STEPHEN Sackur in conversation with PML-N leader Ishaq Dar.
STEPHEN Sackur in conversation with PML-N leader Ishaq Dar.

LONDON: Former finance minister and leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Ishaq Dar appeared on BBC HardTalk a day earlier, where the programme host Stephen Sackur grilled him about his properties and return to Pakistan in the show’s characteristic inquisitorial style.

Dar, who is banned by Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) from TV interviews in Pakistan after he was declared an absconder by the court, appeared on a 20-odd minute episode of the BBC show that was recorded in the United Kingdom.

Sackur pushed Dar for answers relating to the number of properties he owns and why he and Nawaz Sharif will not return to Pakistan.

While Dar maintained that his tax records are clear and all tax matters have been reported by him, the host asked him repeatedly how many properties he and his family own. “It’s all declared in my tax returns. Everything is accounted for.”

Ex-finance minister demands fresh elections, supremacy of law

However, Sackur pushed for a figure, and Dar responded: “I have my main residence in Pakistan which has been taken over by this regime. I haven’t got too many properties.”

He also said his sons, who have been in business for the last 17 years and are not dependent on him, own one villa in Dubai. The family owns no property in London, he added.

Asked why he does not go back to Pakistan to make his case in court, Dar said: “I am here for medical treatment for almost three years [as] my lawyers represent me in court.”

He added: “What’s happening in Pakistan? Where are the human rights? What’s happening in NAB custody? Dozens of people have been killed.”

When Sackur turned to Nawaz’s conviction and his stay in London on medical grounds, Dar said: “In both judgements [against Nawaz], it is written that the prosecution has not been able to prove any kickback or corruption.”

Sackur said: “You and he [Nawaz] put yourselves forward as leading opposition voices demanding early elections and an end to the Imran Khan government. I ask you: what credibility do you think you have before the Pakistani people?”

Dar replied: “What credibility does the Imran Khan government have? The world has witnessed it [2018] was a stolen rigged election, pre-poll surveys predicted a PML-N victory. EU monitors reported huge abuses.”

Sackur then turned to the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) and asked: “You can either fight at the ballot box at the next election or you can try to undermine Imran Khan and his government from the sidelines from here in London and thereby create new economic and political instability.”

Dar responded: “It’s not a matter of political instability. It’s a matter of incompetence, non-performance, ruining and grounding the economy in two years. Mind you, after 1952 Pakistan has for the first time seen negative GDP growth. Last year 1.9 per cent and this year negative 0.4pc. There is massive unemployment. We pulled 6pc per cent out of poverty; he has reversed it. He promised 10 million jobs, but he has added 12 million to unemployment.”

“Does Mr Nawaz Sharif have the interest of ordinary Pakistanis at heart?” Sackur asked Dar.

The PML-N leader responded: “Yes, we do and that’s why we are moving [against the current government]. This country [in Nawaz’s government] had witnessed double revenue collection, lowest inflation, lowest interest rates, best performing market in South Asia, highest GDP growth in 11 years at 5.8 per cent. Your western institutions had all the praise [for us]. Pricewater house Coopers said Pakistan will be in the G20 by 2030. We ended loadshedding, improved macroeconomic indicators in Pakistan.”

To this, Sackur said: “I’m not suggesting your personal economic record was bad.”

Pushing him on PDM’s goals, he said: “You haven’t succeeded so far – what’s your next move?” Dar responded: “Our ultimate aim is free and fair election, transparency, rule of law, supremacy of parliament, and that all institutions work within their domain.”

On Nawaz’s stance on the establishment, Dar said: “Let us be very clear; Mr Nawaz Sharif as Prime Minister or otherwise is not anti-military. He blames certain individuals. If he talks of certain interventions which were against the oath and against the constitution of Pakistan, what is wrong with that?”

Published in Dawn, December 2nd, 2020

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