Pakistan: (FM) Dar gets physical over IMF loan question


Finance Minister Ishaq Dar found himself at the center of controversy on Thursday when he engaged in a heated exchange with a journalist at the Parliament House. The incident occurred after Dar addressed a National Assembly session and was leaving the premises with his security guards when he was approached by a journalist, identified as Shahid Qureshi.

In a video that has gone viral on social media, the reporter can be seen asking Dar if he would be willing to talk. The minister responded by stating that he had just finished speaking in the National Assembly.

Qureshi then inquired about the progress of the stalled International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme and referred to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s recent meeting with the IMF chief. However, Dar remained silent in response to these questions.

The journalist persisted and questioned the government’s failure to secure the IMF deal, to which Dar retorted, “Because people like you are in the system.” The journalist defended himself, asserting that reporters were not part of the system but merely asked questions. At this point, Dar became visibly angry and confronted the journalist, asking him what he wanted and telling him to “fear God.”

A visibly agitated Dar then attempted to snatch the journalist’s mobile phone. He even instructed security personnel to seize and throw away the mobile phone.

The finance minister’s security personnel then intervened and escorted Dar towards a vehicle in the parking lot.

The journalist later released another video in which he provided a detailed account of the incident, claiming that Dar’s security guards had grabbed and slapped him.

In response to the altercation, the Parliamentary Reporters Association (PRA) issued a condemnation statement, expressing its strong disapproval of the violence and disrespectful behavior exhibited by Dar’s guards.

The PRA demanded an apology from the finance minister to the reporter and emphasised that such aggressive behavior should not be repeated in the future. They further stated that if Dar fails to apologise, the PRA reserves the right to walk out of the budget session and stage a protest. The association also called on National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf to take notice of the incident.

Dar’s frustration appears to stem from the government’s exhaustive efforts to secure the bailout package, as the IMF has yet to revive the expiring programme, scheduled to conclude by the end of this month.

Pakistan has barely enough currency reserves to cover one month’s imports. It had hoped to have $1.1 billion of the funds released in November – but the IMF has insisted on a number of conditions before it makes any more disbursements.

In a last-ditch effort, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif earlier today met Managing Director of the IMF Kristalina Georgieva on the sidelines of the summit for a New Global Financial Pact being held in Paris, France.

PM Shehbaz is currently on a two-day official visit to France at the invitation of French President Emmanuel Macron.

The meeting between the premier and the global lender’s managing director comes as the country faces a steep fall in foreign loan disbursements to just $8.4 billion this fiscal