Contentious Exchange Between Finance Minister and Journalist Raises Concerns Amid IMF Program Stalemate

Contentious Exchange Between Finance Minister and Journalist Raises Concerns Amid IMF Program Stalemate

An incident involving Pakistan’s Finance Minister, Ishaq Dar, and a local journalist, Shahid Qureshi, drew significant attention on Thursday when their exchange at the Parliament House turned confrontational. 

Following Dar’s address to a National Assembly session, the minister was leaving the venue, flanked by his security detail, when Qureshi approached him. The incident was caught on video, which has since become widely shared across social media platforms. 

In the footage, Qureshi can be seen seeking an opportunity to speak with Dar, to which the minister responded by stating he had just concluded his address in the National Assembly. 

The journalist proceeded to inquire about the status of the stalled International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme and the recent meeting between Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and the IMF chief. Dar, however, offered no comment to these questions. 

When Qureshi further probed about the government’s inability to finalize the IMF deal, Dar attributed the delay to individuals like the reporter being a part of the system. Qureshi countered by clarifying that journalists merely ask questions and are not part of the government machinery. Dar’s annoyance grew palpable at this point, leading him to admonish the journalist, advising him to “fear God.” 

In an escalated move, Dar attempted to confiscate Qureshi’s mobile phone and even instructed his security personnel to seize and discard the device. The security staff stepped in, escorting the visibly agitated minister towards his vehicle in the parking lot. 

Later, Qureshi released another video detailing the confrontation, alleging that he was physically assaulted by Dar’s security detail. 

Read More: Pakistan Moves Toward Addressing IMF’s Budget Concerns in Pursuit of $1.2bn Share

The incident prompted the Parliamentary Reporters Association (PRA) to issue a statement condemning the behavior exhibited by the finance minister and his security team. The PRA demanded an apology from Dar and stressed that such conduct should not be repeated. It also warned of potential walkouts and protests during the budget session should the finance minister fail to apologize. The PRA has urged National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf to address the issue. 

This confrontation comes amid increasing pressure on the government regarding the IMF programme, which is yet to be renewed as it nears its end this month. 

Pakistan is grappling with a dwindling foreign exchange reserve, barely adequate to cover a month’s imports. The country had anticipated a release of $1.1 billion from the IMF in November, but the international financial institution is insisting on certain prerequisites before any further disbursement. 

As part of a final attempt to break the stalemate, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif met with the IMF’s Managing Director, Kristalina Georgieva, at the New Global Financial Pact summit held in Paris, France. The Prime Minister is currently on a two-day visit to France, invited by French President Emmanuel Macron. 

This encounter between Sharif and Georgieva comes at a critical time for Pakistan, as it witnesses a sharp decline in foreign loan disbursements, amounting to a mere $8.4 billion in the current fiscal year. 

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