A ray of hope for Pakistan’s economy | By Sardar Abdul Khaliq Wasi 

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A ray of hope for Pakistan’s economy

THE UK High Court has recently ruled in favour of Muhammad Nawaz Sharif’s trusted aide, former Finance Minister and PML-N central leader Senator Ishaq Dar, on charges of corruption, money laundering and keeping secret accounts in the UK. The judgement termed all allegations fabricated, baseless and based on propaganda.

The verdict suggests that if the level playing field is provided to the accused and the due requirements of justice are ensured, the verdicts vis-à-vis against all such cases against PML N senior leadership would not have been different from that of Ishaq Dar.

The latest UK courts decisions on the charges of corruption and money laundering levelled by Shahzad Akbar against Shahabaz Sharif and Salman Shahbaz and Nasir Butt substantiate this claim.

Dar’s case is classic in this context, as the court not only exonerated him of any charge but obtained a written apology also from the TV broadcaster and a written assurance to pay the cost incurred on this case. The words of the written apology submitted to the court put all speculations to rest:

“Ishaq Dar has informed us, and we are prepared to accept, first, that he has not stolen any money from the Pakistani Government, secondly, that no bank account of Mr Ishaq Dar was traced, and consequently, the question of any stolen money does not arise, thirdly, that the claim that Mr Ishaq Dar was willing to pay any such money in order to return to Pakistan was also false and fabricated, and fourthly that Mr Ishaq Dar never made death threats to anyone.”

With the help of highly capable, committed and experienced aides, Nawaz Sharif advanced his economic vision and set a strong foundation to country’s economy. Of all the economic managers of the country during Nawaz regime, the role of Senator Ishaq Dar has been decisive in putting Nawaz Sharif’s economic vision into practice.

If the invisible forces had not stolen people’s mandate, the country would have been moving on the path of growth and economic prosperity and the hapless people of the country wouldn’t have faced the storm of inflation and unemployment they are facing today.

If history is any guide, the role of Ishaq Dar in extricating country’s economy from the quagmire is too significant to be condoned.

In 1998, when Pakistan suffered a severe economic crisis as a result of the atomic blasts, foreign currency accounts were frozen, the value of the dollar had gone up to Rs 67 and it was feared that it would reach Rs100.

In the wake of the crippling economic crisis, the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) had set horrendous terms for a 1.5 billion loan, including mortgages on Pakistan’s major assets.

At a time when the economic team at the time had no way out, Senator Ishaq Dar accepted this challenging responsibility at the request of the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and successfully negotiated with the international financial institutions to help Pakistan overcome this economic crisis.Likewise, Dar also played a decisive role in establishing economic transparency in Pakistan.

When he became Minister for Commerce in 1997, he proposed five measures that provided a strong basis for establishing economic transparency at the governmental level in Pakistan.

The measures included (i) the abolition of special import-export permits, (ii) the elimination of discretionary powers in textile quotas, (iii) abolition of the discretionary powers of PM regarding plot allotment, (iv) the abolition of duty free Mercedes imports and v) the abolition of cash development grants.

Similarly, when the PML-N came in power in 2013, the country’s economic indicators were at an alarming level.

The state of affairs in the country particularly the security situation and constant power outage coupled with other parameters created an unconducive environment for economic recovery, let alone the development and prosperity. But at the very outset, Nawaz Sharif spelled out his government’s vision in an important statement.

When asked what would be the first, second and third priority of his government, he said that “my first priority is economy, my second priority is economy and my third priority is economy.”

Under this vision, Ishaq Dar, formulated his action plan and succeeded in achieving positive economic indicators during his tenure.

Pakistan’s growth rate raised to about 6%, the stock exchange increased to the highest level in Pakistan’s history, Pakistan’s credit rating substantially improved, rupee depreciation stopped and maintained interest rate despite strong pressure from the IMF, load shedding completely eliminated, inflation brought under control, tax revenue significantly increased without affecting the lower classes, eliminated circular debt from energy sector, attained GSP Plus status from EU to develop Pakistani industry, stopped capital flight from Pakistan to Bangladesh and successfully managed finances for mega infrastructure projects in the country.

Ishaq Dar played a pivotal role throughout this economic journey. His contribution vis-à-vis country’s economy was duly acknowledged by the relevant world bodies and the independent observers of Pakistan’s economy.

In the annual meeting of the IMF/World Bank held in 2006 and attended by leading economists from around the world Dar was named “Finance Minister of the Year for South Asia” for his outstanding performance.

However, despite having these feathers in his cap, it is ironical and equally deplorable that despite his key contribution regarding managing country’s sea saw economy a politically motivated witch-hunt is being run by certain quarters.

His private residence was confiscated by the current regime and a so-called shelter house has been set up over there.

Those who Dar closely would admit that he has been a great philanthropist and extending financial support to the hundreds of families without any fanfare.

He is a person with a religious background and due to his deep devotion to Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh (May Allah have mercy on him), he has set up Hajvery Trust which organises activities for the welfare of the poor and marginalized section of the society.

He was charged with various offences of personal gain and financial irregularities which not only proved to be baseless and fabricated but his clean credentials could not go unnoticed even by his political opponents and critics.

—The writer is a member Azad Jammu and Kashmir Council.

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