Qureshi puts up stout defence of new SBP chief in Senate

08 May 2019

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Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Tuesday forcefully defended in the Senate the appointment of IMF economist Dr Reza Baqir as the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) governor. — AP/File
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Tuesday forcefully defended in the Senate the appointment of IMF economist Dr Reza Baqir as the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) governor. — AP/File

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Tuesday forcefully defended in the Senate the appointment of IMF economist Dr Reza Baqir as the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) governor after the opposition blasted the government’s economic policies and called for announcing a new National Finance Commission (NFC) Award before the coming federal budget.

Responding to the opposition’s allegations that the government had put the country’s national security at risk with the appointments of the “IMF men” to key positions, Mr Qureshi said Mr Baqir was “a son of the soil” who had risen to this position through hard work and after getting education in the country’s institutions.

“He is coming back at a lower salary package. He is coming back to serve his country. You have no authority to issue certificates of patriotism,” Mr Qureshi said amid opposition members’ noisy protest during his wind-up speech on an adjournment motion on delay in announcement of the NFC award.

When an opposition Senator pointed out that Mr Baqir had dual nationality, the minister said this condition was applicable only to parliamentarians and there was no bar on a dual national to become SBP governor.

Opposition accuses govt of putting national security at risk by appointing IMF men to key posts; senators from less populous provinces protest delay in NFC Award

“There is no threat to CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor). There is no threat to the country’s nuclear programme,” Mr Qureshi declared as Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Senator Raza Rabbani kept on shouting “question, question”.

“Had you appointed Dr Hafeez Shaikh as finance minister on the dictation of the IMF (International Monetary Fund)?” asked Mr Qureshi.

He also dismissed the opposition’s fears that the country was heading to “One Unit or presidential system” and assured the opposition that the 18th Amendment would not be rolled back.

In response to the opposition’s demand for announcement of an NFC Award, Mr Qureshi vowed that the government would make every effort to fulfill its constitutional obligation of finalising a new NFC Award during its five-year tenure.

The minister also blamed the Sindh government for delay in the constitution of the NFC, alleging that despite repeated requests, the provincial government had not nominated its ex-officio member for a long time.

Training his guns on the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), he said the new NFC Award had become due in 2015, but the PML-N government did not take any step in this regard.

He also defended the government’s decision to seek a bailout package from the IMF, saying they had no option but to go to the IMF because of the “macro-economic instability” in the country left by the previous two governments.

Earlier, taking part in the debate on the adjournment motion, the opposition members one by one castigated the government over the delay in announcing the NFC award.

The most hard-hitting speech was made by Mr Rabbani who also lashed out at Prime Minister Imran Khan over his recent remarks that the 18th Amendment had made the federal government bankrupt.

“The prime minister is besieged by the people from the IMF lobby who have been opposing the 18th Amendment for a long time,” he said.

The PPP stalwart alleged that the government had surrendered the country’s financial sovereignty by appointing IMF representatives as adviser and SBP governor.

These IMF representatives, he alleged, had been given access to the information regarding the country’s nuclear programme and Pakistan’s standoff with India.

“The defence budget and funding for the nuclear programme will now go through the hands of these people who have not taken oath of secrecy,” Mr Rabbani said, adding that with these appointments the “national security is at risk and there is a fear of internal destabilisation”.

The PML-N’s Mushahidullah Khan said by appointing “IMF men” to key posts, the government had carried out a “surgical strike” on the country’s economy.

Usman Kakar of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party said India had announced 14 NFC awards whereas Pakistan had not even announced eighth such award.

The PPP’s Sassui Palijo, who had moved the adjournment motion in January, regretted that no NFC award had been announced after 2010 due to which economic suffering of Sindh had doubled. She said the province had not yet received Rs120 billion share under the NFC award.

JUI-F chief’s security

The opposition members also criticised the government for “withdrawing” security of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman despite the fact that he had survived three suicide attacks.

Maulana Ghafoor Haideri of the JUI-F warned that if any harm came to the Maulana or his family, they would lodge an FIR against the prime minister, the interior minister and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister.

Published in Dawn, May 8th, 2019