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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Wednesday hinted at mounting a legal challenge to the appointment of IMF economist Dr Reza Baqir as new governor of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP).

“Yes, we will challenge it,” replied Mr Bhutto-Zardari when during a media talk outside the Parliament House he was asked by a reporter if his party would challenge the appointment of the SBP governor in court.

Senior party members, however, later told Dawn that so far the leadership had not made any decision to take the matter to the court and a final decision in this regard was expected in a day or two.

Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, who is an official spokesman for the PPP chairman, said the party was contemplating the move to challenge the SBP governor’s appointment in a court of law and they were busy in consultations on the issue. He said the party on the advice of lawyers would decide the forum — the Supreme Court or a high court — on which they could challenge the government’s controversial decision of forcing the SBP governor to resign from a tenure post and replacing him with Dr Baqir.

Mr Khokhar said the party might challenge the new appointment under Clause 10-C of the State Bank of Pakis­tan Act that clearly stated any person working for other financial institution could not be appointed as governor or deputy governor of the SBP.

Zardari says government move will be remembered as ‘biggest blunder’ in country’s economic history

He read out the clause which states: “No person shall hold office as governor or a deputy governor who is a director, officer or employee of any other bank or of a financial concern or has an interest as a shareholder in any other bank or financial concern: provided that nothing in this clause shall apply where the governor or deputy governor is entrusted with additional duties under sub-section 8 above.”

Clause 8 of the SBP Act says: “The governor or a deputy governor, as the case may be, may, in addition to his duties as the governor or a deputy governor, be entrusted by an order of the federal government with such duties for such period as may be specified in the order.”

Mr Khokhar said the party lawyers were reviewing these clauses and would give advice accordingly.

Talking to reporters, Mr Bhutto-Zardari said the way the government had suddenly removed its finance minister, the SBP governor and the chairman of the Federal Board of Revenue had raised many questions. Moreover, he said, the prime minister had appointed his new adviser on finance and the SBP governor despite the fact that he had never met them before their appointment.

The PPP chairman was accompanied by senior party members and parliamentarians, including Senator Raza Rabbani, former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, former deputy speaker Faisal Karim Kundi, Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar and Farhatullah Babar.

The PPP chairman said the people were justified in thinking if these appointments were being made at the behest of the IMF. He said the SBP governor was a tenure post, whereas a process for appointment of the FBR chairman had also been given. He recalled that the Islamabad High Court had already observed that without following the appointment process how could one’s competence be judged.

He alleged that the government had compromised “economic and national sovereignty” of the country by making these appointments and it had completely surrendered before the IMF.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari also lashed out at the prime minister over his comments that the federal government had become bankrupt due to the 18th Constitution Amendment and termed it an “attack on the federation”. In fact, he said, the provinces had become bankrupt due to the failed economic policies of the rulers.

The PPP chairman said the government was putting the burden of its own failure in collecting taxes on the provinces and people. He offered the federal government to hand over tax collection to the Sindh Board of Revenue which would make 100 per cent recoveries.

Asking the government to get approval of the IMF deal from parliament, he threatened that they would be forced to lodge a strong protest inside and outside parliament if it failed to do so.

Earlier in the day, during a brief chat with reporters after appearing before a court in connection with the fake bank accounts case, former president Asif Zardari termed appointment of Dr Baqir as the SBP governor “a historical fault” and said it would be remembered as the “biggest blunder” in the country’s economic history.

Mr Zardari said even if Dr Baqir was a Pakistani national, since he had been working with the IMF, he should have not been appointed SBP governor. “In my view, import of the SBP governor from the IMF is a blunder and it will be remembered as a bad precedent in Pakistan’s economic history,” he said.

Regarding the prime minister’s repeated rhetoric that he will not give NRO-like deal to the opposition leaders, Mr Zardari said that “Khan sahib is giving NRO to himself”.

In reply to a question about the credentials of Adviser to the PM on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, the PPP co-chairman said these technocrats could never remain loyal to any political party.

PTI reaction

Reacting to the PPP chairman’s comments, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s information secretary Omar Sarfaraz Cheema said Bilawal’s statement was a “fusion of contradictions and confusions”, adding that his tirade against the new economic team was nothing but a display of ignorance and vindictiveness.

Mr Cheema said in a statement that before spitting venom against the PTI government, “Zardari Junior must apprise the nation whether the then PPP government had bothered to get approval from parliament before striking deals with the IMF”.

He said the PPP chairman must also brief the public whether Hafeez Shaikh was also appointed by his father complying with the orders of the IMF. “The change in the economic team by the prime minister is aimed at purging the country of the filth introduced by the PPP and PML-N,” he said, maintaining that the new team would surely achieve the milestones and steer the economy in the right direction.

Published in Dawn, May 9th, 2019