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Pakistan: Ishaq Dar becomes Foreign Minister as Shehbaz Sharif's 19-member Cabinet sworn in

A Kashmiri-origin chartered accountant, Ishaq Dar has served as Pakistan's Finance Minister four times, the latest under Shehbaz Sharif till 2023. He has the critical task of mending bilateral relations with neighbours India and Afghanistan, which are now at their lowest.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Islamabad Published on: March 12, 2024 12:33 IST
Pakistan, ishaq dar, foreign minister, cabinet, Shehbaz Sharif
Image Source : ANI Former Pakistan Finance Minister and new Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar

Islamabad: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Ishaq Dar on Monday became the new Foreign Minister of Pakistan as newly-elected President Asif Ali Zardari administered the oath to the 19-member federal cabinet of newly elected Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, ending the tenuous wait for the completion of government formation in the cash-strapped country.

Dar, an ethnic Kashmiri and chartered accountant by training, is a close confidante of three-time former PM Nawaz Sharif. He previously served as the finance minister of Shehbaz Sharif's cabinet after the ouster of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan in 2022 till a caretaker regime was set up months before the February 8 elections.

The oath-taking ceremony took place at the President House in Islamabad, Dawn reported. The PML-N’s main ally, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), has refused to become part of the federal cabinet. The Cabinet includes 12 Members of the National Assembly (MNAs) and three senators as federal ministers. Khawaja Muhammed Asif was appointed as the defence minister and Attaullag Tarar was appointed as the minister for information and broadcasting.

MNA Ahsan Iqbal Chaudry took over charge of planning, development and special initiatives, Rana Tanveer Hussain took over industries and production and Senator Azam Nazeer Tarar took charge of the as law and justice portfolio along with human rights. Former caretaker Punjab chief minister Mohsin Naqvi, who is also currently the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman, has been appointed the interior minister.

Who is Ishaq Dar?

The 73-year-old Dar has held distinguished positions and portfolios related to commerce and finance in several private and state-run institutions. Having served as the Minister of Finance and Revenue in Pakistan four times, Dar's primary task has been to revive Pakistan's ailing economy, which is threatened by high inflation, rising deficit and failing reserves.

A chartered account, Dar earned a fellowship at the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) in 1980 and Senior Auditor at the Auditor General Department in Tripoli, Libya. He started his political career with the PML-N in the late 1980s as a member of the Central Executive Committee (CEC) under Nawaz Sharif's leadership.  He was elected as a Member of the National Assembly twice in 1993 and 1997 and held public office for the first time as Minister of State of the Pakistan Investment Board (PIB) from 1992 to 1993.

Dar was elected as Parliamentary Leader of the PML-N in the Pakistan Senate three times, also serving as Federal Minister for Commerce & Investment in 1997 and Federal Minister for Finance, Economic Affairs, Revenue and Statistics in 1998 and 2008. He has also been the President of International Affairs of the PML-N since 2012. He was also the Leader of the Opposition in the Pakistani Senate in 2012.

What are his responsibilities?

With little experience in managing foreign affairs, he has been given the important portfolio when Pakistan’s ties with its neighbour India as well as Afghanistan are at their lowest. The two sides broke off trade ties and lowered diplomatic presence in each other's capital in August 2019 after India revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated the state into two Union Territories.

Pakistan has suffered due to a hiatus in trade as it used to import several items and raw materials at cheaper rates from India. Dar's position on Kashmir, which is the chief stumbling block in ties between Pakistan and India, should not be different from the general narrative of Pakistan that it should be solved according to the resolutions of the UN Security Council.

India has repeatedly told Pakistan that Jammu and Kashmir “was, is and shall forever” remain an integral part of the country. New Delhi has told Islamabad that it desires normal neighbourly relations with it in an environment free of terror, hostility and violence.

"We have never closed our doors to talking to Pakistan … but the terrorism issue should be fair, square at the centre of the conversation. It is the major issue … I am not saying there are no other issues. But I am not going to duck that issue for the sake of talking," said Jaishankar on Monday.

Perform or perish: Shehbaz Sharif

Meanwhile, PM Shehbaz Sharif has resolved to rid the country of foreign debts and steer the country of crises amid enormous economic challenges including mounting circular debt and inflation facing the country. “We will get rid of IMF [International Monetary Fund] InshaAllah,” the premier said while addressing the maiden meeting of the newly formed cabinet, Geo News reported.

Shehbaz acknowledged that rising inflation is one of the major problems confronting the masses. “Bringing down inflation will be our first test,” he said adding that his government would make all-out efforts to provide relief to the people. He also called for ending subsidies for elites and said circular debt in the gas and electricity sectors has reached Rs 5 trillion.

“A handful of elite control 90% of the country’s resources,” he said questioning what’s the point of giving subsidies to the elite. “It now do or die. It's now or never. Perform or perish!” he added. 

(with PTI inputs)

ALSO READ | Pakistan President Asif Zardari's daughter Aseefa to become First Lady I KNOW WHY

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