Dar cancels US trip to look after PM engagements

Source:  Dawn.com Published in Current Affairs on Wednesday, April 13, 2016

ISLAMABAD: Amid political controversy over the Panama Papers, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar cancelled his weeklong visit to the United States at the last moment to ‘look after engagements’ of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during his trip to Britain for ‘medical check-up’.

Mr Dar was scheduled to leave for Washington on Monday night to attend April 14-17 spring meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, but his departure was first delayed to Tuesday morning and then cancelled.

“In view of the prime minister’s programme to proceed to the United Kingdom for medical check-up, Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar cancels his visit to Washington,” said a statement issued by the Ministry of Finance.

“Now, a delegation comprising State Bank governor, finance secretary and economic affairs division secretary will represent the country in these meetings,” it added.

Informed sources told Dawn that the prime minister had asked Mr Dar to remain in the country in his absence to take care of important meetings and developments. They said the prime minister’s visit was sudden and not scheduled.

The sources said the finance minister had moved to the Prime Minister Secretariat to hold, on behalf of the prime minister, a scheduled meeting with a high-level delegation of Qatar Investment Authority, led by Sheikh Abdulaziz Bin Ali Thani, acting head of the authority’s Business Development Department.

The delegation had earlier met the finance minister on Monday and was scheduled to call on Prime Minister Sharif who had left for Lahore on Monday evening.

Soon after the meeting with the Qatari delegation, Mr Dar left for Lahore to be part of ‘pre-departure preparations of the prime minister’ and would return to Islamabad on Wednesday morning to look after prime minister’s responsibilities, an official said.

In reply to a question, he said there was no official notification to suggest that the finance minister would act as deputy prime minister.

Earlier in the morning, the finance minister presided over a meeting of senior officials of the finance and economic affairs divisions to review preparations for the upcoming World Bank/IMF spring meetings, a statement said.

“The finance minister expressed satisfaction over the preparation for effective participation of Pakistan delegation in the meetings,” it added.

The statement quoted the finance minister as saying that because of the prime minister’s visit to the UK for medical check-up, “he (Mr Dar) has decided not to proceed to Washington to attend the spring meetings”.

It said the finance minister had conveyed regrets for cancellation of his visit to the hosts and other dignitaries with whom bilateral meetings were scheduled in Washington. Besides the spring meetings, Mr Dar had lined up a series of meetings with finance ministers, investors, suppliers and financial institutions on the sidelines and to attend a few seminars on Pakistan’s growth prospects.

Other important engagements included his speech at the Global Connect Initiative event being co-hosted by the World Bank president and the US secretary of state as well as a talk at the Woodrow Wilson Centre on growth strategy of Pakistan.

Most of the bilateral meetings, seminars and dialogues organised for Mr Dar will stand cancelled and the Pakistani delegation will attend formal sessions of the spring meetings.

Our Correspondent in Washington adds: The Woodrow Wilson Centre for International Scholars announced on Tuesday that “due to unforeseen circumstances, our scheduled event with the Pakistani finance minister has been cancelled. We apologise for any inconvenience.”

The Pakistan Embassy, when asked for comments, said the event was cancelled because the finance minister was “not coming to Washington due to unforeseen circumstances”.

The embassy did not explain what were the circumstances that forced Mr Dar to cancel one of the most important annual engagements of a finance minister.

The meeting is particularly important for countries like Pakistan, which have loan arrangements with the World Bank and the IMF as they avail of this opportunity to explain their policies to the two organisations and to the countries that play a decisive role at such institutions.

This is the second major international event that Pakistan was forced to skip due to the domestic situation.

Prime Minister Sharif opted out of an international nuclear summit on April 1 because of the Easter Sunday terrorist attack in Lahore that killed about 72 people.

The cancellation of the finance minister’s visit follows a growing restless within the Pakistani-American community over the Panama leaks scandal. Some community groups had also planned protests and demonstrations during the finance minister’s visit, urging the prime minister to clear his name or resign.

People Mentioned
  • Muhammad Ishaq Dar Federal Minister for Finance, Revenue, Economic Affairs and Statistics