LONDON: After a high-level huddle with Pakis­tan Muslim League-Nawaz lead­ers Nawaz and Sheh­baz Sharif on Friday, former finance minister and PML-N leader Ishaq Dar spoke in a media briefing about his short tenure in the coalition government, saying his party paid a heavy political price to prevent Pakistan from defaulting on its international loan obligations.

“Our country was at the brink of default, and our economy slipped from the 24th to the 40th position — this is the result of the project [Imran Khan] that was launched in 2011 and then made prime minister in 2018. These 14 or 15 months were a battle to prevent default. PML-N paid a high political cost but it was worth it. We sacrificed politics to save the state.”

Mr Dar is in London along with former prime minister Shehbaz Sharif, and both party leaders met Mr Nawaz to discuss the ongoing political situation and the return of Mr Nawaz to Pakistan.

In the media briefing, Mr Dar repeated Sheh­baz’s earlier comments that Mr Nawaz would return in October. He also said that the world was anticipating that Pakistan would defa­ult.

“Even within the country there were some speculating a default timeline. But we did not default. We took reserves to $13 billion. Fitch at the end of April forecast that Pakis­tan cannot pay its loan obligations, but we made all our arrangements.”

Reporters pushed him on the issue of inflated electricity bills, to which he said, “There is no quick fix. In our last term from 2013-2018 we fixed the economy, ended blackouts and ended terrorism. There was lowest inflation, highest forex reserves, best stock market of South Asia and promising GDP growth. Price Water House Cooper had said we were headed to the G20 club in a matter of a few years. But fast forward five years and there was destruction. That cannot be fixed in one year.”

He spoke about the creation of the Pakistan Sovereign Wealth Fund, saying the government of ex-PM Shehbaz passed legislation to this effect. “Caretaker government should continue the policies in place and things will get better.”

“If we are given three or four years, we can reset it like we did before. We have a track record. We made this country an atomic power. We delivered in Nawaz Sharif’s government and will do so again.”

Mr Dar hit out at “speculators” in the forex market, saying, “The state has to deal with speculators, they cannot hold the Pakistan economy hostage. The government has to use its might to push back on these handful of people. This is not the real value, it is all speculation. Real effective exchange rate is what you should trade on. We are asset solvent, but we have a liquidity crisis.”

Tessori visits Nawaz

Sindh Governor Kamran Tessori met with Mr Shehbaz, Mr Nawaz and Mr Dar on Friday, saying the PML-N leaders talked about the ongoing economic crisis and high electricity bills.

“I met Shehbaz Sharif, Nawaz Sharif and Ishaq Dar. Mian sahab [Mr Nawaz] is very concerned about the ongoing electricity crisis and the inflated bills.”

He quoted Mr Nawaz as saying that electricity bills were far lower and the dollar-rupee exchange rate much better in his term between 2013-17.

“I am very pleased to have met him. We spoke about ongoing issues and the economy.”

The focus was on the economy, not politics but the current economic crisis. I am hopeful that he will return soon and join us in fighting this battle,“ Mr Tessori added.

Published in Dawn, September 2nd, 2023

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