Sardar Abdul Khaliq
That Pakistan is in an economic mess is accepted by all across the political divide. The prescriptions on offer might vary but there is no denying that it needs a deft handling. In this regard, former Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar’s intended return to Pakistan assumes significance. Dar is considered an economic wizard and the man of economic crisis, rendering decisive contributions in effectively managing county’s sea-saw economy in the recent history of Pakistan.
He has demonstrated his competence, untiring struggle and commitment to the country. Thorough understating of the dynamics of Pakistan’s economic crisis and the panacea for its solutions makes him a well-placed politician in the current political landscape to address the economic woes that Pakistan has found itself embroiled in. It is very fortunate that our history is featured with such examples where upright public office bearers have been pushed to the wall for the inflated egos and vested interests of some quarters. This politically motivated vendetta caused more damage than any good to the country. Our history stood witness to this unfortunate phenomenon.
Despite enjoying clean credentials while remaining in public office for decades and having many feathers in his cap, he was accused of the offences pertaining to personal gain and financial irregularities which proved falsified by the independent courts in the UK. The courts’ categorical verdicts on all such allegations set to rest all the speculations of fabricated and concocted charges against him to advance questionable political motives at the expense of country’s economy.Now when Ishaq Dar has decided to return to the country, a silver lining seems to appear for Pakistan and if past is any guide it is hoped that Pakistan will again be on the correct course. If we analyse from the prism of Pakistan’s political history of recent past, of all the economic managers of the country during Nawaz regimes, the role of Senator Ishaq Dar has been critical in putting Nawaz Sharif’s economic vision into practice.
If the invisible forces had not stolen people’s mandate, the country would have been moving on the path of growth and economic prosperity and the hapless people of the country wouldn’t have faced the storm of inflation and unemployment they are facing today. The role of Ishaq Dar in extricating country’s economy from the quagmire is too significant to be condoned. In 1998, when Pakistan suffered a severe economic crisis as a result of the atomic blasts, foreign currency accounts were frozen, the value of the dollar had gone up to Rs 67 and it was feared that it would reach Rs 100. In the wake of the crippling economic crisis, the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) had set horrendous terms for a 1.5 billion loan, including mortgages on Pakistan’s major assets. At a time when the economic team at the time had no way out, Senator Ishaq Dar accepted this challenging responsibility at the request of the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and successfully negotiated with the international financial institutions to help Pakistan overcome this economic crisis. Likewise, Dar also played a decisive role in establishing economic transparency in Pakistan. When he became Minister for Commerce in 1997, he proposed five measures that provided a strong basis for establishing economic transparency at the governmental level in Pakistan.
They measures included i) the abolition of special import-export permits, ii) the elimination of discretionary powers in textile quotas., iii) abolition of the discretionary power of PM regarding plot allotment, iv) the abolition of duty free Mercedes imports and v) the abolition of cash development grants. Similarly, when the PML N came in power in 2013, the country’s economic indicators were at an alarming level. The state of affairs in the country particularly the security situation and constant power outage coupled with other parameters created an unconducive environment for economic recovery, let alone the development and prosperity. But at the very outset, Nawaz Sharif spelled out his government’s vision in an important statement. When asked what would be the first, second and third priority of his government, he said that “my first priority is economy, my second priority is economy and my third priority is economy.” Under this vision, Ishaq Dar, formulated his action plan and succeeded in achieving positive economic indicators during his tenure. Pakistan’s growth rate raised to about 6%, the stock exchange increased to the highest level in Pakistan’s history, Pakistan’s credit rating substantially improved, rupee depreciation stopped and maintained interest rate despite strong pressure from the IMF, load shedding completely eliminated, inflation brought under control, tax revenue significantly increased without affecting the lower classes, eliminated circular debt from energy sector, attained GSP Plus status from EU to develop Pakistani industry, stopped capital flight from Pakistan to Bangladesh and successfully managed finances for mega infrastructure projects in the country.
Ishaq Dar played a pivotal role throughout this economic journey. His contribution vis-à-vis country’s economy was duly acknowledged by the relevant world bodies and the independent observers of Pakistan’s economy. In the annual meeting of the IMF/World Bank held in 2006 and attended by leading economists from around the world Dar was named “Finance Minister of the Year for South Asia” for his outstanding performance. This promising track record of Ishaq Dar’s contributions to effectively manage country’s economy and could serve as a silver lining to keep our economy afloat and put it again on the path to stability and growth. The writer is a former member Azad Jammu and Kashmir Council.