LONDON: Former finance minister Ishaq Dar is set to return to the country next week to “facilitate” Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on the economic front, ostensibly by taking over the key portfolio of finance.
The decision was taken in a meeting between the PM and his brother, Nawaz Sharif in London on Saturday, while Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah also confirmed the development during a presser held earlier in the day.
“Ishaq Dar is coming back next week to facilitate PM Shehbaz on economic affairs,” the interior minister told a presser in Lahore.
PM Shehbaz, who stopped in London on his way back from the UN General Assembly, met his brother and party supremo Nawaz Sharif in London on Saturday.
The brothers held an hours-long meeting at Shehbaz’s flat on Edgware Road, where the political and economic situation was discussed, as well as the key development of Ishaq Dar’s return to take charge of the finance ministry.
Ex-finance minister says he will fly to Pakistan on Wednesday; minister says Dar returning to ‘facilitate PM on economic affairs’
Mr Dar was also present at the meeting, and media reports said he will take charge of the economy as early as the coming week.
Miftah Ismail, whose tenure as finance minister ends on October 18, is expected to remain in the cabinet as an adviser.
In a brief interaction with reporters after Saturday’s meeting, Mr Dar said, “We have another meeting tomorrow, so I can share more tomorrow.”
When asked if he will take charge of the finance ministry, he said, “We have discussed many things but I can share decisions tomorrow. This was a family meeting, not a formal [one].”
He added that he is booked to fly to Pakistan on Wednesday.
For months now, sources close to Nawaz have detailed how he is unhappy with Mr Ismail’s economic policies and has been eager for Mr Dar to replace him, as there have been conflicts on key economic decisions.
Reports of Nawaz leaving a party meeting over a fuel price hike in August added to the perception that he and Miftah were not on the same page when it came to the economy.
An insider spoke to Dawn on condition of anonymity and said, “If they were not happy with Miftah, they should have told him to go home. Keeping him as finance minister but constantly undermining him is not ethical.”
The source added that Miftah learnt about Dar’s return and imminent appointment as finance minister through media reports, and that it was not communicated to him by the prime minister.
Miftah Ismail did not respond to requests for comment.
“These PML-N leaders, including the elder Sharif, want senator-elect Dar to return and take over the Finance Ministry as he can better manage the economy being an experienced person,” a party leader told Dawn. “Dar is likely to assume charge of the ministry this month.”
To a query on the possible return of the elder Sharif, the interior minister said: “Nawaz Sharif has been requested to lead the party campaign in the next general elections and he accepted it.”
Regarding the army chief’s impending appointment, Sanaullah said: “If the appointment of the head of the institution is made under pressure or before time it will be detrimental to the institution. The appointment of the army chief will be made in accordance with the laid down procedure at its due time,” he stressed.
Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa is set to doff his uniform in November.
Zulqernain Tahir in Lahore also contributed to this report
Published in Dawn, September 25th, 2022