Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah on Saturday said PML-N senior leader Ishaq Dar would return to the county in the coming week and further facilitate the government’s economic team.
Addressing a news conference in Lahore, Sanaullah said Dar would be able to help Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif manage the country’s economic affairs “better”.
For weeks, there has been speculation that incumbent Finance Minister Miftah Ismail would be replaced by Dar, with certain top members of the PML-N — like Maryam Nawaz and Javed Latif — on several occasions publicly attacking and disowning his policies, in particular, the inevitable reversal of the costly fuel subsidy introduced by the previous PTI government.
As for PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif’s return, Sanaullah said he was the party leader and the PML-N could not impose any decision on him, but it had requested him to be present to lead the party’s election campaign next year.
“He has accepted this and … whenever elections happen, Nawaz Sharif will be back in Pakistan before that.”
A day ago, an accountability court had suspended an outstanding arrest warrant against Dar, paving the way for the former finance minister’s return from London, where he has been living in ‘self-exile’ for the past five years or so.
Accountability Court Judge Mohammad Bashir issued a suspension order for a perpetual warrant of arrest against Dar, which was issued on December 11, 2017, after he absconded from an assets-beyond-means case. The warrants were suspended until October 7, giving the senator-elect a fortnight to surrender to the law.
The court’s decision gave credence to speculation that Dar is returning to the country to take over as finance minister from the beleaguered Miftah Ismail. The change of command will come at a time when the country faces one of its worst economic crises, worsened by an unprecedented devaluation of the currency.
According to political observers, the timing of the court’s decision was significant as the six-month constitutional tenure of the incumbent finance minister ends on Oct 18. Since Ismail is not an elected member of parliament, he cannot hold office as a federal minister beyond that date.
Tonight’s PTI rally
Meanwhile, on the PTI’s call for a rally tonight, Sanaullah said whatever preparation the party had done would come before the people.
He alleged that PTI Chairman Imran Khan was only trying to push the country towards chaos, adding that it was condemnable.
Regarding reports of the government adopting a strict approach towards the PTI, the interior minister questioned the gathered media representatives that if a party said it was marching on to Islamabad then what other response it could be given.
He said that if an “armed gang” came then it was obvious that law enforcement agencies would have to act and stop any such attempt.
“If he comes with the aim to protest, I am saying this on record, we will give them the place, give them security and even food. But if they want to trample over the state or head towards the Red Zone, then it is our constitutional responsibility to stop such people.”
He said that it would be the government’s attempt that “any power that used is done so carefully” to keep losses to a minimum.
The interior minister also assailed the PTI government’s economic performance and blamed it for the current issues in the country. He added that the results of the PTI’s tenure were now coming to the fore and “exposing” the party.
Meanwhile, talking to the media in Karachi, PTI Secretary General Asad Umar said big protests would be taken out by the party in all district headquarters on Imran’s call, adding that a major rally would be taken out in Gulshan-i-Iqbal.
“The nation will stand up and are going to send a clear message that enough is enough.”
Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid also addressed tonight’s rallies and said “bullets and drones” would not be able to stop the people. He said they were not coming to attack Islamabad but to send a message and get themselves heard.
He also requested civil armed forces to remain confined to government buildings.
Formal plan for PTI rally
The Islamabad police said that on the interior minister’s instructions an important meeting was held to devise a plan for the PTI rally.
The meeting decided that any required number of Frontier Constabulary personnel would be provided and also instructed officers to prepare for dealing with any law and order situation in accordance with the law.
Islamabad Inspector General of Police Dr Akbar Nasir Khan said that the police would not allow anyone to disturb peace and order in the city and would take all necessary measures to protect the life and property of citizens.