Dar terms holding census before next elections as legal requirement
Federal Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Tuesday defended the decision of the federal government to hold census before the next general elections, stating that it was a legal requirement.
he said that it was impossible to hold general elections early.
He said that the last general elections were held on the older census and there were severe reservations on it by several parties including the government’s ally the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) and the Balochistan government.
Therefore, he said that it would be impossible to hold the next elections without fresh census on which everyone agrees.
If anything else has to be done, there would then need to be an amendment in the constitution.
Meeting President Alvi
On meeting President Dr Arif Alvi, Dar clarified that he had been summoned by the presidency to give a briefing on the current state of the economy.
“It was the president, that is a constitutional position, and I had to go,” Dar said, adding that he had informed Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif before going.
Asked about what was discussed during the meeting, he said that there was a single point agenda, a briefing on the national economy.
On talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Dar said that they were ready to hold the review meeting with the global lender but the matter was facing delays.
He explained that IMF was seeking projections for the rest of the fiscal year as well. He said that all the requisite information is ready.
On the possibility that the review could be delayed into the new year due to the Christmas break in the west, he said that then there could be a possibility to hold a combined ninth and tenth review together.
“That is not unheard of and has happened in the past as well,” he said, adding that they have also reached out to friendly countries for help.
On lowering fuel prices, Dar said that they were looking to secure cheaper fuel from Russia.
He added that during his meetings in Washington, no one had raised the matter that Pakistan should not buy oil from Russia.
Dar said that they hope to secure oil at around 30% discount from Russia.
He added that if for some reason, they are not able to decrease the price of petroleum products, they will try to not raise it further either.
Appointment of army chief
Dar said that during the appointment of the army chief, they had to create a strategy based on the statements from PTI Chairman Imran Khan of stalling the process.
Given that Gen Asim Munir was originally due to retire on November 27 while his predecessor did not retire a few days later until November 29, it would have disqualified Gen Munir from being appointed.
In that scenario, he said, the government was hoping Dr Alvi would approve the summary forthwith.
In this regard, he said that they had a plan-A and a plan-B – which would be to invoke certain clauses in the Army Act to extend his term of service.
Fortunately, he said that President Alvi did not wage politics on COAS summary, and the appointment of big slot was completed without any hiccups.
In response to a question, he said that even Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif was on board with Gen Munir’s selection.
Dar assured that new army chief is a professional soldier and they firmly believe that he will make the institution and the system functional and professional.
He said that if everyone plays their due role, the country’s would flourish.
On the actions of former chief of army staff General (retired) Qamar Javed Bajwa, Dar said that what ever happened in the past is the past.
“Now, he is retired.”
Asked what had happened with Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhry Parvez Elahi and how he decided to support Imran Khan despite the fact that Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain had decided to back the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) coalition, Dar said that it was a shock for him as well.
Asked if the former army chief had played his hand in the matter, Dar said that some ‘other’ friends had called Elahi instead of General (retired) Bajwa.
Nawaz’s return and talks with Imran
Dar said PML-N supporters and activists wanted Nawaz Sharif to return.
However, he admitted that it was difficult to give timeframe for the deposed prime minister’s return.
On talks with Imran, Dar said that the government cannot hold talks with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) on their dictation.