ISLAMABAD: President Mamnoon Hussain has removed Finance Minister Ishaq Dar from the Council of Common Interests (CCI), indicating that Dar may not return to the country in the near future from abroad and the government may have to look for a full-time finance minister.
Some two weeks ago, Dar left the country on the special plane of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, although PM’s spokesman claimed that the minister had fulfilled all formalities, including immigration, before leaving the country.
The president has removed Dar from the membership of the constitutional body on the advice of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, according to an official notification issued on Saturday, which was an official holiday.
The notification was issued a day before the CCI – the highest constitutional body responsible for taking decisions on interprovincial and the Centre and provincial matters – was convened to sort out the thorny political issue of the provisional results of the population census 2017 and delimitations of the constituencies ahead of the next general elections.
“In exercise of the powers conferred upon him under Article 153 of the Constitution, the President of Pakistan, on the advice of the Prime Minister, is pleased to approve the nomination of Federal Minister for Interior in place of Federal Minister for Finance from the federal government on the Council of Common Interests with immediate effect and until further orders,” the notification read.
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The appointment of Ahsan Iqbal, the interior minister, indicates that his is fast filling the political vacuum created by the absence of Ishaq Dar from the scene. Iqbal is currently Minister of Interior and also holds the portfolio of Minister for Planning and Development.
PM Abbasi has already removed Dar from the chairmanship of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet and the Executive Committee of National Economic Council (Ecnec). He has also separated Dar from the Cabinet Committee on Privatisation.
PM’s spokesman Dr Musadik Malik was approached with a request to comment on the removal of the finance minister from the CCI. He promised to give a version but did not return the call afterwards. Dr Malik had also been requested to comment on who is looking after the work of the finance ministry in the absence of Dar.
On October 28, Dar had gone to Dushanbe to attend the Central Asia Regional Economic Conference (CAREC) and was supposed to return the same day. However, he chartered the Prime Minister’s Air Force I plane to leave the country.
“Due to Dar’s absence from Pakistan, work in the Ministry of Finance is greatly suffering,” said sources in the ministry.
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They said some critical posts – like special finance secretary; additional secretary, corporate affairs; and additional secretary, regulations, litigation, expenditures and development – were also vacant.
The finance secretary has given additional responsibilities of the corporate wing and the regulations, litigation and expenditures to two other additional secretaries. Moreover, the finance secretary is himself going to retire in January.
According to the sources, due to Dar’s absence, the finance ministry has delayed interviews to hire people for the posts of commissioners of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan.
The ministry is also sitting on a critical debt management risk indicators report and not releasing it, as the Debt Office work is the direct responsibility of finance minister under the law.
In order to deflect criticism, the finance ministry on Sunday made a misstatement that it never released quarterly debt management reports. The statement is contrary to the fact because the quarterly reports for the period of March 2016 and June 2016 are still available on the ministry’s website.