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Mr Dar, please resign

Updated November 19, 2017


HIS own party, and the rest of the country, will heave a sigh of relief if Finance Minister Ishaq Dar accepts the inevitable and submits his resignation. In fact, it is a step he should have taken long ago.

The finance minister must realise that he cannot run the financial affairs of the country from London via remote control, and returning to the country will present him with daunting challenges because of his indictment.

The government is putting a brave face on the swirling uncertainty around the affair only because it does not appear to have a choice.

It is understandable that it does not want to be seen as pushing out its own finance minister, so until he resigns voluntarily, the situation is likely to persist.

There is a fear that the minister may be digging in his heels more out of ego than anything else. At a time when the financial health of the country is drifting in the direction of a potential balance-of-payments crisis — though such a situation is at least a year, if not more, away — choices need to be made on pragmatic grounds.

The government desperately needs to arrange foreign financing of up to $4bn in the short term, mainly through floating Sukuk bonds soon.

For this, roadshows need to be held, potential investors need to be reassured that there is stability in the country and that there is a firm hand on the tiller.

Clearly, Mr Dar cannot fit the role, regardless of what his opinion is on why he is in such trouble with the courts.

Moreover, finances are key to ensuring the smooth operation of the power projects that his government prides itself on, and on which it is counting to help win the vote in the next election.

Surely considerations such as these are more important than Mr Dar’s ego or his perception that he is being victimised.

The government cannot afford to wait indefinitely for the minister to make up his mind. It should think carefully about what its course of action will be if the minister does not accept the reality in the near future and agree to step down.

If forcing him from his position is not politically viable, then other courses of action should be considered, such as appointing a minister of state and looking for a way to vest ministerial powers in the new appointee, something along the lines of what the previous PPP government did in its last few months.

The indeterminate situation prevailing at the moment must not be allowed to continue for much longer.

There are times when the greater good trumps all other considerations, especially personal ones.

And the greater good today definitely lies in a new finance minister, with his hands untied, who can undertake the course corrections that are becoming increasingly urgent.

Published in Dawn, November 19th, 2017