Opposition members in the Senate submitted an adjournment motion on Friday seeking debate on the $1.5 billion bailout package given by a friendly Muslim country and its alleged link to a shift in the country’s foreign policy on Syria.
The adjournment motion was submitted by Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Senator Farhatullah Babar, who stated that the claim of national debts coming down by Rs800 billion as a result of appreciation of the rupee against the dollar following the $1.5 billion bailout was most welcome.
“But we need to be reassured there is no ‘quid pro quo’ and trade-off with a critical area of our foreign policy,” he added.
Babar recalled how Finance Minister Ishaq Dar had said earlier this week that a Muslim country had given Islamabad $1.5 billion for the ‘Pakistan Development Fund’ but the donor country did not wish to be identified.
“The secrecy raises questions. We need to know when and for what purpose Pakistan Development Fund was set up and what happened to a similar fund set up sometime back by Friends of Democratic Pakistan,” asked the PPP leader, adding that the opposition needed to know whether it was an outright grant, ‘or aid or loan and on what terms and conditions’.
The senator said Syria had the potential of becoming the Afghanistan of the Middle East and warned against any misadventure by changing course disregarding the catastrophic experience in Afghanistan next door.
“It will be a mistake of monumental proportions if we allowed ourselves to be sucked into the web of regional power politics in the Middle East,” he noted.
He said the alarm bells first rang when reports surfaced late last month that a Muslim country was in talks with Pakistan for supply of anti-aircraft and anti tank rockets to Syrian rebels.
The senator said the Geneva 1 joint communiqué stressed ending violence and human rights abuses and launching a Syrian-led political process leading to a transition that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people.
“There is a sea of difference between a ‘political process leading to a transition’ as envisaged in Geneva 1 and ‘formation of transitional governing body with full executive powers’ as stated in the joint statement [issued by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia] and there is an ominous ring to it,” he said.
Khursheed Shah seeks explanation
Opposition leader in the National Assembly, Syed Khursheed Shah, also sought explanation from the government over the amount secretly received by the government from a Muslim country.
“The fluctuation in the dollar’s rate from Rs108 to Rs98 and then again Rs100 within a week is very perplexing both for economic experts and people of the country,” he said in a statement.
Shah said the government was also unable to hint at the reason of this rapid rise and fall of the dollar.
He said reportedly Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had obtained Rs1.5 billion from Saudi Arabia on personal guarantee, “but we have not been told whether it is a grant or a loan?”
“We are afraid this amount has a link with the Syrian situation,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 15th, 2014.