By Asif Shahzad
ISLAMABAD, Sept 27 : Pakistani Finance Minister Ishaq Dar pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to owning assets beyond his means, an official from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz said, amid a corruption investigation into former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
The Supreme Court in July disqualified Sharif for not declaring a small source of income and ordered an investigation into Sharif, his children and Dar, Sharif’s former accountant. Dar’s son is also married to one of Sharif’s daughters.
“Dar told the court that he was innocent and he will prove that his assets are legitimate,” Jan Achakzai, a PML-N official, told Reuters.
Dar did not speak to the media after his appearance in court in Islamabad but has dismissed all the allegations against him.
Sharif has also denied any wrongdoing and has been critical of the judiciary, calling the corruption proceedings against him a conspiracy.
Several senior PML-N figures, including Sharif’s daughter Maryam, have hinted that Pakistan’s powerful military were behind Sharif’s ouster. The army denies playing any role.
Dar was credited with steering Pakistan’s economy to a sounder footing following a 2013 balance of payments crisis but over the past year those economic gains have begun to erode, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and analysts.
Growth in the $300 billion economy hit 5.3 percent last fiscal year (July-June), the fastest pace in a decade, but foreign currency reserves have dwindled and the 2016/17 current account deficit has more than doubled to $12.1 billion.
Dar’s reluctance to let the rupee weaken to ease current account pressures has courted criticism from economists, who say the PML-N is making economic decisions with one eye on the next general election, likely to be held in mid-2018.
Some analysts have warned Pakistan may need to go back to the IMF for another bailout package if current trends continue.
Under new Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Dar has been removed from the post of chairing the cabinet’s powerful Economic Coordination Committee.