• Torn-up copies of agenda fly in upper house, security called to restore order
• Tarin assails govt over ‘flawed’ economic policies
ISLAMABAD: Pandemonium reigned in the Senate on Tuesday as PML-N leader Ishaq Dar, a former finance minister who is set to take up the post again, took oath as a member of the upper house hours after a petition seeking his disqualification was withdrawn from the Election Commission of Pakistan.
PTI lawmakers gathered around the podium of Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, chanting slogans against Mr Dar soon after he was invited by the chairman to take oath. Torn-up copies of the agenda flew around the chamber as Mr Dar was administered the oath and even afterwards, when the ruling coalition’s members queued up to congratulate him for becoming a senator.
Mr Sanjrani kept asking PTI senators to return to their seats but to no avail. They finally took their seats when security personnel started moving towards them on his direction.
Soon after the oath, the chairman opened the floor for discussion. Subsequently, Leader of the House Azam Nazeer Tarar welcomed Mr Dar and hoped that he would serve the country as he had done in the past and would use his capabilities to steer the country out of the crisis as a member of the government’s team.
He said the Constitution and the law were very clear and did not recognise the opposition’s reservations over Mr Dar’s oath.
However, Leader of the Opposition Dr Shahzad Waseem regretted that Mr Dar left the country after being elected as a senator in 2018 and the seat had remained vacant for four years. During this time, he said, an ordinance had also been promulgated under which the seat of a lawmaker who failed to take oath within 60 days was to be declared vacant.
He lamented that a system was in place to protect some individuals and the country was fast turning into “private property of a family”. Instead of explaining his position before a court of law, Mr Dar “chose to flee the country”, Mr Waseem said.
“The then prime minister took him out of the country in his aeroplane and now the sitting prime minister has brought him back. This joke of absconders taking free rides to come and go must stop,” he said.
He criticised the PML-N leader for coming straight to the Senate for oath-taking instead of appearing before a court of law. “We will not allow the country to be turned into a banana republic,” he said.
In response, Mr Tarar, who is also the law minister, explained that the court had suspended proceedings against Mr Dar until Oct 7 and recalled that the previous prime minister was also a proclaimed offender and the sitting president was acquitted in March this year by a court of law.
“No seat of parliament falls vacant based on personal likes and dislikes of someone,” he said and chided the PTI for “promulgating a person-specific ordinance” and pointed out that the ordinance had lapsed months ago.
“Flawed’ economic policies
Starting the discussion on the state of the economy, former finance minister Shaukat Tarin criticised Ishaq Dar’s economic policies during his previous term. He said the country’s exports stood at $25 billion when PPP government’s tenure ended in 2013, but it dropped to $21bn under Mr Dar.
He said that due to PML-N’s “flawed policies”, the PTI government inherited a massive current account deficit cut of $19bn, which forced the previous government “to swallow a bitter pill of the IMF”.
He said the country’s foreign exchange reserves during the PTI administration reached $21bn and stood at $14bn when the government changed in April. However, they had now shrunk to $8.4bn, he said, noting that the projected growth rate was merely two per cent, which too was “unlikely to be achieved”.
On the exchange rate, Mr Tarin said the rupee had fallen from Rs178 in March to Rs235. Besides, the headline CPI inflation had gone up from 12.2pc to 27.3pc and whereas the SPI weekly inflation had jumped from 15pc to 29pc. He regretted
He recalled that government ministers used to say that things would improve after the IMF deal, but the rupee was still on the decline. “A major reason is that no one is ready to extend financial help and even friendly countries also agreed to just roll over (debts) … How will the government deal with this situation?” he wondered.
He also criticised the government for not bringing down fuel prices, even after global oil prices had come down to $80 a barrel.
He also lamented that the government was increasing the petroleum levy under IMF conditions. “Why can’t they ask the IMF that we can’t do this, as the common man is already facing acute economic hardships?” he asked.
Published in Dawn, September 28th, 2022