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ISLAMABAD: Minister for Economic Affairs, Khusro Bakhtyar has cautioned the government that carelessness in dealing with debts of previous governments can create problems as a major part of these debts are foreign loans involving International Financial Institutions (IFIs), well-informed sources told Business Recorder.

In June 2019, federal government had issued a notification for the constitution of an inquiry commission under Section 3 of Pakistan Commission of Inquiry Act, 2017 to probe into loans taken by the governments during the last 10 years. The terms of reference (ToRs) were issued in this regard.

According to the notification, the Commission comprises 12 members. Headed by Hussain Asghar, a retired PSP BS-22 it also comprises members from NAB, Federal Investigation Agency, Intelligence Bureau, State Bank of Pakistan , Inter-Services Intelligence, Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan , Federal Board of Revenue, representative of Accountant General Pakistan Revenues, representative of Military Intelligence and special secretary from Finance Division as the secretary.

The ToRs of the Inquiry Commission include: determination of significance of major infrastructure or public sector development work conducted from 2008 and the impact on an increase in public debt from Rs6,690 billion to Rs30,846 billion till September 2018.

Prime Minister and his team time and again raised the issue of debts, obtained and utilized by the previous two governments, accusing them of misusing loans. However, when the Inquiry Commission went through the official documents and interviewed those officials who were responsible for dealing with loans a different narrative came to the notice of the Commission.

The Commission has held interviews with hundreds of officials (retired and incumbent), private sector entrepreneurs and former political figures.

Unconfirmed reports appearing in the media suggest that the Commission has not found any concrete evidence that leads to the conclusion that debts were misused.

On July 28, 2020 during the federal cabinet meeting Minister for Communications, Murad Saeed expressed concern over the delay in submission of the report by the Debt Commission.

The Prime Minister, Imran Khan, who was chairing the cabinet meeting, directed Adviser to the Prime Minister for Accountability and Interior, Barrister Shahzad Akbar and Hussain Asghar, Head of the Debt Commission, to update him on the proceedings of the Commission.

However, Minister for Economic Affairs Division, Khusro Bakhtyar, who is now dealing with the International Financial Institutions (IFIs) advised careful handling of the intricate financial issues as major part of the debt were foreign loans, involving International Financial Institutions.

There are apprehensions that any mishandling of debts by the Inquiry Commission/ Government can create problems for the future as IFIs have their own standards of monitoring loans.

After discussion on the issue, Prime Minister directed Adviser to the Prime Minister for Accountability & Interior, Shahzad Akbar and Hussain Asghar, head of the Commission of Inquiry of Debt, to update him on the proceedings of the Commission.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020