Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah has said that former finance minister Ishaq Dar can assume the same portfolio on his return to the country.

“There is no problem for him to become a finance minister,” Sanaullah said while talking to a news channel on Friday night. “However, the PML-N has not yet made any decision so far in this regard.”

The government led by the PML-N will take advantage of Dar’s experience as the finance minister, whether he works after assuming the charge of ministry or without any portfolio, Sanaullah added. 

“Dar is the party’s senior-most leader and he has a complete understanding of the country’s economy. That is why, the government will take advantage of his experience,” he continued.

The interior minister said Dar will play a central role in the uplift of the country’s economy. 

Replying to a question, Sanaullah confirmed that Dar would come to Pakistan next week.

On Friday, Dar told Geo News that he would take oath as a senator immediately after his return to Pakistan. 

Replying to a query regarding him replacing Finance Minister Miftah Ismail, Dar said: “I will perform whatever duty is assigned to me by Nawaz Sharif and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.”

ARREST WARRANTS SUSPENDED: Earlier in the day,an accountability court suspended as arrest warrant against Dar, paving way for his return from London where he has been living in self imposed exile for the last five years.

Ishaq Dar – file photo

Judge Mohammad Bashir issued a suspension order for a perpetual warrant of arrest against Dar, which was issued on Dec 11, 2017, after he absconded from an assets-beyond-means case. The warrants were suspended until Oct 7, giving the senator-elect a fortnight to surrender to the law.

Dar must now appear before the court to seek cancellation of his warrant. The accountability judge, however, has the power to recall the warrant. If the judge exercises this power, Dar will no longer need to seek bail but will be required to join trial proceedings and mark his attendance on every date of hearing until the court exempts him from personal appearance.

The court’s decision has given credence to speculation that Dar is returning to the country to take over as finance minister from the beleaguered Miftah Ismail. The change of command will come at a time when the country faces one of its worst economic crises, worsened by an unprecedented devaluation of the currency.

 According to political observers, the timing of the court’s decision is significant as the six-month constitutional tenure of the incumbent finance minister ends on Oct 18. Since Ismail is not an elected member of parliament, he cannot hold office as a federal minister beyond that date.

Dar, who was elected senator in March 2018 while living in London, has yet to take oath as a member of the upper house of parliament. Earlier this year, Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani had rejected a request to allow him to take the oath via video link.

During the hearing at the accountability court on Friday, Dar’s counsel Misbahul Hassan Qazi argued that his client now intended to join the trial and surrender before the court. Turning down his request to withdraw the arrest warrant, the judge suspended it instead, saying that the court might reconsider once Dar makes good on his promise.

Earlier in the week, Dar’s counsel Salman Aslam Butt had withdrawn an appeal from the Supreme Court against the declaration of him as a proclaimed offender.

Headed by Justice Ijazul Ahsan, a two-judge bench had allowed the request after his counsel explained that Dar intended to avail other remedies. Soon after the withdrawal of the application from the apex court, another counsel, Qazi Misbah, approached the accountability court with a request for withdrawal of the arrest warrants it had issued against Mr Dar.

THE CASE: A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court had, on July 28, 2017, disqualified then prime minister Nawaz Sharif for not disclosing an undrawn salary from his son’s company and constituted a joint investigation team (JIT) headed by then additional director general of the Federal Investigation Agency, Wajid Zia, to probe the assets of the Sharif family and Dar.

The JIT had prepared four references — three against the Sharif family and one against Dar — and filed them in the accountability court the same year.

Wajid Zia, the main prosecution witness, had testified before the accountability court in April 2019 that Dar’s assets had grown manifold from 1982-83 to 2008. He said the former finance minister had owned assets worth Rs9.1 million in 1982-83, which increased exponentially within a few years to reach Rs831.6m in 2008.

The prosecution concluded that Dar possessed assets which were disproportionate to and beyond his known sources of income.

As the former finance minister had not appeared before the court since 2017, he was declared a proclaimed offender and his bank accounts and other properties were attached. NAB seized all his movable and immovable assets, including a house in Gulberg III, Lahore; three plots in the Al-Falah Housing Society, Lahore; six acres of land in Islamabad, a two-kanal plot in the Parliamentarians’ Enclave, Islamabad; a plot in the Senate Cooperative Housing Society, Islamabad; another plot measuring two kanals and nine marlas in Islamabad, as well as six vehicles.

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