The government has claimed that it has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the United Kingdom for repatriation of former finance minister Ishaq Dar, who has been declared a proclaimed offender in an assets beyond means case filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
“As part of the MoU, the British authorities will arrest Ishaq Dar and present him before an English magistrate. The process to repatriate Dar is under way and he will be here after completion of the process,” said Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar on Tuesday.
Akbar was responding to a question at a press conference he held together with Special Assistant to PM on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan after a cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan.
He said the cabinet decided to appoint NAB Deputy Chairman Hussain Asghar as head of a high-powered Commission of Inquiry – announced on June 12 by the premier – to probe into increase of over Rs24,000 billion in the country’s debt pile in the last decade.
“The federal cabinet has accorded approval to constitution of the commission. It has been tasked to report within a period of next six months and also to fix responsibility. The ultimate aim of the government is to recover the amount from those responsible,” he added.
He said the independent commission – to work under the Act of Parliament – would present interim report every month. It would include representatives of NAB, the Federal Investigation Agency, the Intelligence Bureau, the Inter-Services Intelligence, the State Bank of Pakistan, the Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, the Federal Board of Revenue, the Auditor General of Pakistan Revenue and Special Secretary Finance Division.
“Chairman of the commission has been empowered to hire services of any member or firm and all ministries have been directed to extend optimum support to the chairman,” he added.
He said the federal cabinet was told that country’s debt was Rs6,690 billion in June 2008 but by September 2018, it had swell to Rs30,846 billion. The probe is essential to ascertain the exact spending of the borrowed money as no major dam or infrastructure project was completed in the last decade.
He said the commission would also probe public contracts and benefits taken by the scions of public officeholders and bureaucracy. The commission has the powers to conduct forensic audit of the borrowed money. It can also hire the services of reputed international firm in this regard.
He said according to Fiscal Responsibility and Debt Limitation Act 2005, no government debt could exceed 60 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). However, in 2012, the act was violated when the debt limit surpassed 60 per cent of the GDP.
“The commission would probe violation of the Constitution,” he added.
Responding to a question, he said the government has so far recovered over Rs1 billion. Country was spending Rs2,900 billion per annum on paying interest of the debts taken by precious regimes.
Speaking on the occasion, Dr Firdous said Prime Minister Imran Khan during the meeting briefed the cabinet members about the initiatives that he had personally taken for austerity, in view of the current economic challenges faced by the country. He also advised the cabinet to set an example for others.
She said the PM has set an example of austerity by saving 32 per cent funds allocated for Prime Minister House in outgoing budget. She said an amount of Rs1.10 billion was allocated for PM House in 2018-19 budget out of which Rs750 million was spent which means 32 per cent amount was saved.
Dr Firdous said the media did not accurately report the amount allocated for Prime Minister House in the next budget. “A section of media carried news about increase in PM House budget in coming budget which is not correct.”
She said an amount of Rs290 million earmarked for the National Disaster Management Authority was misleadingly linked with the PM House budget. She said for the next fiscal year 13 per cent less allocation has been made for the PM House.
She said no family member of the prime minister was using the funds of the PM House. She lamented that in the past entire Sharif family was involved in wastage of the funds allocated for the PM House.
Special assistant on information said in 2014-15, Rs860 million were allocated for PM House, Rs1 billion in 2015-16, Rs1.40 billion in 2016-17 and Rs1.13 billion in 2017-18.
Moreover the utility bills of the PM House were paid by various other departments and maintenance of the PM House was done by Pak PWD. She also revealed that the present government had to pay left utility bills of the previous government.