PML-N stalwart Ishaq Dar was assigned the portfolio of finance and revenue on Wednesday, shortly after he took oath as federal minister.
President Dr Arif Alvi administered the oath to Dar during a ceremony at the Aiwan-i-Sadr, which was also attended by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.
A notification issued by the Cabinet Division shortly afterwards stated, “The president, on the advice of the prime minister, has been pleased to appoint Senator Mohammad Ishaq Dar as federal minister […] with immediate effect.”
Dar was nominated by PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif and PM Shehbaz as the finance minister during a meeting on Sunday. He arrived in the country along with PM Shehbaz earlier this week to take charge of the finance portfolio, which he has previously held on three occasions.
The PML-N leader, who had been in self-exile for nearly five years, was sworn in as a senator on Tuesday.
Speaking to the media outside the Ministry of Finance alongside Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah later in the day, Dar gave his two cents on the state of the economy and the way forward.
“All of you know at what stage the economy was when the PML-N left the government. Food inflation was two per cent […] the reserves were at their highest, the rupee was stable at 104.50 and Pakistan’s growth was at 6.3pc.”
Dar blamed the PTI government for failing to manage the economy. “You name it and the trouble, the problem is there,” he said as he pointed out the dollar price, soaring inflation and interest rates.
We can’t reverse the destruction of the approximately four years of PTI’s tenure in the few months which the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) has remaining, he said.
“As a nation, we have a lot of challenges [but] we have successfully faced them in the past as well.”
The minister continued that the country faced “deep challenges” but the government would try its best to overcome them.
Responding to reporters about his previous policy of injecting dollars into the market to keep the rate low, Dar said this was a “massive lie”. We did not have dollars to inject, he said, adding that the PML-N government built up foreign reserves of Rs23 billion.
He went on to say that this was “natural progress and growth” and a result of the policies of PML-N supremo Nawaz.
The minister also said that Pakistan’s inflationary woes were mainly due to the country’s burgeoning imports. “We believe in a market-based economy but no one will be allowed to play games with Pakistan’s currency,” he said.
Dar in, Miftah out
Talking to reporters after he arrived in the country on Monday night, Dar said: “I will try my best to fulfil all the responsibilities. We will try to take the country out of the economic swamp it is stuck in […] the way we did in 1998-1999 and 2013-2014.
On Tuesday, his predecessor Miftah Ismail formally resigned to pave way for Dar.
The new finance minister’s appointment comes after months of speculations that Dar and Nawaz had been unhappy with some of Ismail’s key decisions, specifically with regard to the fuel price hike.
Last month, PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz said she did not agree with the decision to hike petrol and electricity prices, saying she did not own such decisions, whether her party was in government or not.
The speculations about the internal rift in the party and the senior leadership’s desire to replace Ismail were confirmed after a slew of audio recordings, purportedly of conversations between the prime minister and key PML-N figures, were leaked over the weekend.
One of them features a conversation between Maryam and PM Shehbaz about Ismail.
“He doesn’t take responsibility […] says strange things on TV for which people make fun of him […] he doesn’t know what he is doing,” the voice said to be Maryam’s says in the clip.
“He clearly cut corners,” the voice said to be PM Shehbaz’s is heard as saying.
“Uncle, he doesn’t know what he is doing,” Maryam purportedly says, as she wishes for Dar’s return.
The change of command at the Ministry of Finance comes during a dark time for the country’s economy, which is hounded by fears of default after being hit by unprecedented currency devaluation and devastating floods.