Opposition wants Hafeez, Babar on ECL

Published March 31, 2021
This combo photo shows former finance minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh (left) and SAPM Nadeem Babar. — DawnNewsTV
This combo photo shows former finance minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh (left) and SAPM Nadeem Babar. — DawnNewsTV

ISLAMABAD: The opposition parties on Tuesday called for reviewing all the agreements that had been signed by Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh as finance minister with international donors and placing his name with that of former special assistant to the prime minister (SAPM) on petroleum Nadeem Babar on the Exit Control List (ECL) to prevent them from flying abroad.

The demands came separately from the leaders of two major opposition parties — the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) — which have been facing differences over the issues of resignations from assemblies and the opposition leader in the Senate despite being part of the opposition alliance Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM).

On the other hand, the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), which is also sitting on the opposition benches but not a part of the PDM, on Tuesday demanded of the government to also remove State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Governor Baqir Raza and announced launching a “Go IMF Go” campaign across the country.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had on Monday removed Dr Hafeez Shaikh and gave the finance portfolio to Minister for Industries Hammad Azhar as an additional charge. Mr Shaikh has reportedly been sacked because the prime minister was not satisfied with the increasing inflation in the country. The replacement of Mr Shaikh is believed to be a ramification of the IMF programme.

JI demands removal of SBP governor too, announces launch of campaign against IMF

Only three days ago, Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar had at a news conference announced that SAPM on Petroleum Nadeem Babar had been asked to resign from his position over last year’s fuel crisis. Mr Umar had said that Prime Minister Khan had asked Mr Babar to step down from the position for a 90-day period during which the Federal Investigation Agency would conduct a forensic investigation into the “criminal acts” that led to the fuel crisis.

In a statement issued here on Tuesday, PML-N information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb said that those who had allegedly ruined the national economy and sold out Pakistan’s sovereignty to the International Monetary Fund should be put behind bars.

Ms Aurangzeb, who had served as information minister in the previous PML-N government, said the cabinet reshuffle done by the prime minister was nothing more than a “game of musical chairs” and it could not save the disastrous situation that had been created by the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).

“The fish stinks from the head and unless the selected, incompetent and corrupt prime minister is removed, this change of faces will not serve any purpose and it will not hide the blunders committed by this imposed regime,” she said.

“Since when did the punishment for corruption got reduced to removal from service?” she asked. She recalled that earlier Jahangir Tareen was simply removed from the party office for alleged Rs400 billion sugar robbery; Nadeem Babar was sent home to sleep off alleged corruption of Rs122bn in LNG; and Aamir Kayani was sacked from the cabinet for alleged Rs500bn theft in medicines. She said that all of these people should have been in jail.

In a statement, PPP secretary general Nayyar Hussain Bokhari said that after the sacking of the finance minister, there was a need that all the agreements with the IMF should be revisited. He said that by sending the minister packing, the government had admitted its failure and incompetence. He said the agreements signed by an “incompetent person” could not be imposed on the nation.

Hours after media reported the news about the removal of the finance minister on Monday, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari in a tweet termed it a “victory of the PDM”. “The PTIMF minister needed to be elected to continue in post & Senate defeat made that impossible. Now government admits inflation is skyrocketing because of its failed policies. Parl­iamentary opposition proven most effective vs this regime,” he tweeted.

Both Dr Shaikh and Mr Babar have so far preferred to stay silent on the development.

Meanwhile, JI emir Sirajul Haq strongly condemned the PTI government for its proposed plan to give the SBP under total control of the IMF through an ordinance, saying “it will amount to choking the nuclear power Pakistan and denuding of its financial autonomy”.

“All political and religious parties will have to adopt a unanimous stance on this vital issue by rising above the political differences and considerations,” Mr Haq said while talking to media after addressing a gathering at Ulema Academy.

The JI emir asked the prime minister to immediately reverse the decision to make the SBP independent of Pakistan’s control and directly controlled by the IMF through its employee acting as the SBP governor. He alleged that the situation was tantamount to making the “IMF agent as the financial viceroy of Pakistan”, who would neither be answerable to the country’s judiciary, law enforcement agencies and parliament, nor would his actions be liable to any audit or legal action under the laws of the land.

Mr Haq warned that the JI would not tolerate such a “slavish black law” and would launch a countrywide movement against it. He said the current SBP governor had earlier served in other Muslim countries like Egypt where his policies had left those countries’ economies completely paralysed and thus taken over by the IMF in a similar manner that was now being done in Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, March 31st, 2021

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