Ishaq Dar is soft and friendly by nature. He also is quite keen to keep things transparent regarding the financial and monetary affairs of Pakistan. But volunteering a ‘policy statement’ during the national assembly sitting of Wednesday, he ruined but his own reputation while attempting to deceive us by telling half truths. Although in the end, he was provoked to admit in clear words that Saudi Arabia did trust (only) Nawaz Sharif and his government in Pakistan.
The clueless opposition, to begin with, had simply failed to mount appropriate pressure for extracting a ‘policy statement’ from the finance minister. During the question hour, some of its members just kept teasing the parliamentary secretary on finance by constantly asking name of the ‘friendly country’ that had discreetly passed on a huge amount of one and a half billion US dollars to Pakistan’s official kitty. In return, the parliamentary secretary earned hearty laughter by finally confessing in all innocence that our generous friends did not want to be named and the opposition had let him move on to other issues. Dar should also have preferred to keep quiet.
For no solid reason, though, he walked into the house and sent a chit to the chair for getting the floor to deliver a ‘policy statement.’ Such statements are always brief and cunningly drafted, but the finance minister decided to speak extempore and that too nonstop.
He seemingly opted to deliver the ‘policy statement’, primarily to convince the house that nothing was so extraordinary about the 1.5 billion dollar that Pakistan had received from a “friendly country which does not want to be named.” In fact, this country had also been invited to the maiden meeting of the “Friends of Pakistan” that the previous government had arranged on September 9, 2008.
The newly elected government of those days had found itself enmeshed in deep financial troubles and it asked the friends to help by offering financial grants. The so-called Friends of Pakistan, Dar went on, collectively pledged an amount of around 6 billion dollars. “The friendly country which does not want to be named” had pledged to furnish 1.5 billion dollars during the same meeting.
It is a different matter that in the end only countries like Japan and Turkey transferred not more than 300 million dollars out of the massive amount committed by the rest of friends. Dar did not want to explain as to why our friends eventually decided not to keep their promises with provision of hard cash. But he obviously implied that perhaps most of our friends did not trust the financial management of the previous government. Nawaz Sharif and his government generate the required trust and it was only for this reason that “the friendly country which does not want to be named” had now released 1.5 billion dollars. “Instead of inventing negative stories and questioning the intent of donors,” Dar kept suggesting, “everyone sitting in this national assembly should welcome this money as a great gift to Pakistan by one of its most dependable friends.”
With the clear intent of appeasing the PPP legislators, he also kept stressing that the major chunk of the gifted money would be spent to extend Lahore-Peshawar motorway to Karachi, which he described as the “flagship project” of the third Nawaz government.
Syed Naveed Qamar was yet not willing to keep quiet, though. As a former finance minister, he fully knew which country had committed how much money in September 2008. Instead of wondering as to why only “the friend which does not want to be named” trusted the financial management of the Nawaz government and rewarded it with release of the money pledged around six years ago, he came straight to Syria and Saudi Arabia’s preferences for that country. Then we had lengthy, mostly boring and irrelevant speeches from Shah Mehmud Qureshi and Dr Farooq Sattar as well. Finally Mehmood Khan Achakzai took the floor to help the government of his friend, Nawaz Sharif. “Simply tell us in plain words whether Pakistan intends to send its forces to help a friendly country anywhere in the world. And if you cannot make a categorical statement on this issue ask the prime minister or the defence minister to do the same.”
Dar did not like the suggestion and in visible irritation reminded the house that as an important member of the federal cabinet he could issue categorical statement on any matter related to this government and then stated in plain words that Pakistan’s army is going nowhere to help any friendly country. That should have been enough, but Dar obviously got carried away to confess with visible pride, “Saudi Arabia trusts Nawaz Sharif and his government. This is not the first time that it expressed such trust in us. In 1998, it was the same country which decided to supply oil to Pakistan, almost gratis, when the Western countries had enforced sanctions against our government for showing our nuclear cards when provoked to do the same by India.”
Published in The Express Tribune, March 27th, 2014.
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