel. This puts interesting questions mark as to why a party thriving on disdain for the Jews in its political discourse, is being supported in the US by its mainstream media. The most plausible argument is that the US political establishment – New York Times being its main mouth piece – was comfortable with Nawaz being reasonably submissive to US’s main strategic ally in the region, India. US establishment was also in complete agreement with Nawaz’s rhetorical views regarding Pakistani military; this anti-Army narrative sells well with both India and the US.

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Mr. Dar aims to widen the support base for Nawaz Sharif within the US by meeting high-level officials. Whether US officials offer him any real support or not, these optics can be magnified with the help of US and friendly English media inside Pakistan to coerce Pakistani military and judiciary to bail out Nawaz Sharif – or to get a good deal. However, political observers in Islamabad, GVS has spoken to, point out, that given the current circumstances, and changing dynamics this now seems unlikely. Whether finance minister, Ishaq Dar, gets to land in Washington with his agenda remains to be seen.

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