Ishaq Dar takes oath as Pakistan’s new finance minister

Dar, a chartered accountant by profession, was given the position after the resignation of his predecessor Miftah Ismail.

Photo of Ishaq Dar
This is the fourth time Dar has been given the finance portfolio [File: Mian Khursheed/Reuters]

Islamabad, Pakistan – Ishaq Dar has taken oath as Pakistan’s new finance minister a day after he was sworn in as a member of the country’s parliament.

President Arif Ali on Wednesday administered the oath of office to the veteran politician during a brief ceremony in the capital Islamabad.

This is the fourth time Dar, aged 72, has been given the portfolio. It also comes at a time when Pakistan is recovering from devastating floods that killed more than 1,600 people and destroyed homes, crops, roads and rail networks.

In remarks made after taking the oath, Dar outlined his priorities. “We will control inflation. We will bring interest rates down,” he told reporters.

Dar, a chartered accountant by profession, was given the position after the resignation of his predecessor Miftah Ismail, who was Pakistan’s fifth finance minister in about four years.

During his six-month stint as finance minister, Ismail managed to secure a $1.17bn bailout package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as Pakistan battles an economic crisis.

Dar returned to Pakistan on Monday after five years of self-imposed exile in London following allegations of corruption against him.

“I will try my best to save Pakistan from the economic vortex it is caught in … I am hopeful we will head towards a positive direction,” he told reporters on Monday night.

But the opposition has attacked the government over Dar’s appointment.

Addressing an event in Lahore on Monday, Imran Khan, the former prime minister and head of the main opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, called Dar the “biggest conman of Pakistan”.

“Deals are made with thieves. They are given NROs (amnesty against corruption). That is why theft does not end, the country does not go forward, and money laundering does not stop,” Khan said while addressing students at a university in Lahore.

In another speech in Peshawar the next day, Khan said Pakistan’s treasury has been handed over to an “absconder”.

In 2017, Pakistan’s National Accountability Bureau (NAB) filed a case against Dar for having assets beyond his known sources of income. Dar skipped the NAB court’s proceedings and travelled to London later that year on account of illness, where he was staying for the last five years.

Dar was subsequently declared an absconder and his assets seized after multiple orders to appear before the court were not complied with.

However, last week, the NAB court suspended the arrest warrant against him till October 7 after Dar’s lawyer said his client will attend the hearings.

PTI leader Taimur Jhagra told Al Jazeera the government’s decision to allow Dar to return from self-imposed exile in London is “shocking”.

“Dar left the country to flee accountability on pretext of health issues, remains an absconder for five years. And yet one fine day, the cases become irrelevant, his health miraculously improves, and he returns the country to become the minister. It is as if the clock stopped,” he told Al Jazeera.

But the government and some analysts say Dar is better placed to tackle the economic crisis because of his close relations with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his elder brother, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Senator Dr Musadik Malik, minister of state for petroleum, told Al Jazeera there have been numerous examples in the previous government where individuals were targeted for political reasons.

“PTI does not care or wait for any legal cases. They will continue attacking. Ishaq Dar is confident in facing all the cases against him, even though they are political in nature,” he said.

Source: Al Jazeera